•Shettima, other top government functionaries witness event
•Kingibe, Akume, Uzodinma, Akpabio speak on gains of democracy
•Atiku’s aide chides president, says message threatens judiciary
Deji Elumoye and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
President Bola Tinubu, yesterday, celebrated his first June 12 Democracy Day as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, with an inspection of the Guard of Honour from the Brigade of Guards at the Forecourt of the State House, Abuja.
Tinubu, who led other dignitaries, including the vice president, Senator Kashim Shettima, to the commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day, started the day with an early morning national broadcast.
The Guards’ Brigade Cultural Group, made up of wards of the Guards’ Brigade personnel, put up a colourful cultural display, representing the country’s six geo-political zones as the president and other dignitaries watched.
Shettima arrived the Forecourt a few minutes before 10am, with President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, also present.
Others present at the event included Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; immediate past Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle; National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abdullahi Adamu; and the party’s National Secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore.
At the event also were Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who led the three service chiefs, Inspector-General of Police, Alkali Usman Baba, other senior security chiefs, and senior government officials.
Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who spoke to newsmen after the ceremonies, challenged politicians to learn from other climes how to imbibe sportsmanship in politics.
Uzodinma stated, “Democracy itself is a learning process for we the third world countries. So we’ll continue to learn, like in other climes, that the spirit of sportsman must be deployed, that it’s either you win or you lose. When you win, you’ll celebrate, when you lose, you’ll wait for another time. So, we’ll continue to advise and encourage practitioners in politics to eschew violence and take to this path of honour.”
Sharing his thoughts on Nigeria’s democracy, Akume said June 12 was a deliberate attempt to enthrone the sanctity of democracy and due process as far as elections were concerned.
The day, he explained, represented “fundamental human rights, the right of people to vote freely and choose their own leaders.”
The SGF said, “The abandonment of this principle will lead to unpleasant consequences by way of demonstrations, when that annulment was made.
“It was long ago, but we give glory to God that today, we are celebrating this very important landmark in the history of our country. Remember, it was 2019 that President Muhammadu Buhari declared June 12 as work-free day and by that tradition, the present government is continuing to walk in the steps of the last administration.
“And President Tinubu is regarded as one of the most critical persons in the struggle for the attainment of that mandate. And that is why we’re very happy that today he is here as the president.”
Fielding questions from journalists after the event, former SGF, who was Chief Moshood Abiola’s running mate in the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Babagana Kingibe, said June 12 would always bring back vivid memories of the cloud of sorrow that enveloped the country after the annulment of the poll by then military president Ibrahim Babangida.
Kingibe said, “I believe in looking forward and the president, in his Democracy Day address, has set out the markers as to where we are coming from. He has set up beacons as to the direction we should take to make our country great, to strengthen democracy and to defend democracy at all times.
“And I believe that his speech was really inspiring and I think all right thinking men and women of this country should very carefully go through and be inspired by it and be guided by it. It is a great thing.”
Asked whether the country had done enough to recognise what Abiola stood for, the former SGF urged Nigerians to be inspired by Abiola’s courage. He said, “Abiola is no more. We can’t bring him back. And whatever we do, will never bring him back to life. But we should never forget.
“We should be inspired by his courage. We should be inspired by his steadfast commitment, and we should be inspired by his willingness to sacrifice his life, which he has, and for which I think the country will forever be grateful.”
APC’s preferred candidate for the 10th senate presidency, Senator Godswill Akpabio, described June 12 as a milestone for the country, saying the country is already making progress as far as freedom is concerned.
Akpabio said Nigerians should see June 12 as a period for sober reflection, especially, “when you look at the events that happened 30 years ago, the late MKO Abiola, may his soul rest in peace. And then we are celebrating this day, you know to commemorate that event, it is very humbling.
“And for us to be alive to see this happening and for almost seven times of change of baton in democracy; it shows clearly that Nigeria is moving forward in freedom. And I believe under President Bola Tinubu also in prosperity.”
However, Special Assistant on Public Communication to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Mr. Phrank Shaibu, described Tinubu’s Democracy Day broadcast as a veiled threat to the country’s judiciary.
Shaibu took exception to the portion of the message where Tinubu stated, “It has become imperative to state here that the unnecessary illegal orders used to truncate or abridge democracy will no longer be tolerated.”
Arguing that it was wrong to make such assertion against the judiciary, which is in the process of determining the credibility of his election, Shaibu stated that Tinubu had no constitutional power to determine what an illegal or legal court order was.
He pointed out that it was funny that Tinubu, who had been one of the biggest beneficiaries of court orders, could turn around to threaten the judiciary now that he had found his way into power.
Shaibu said, “What is an illegal court order? Is it an order that Bola Tinubu finds unfavourable? Is it within his powers to determine what order to obey and which one to disregard? This is a man who rode to power after several applications were dismissed based on technicalities.
“This is a man who just last week obtained a court order in order to stop the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) going on strike. However, now he suddenly realises that unnecessary so-called illegal orders used in truncating democracy would no longer be tolerated, when his minions in Lagos deprived non-indigenes from voting.”
Shaibu alleged that Tinubu, in his speech, showed that he planned to run an autocratic government.