Otti, Obaseki Urge Nigerians to Sustain Democracy as Vehicle for Nation’s Greatness

•Abiodun converts death sentences for 45 inmates, pardons 41 others

•We are on course to build resilient nation, says APC

Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Governors of Abia State Governor, Alex Otti and Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, yesterday congratulated Nigerians on the celebration of 25 years of uninterrupted democracy.

This was as Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun commuted the death sentence of 45 condemned prisoners to prison terms. He also granted pardon to 41 other inmates serving in different Correctional Centres across the state.

Also, the All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday, said despite the imperfections associated with democracy it has set the country on course to build a strong, vibrant and resilient nation.

In separate statements to celebrate June 12, Otti and Obaseki respectively hailed Nigerians for sustaining democracy.

According to Otti, Nigerians should not lose grip of democracy despite challenges, saying it remains the best mechanism for harnessing the nation’s rich human and natural resources.

Otti stated this yesterday, in his statewide broadcast to mark this year’s Democracy Day, saying the nation has every reason to celebrate 25 years of uninterrupted democratic governance.

Otti paid tribute to the heroes of democracy struggle like Chief M. K. O Abiola; his wife, Kudirat; Pa Alfred Rewane and several other, “notable and unsung heroes of the democratic struggle.”

He praised the late symbols of democracy,  noting that they, “offered so much in sacrifice to the campaign for the simple reason that they believed in the promise of democracy.”

Otti noted that though democracy, “is never about making the perfect leadership choice”, this cherished system of government provides the opportunity for “a progressive push to find leaders with superior development propositions”.

He acknowledged that the last 25 years since the inception of the 4th Republic “have been very challenging and many are understandably losing faith in the promises of democracy”.

However, Abia’s fifth democratically elected governor expressed optimism that things would continue to get better so long as democracy is sustained as a form of governance.

Using the Abia experience to illustrate the beauty of democratic choice, Otti said it took the state over two decades of unyielding belief and tenacious struggle to break free

from the grip of “a tiny cabal” that held the state down.

“We made a great leap in 2023 to welcome a new party, and a new set of leaders whose philosophy of development resonated more with the common man in all parts of the State,” he said.

According to him, the people of Abia are already reaping the benefits of their courageous break from the past as his administration was speedily transforming the state to the joy of Abians that had yearned for change.

He listed the fruits of Abia’s democratic change of leadership as the reconstruction of long-abandoned roads in different parts of the state, the rapid push to rid the city centres of mountains of refuse and make our urban centres more habitable.”

Otti assured Abians that “our dear state, Abia, will be great in our lifetime”, saying, “it is a dream we are entirely committed to achieving.”

He said that every person in Abia should be involved in the progressive march because, “as citizens, we have been empowered to be central to the development process through constructive engagements with the authorities.”

For his part, Obaseki commended Nigerians for upholding the core tenets of democracy over the 25 years, noting that efforts at democratic consolidation would engender sustainable development in the country.

In a statement, the governor also charged voters in the State to come out en masse to participate in the September 21 governorship election and to vote wisely so as to sustain the state’s developmental trajectory.

According to him, “As we mark this year’s democracy day, it is pertinent to applaud the tenacity, resilience and bravery of Nigerians in sustaining the core tenants of democracy over the past 25 years. It has remained one of our greatest legacies as a country that we are able to freely choose those who preside over our affairs and decide to either keep or change them every four years.

“We have come a long way in this journey. Though we might be where we wish to be as of today, we are better off for it as a nation. Democracy remains the most desirable form of government because of its core principles of freewill, free enterprise, civil liberties, fairness and justice.

“We have grown as a democratic nation over the years and all credit for the progress we have made goes to Nigerians who continue to respect the tenets of democracy as the best choice to attain sustainable development.”

On the upcoming Edo State governorship election, the governor urged Edo people to vote wisely, ensuring to cast their vote for the candidate who presents the most credible, pragmatic, intelligible and coherent pathway to societal development.

According to him, “As we proceed to the polls in September, it is necessary to be circumspect. We have made tremendous progress in the State in the last eight years. It is now only reasonable to ensure that the baton to the candidate who ensures sustainability of the projects, initiatives and development trajectory that we have set in the State. So, I urge you all to come en masse and vote for the most credible, accessible and competent candidate, who has a track record of excellence.”

Meanwhile, speaking at the 2024 Democracy Day, held at Abeokuta, Abiodun said the decision was in exercising his prerogative of mercy as the governor of the state.

He added: “Government has a duty to uphold democratic values by consistently applying principles of mercy, justice, and the rule of law. In this vein, the Nigerian Constitution empowers me to exercise a prerogative of mercy to anyone convicted of an offense in Ogun State.

“Having received the guidance of the Ogun State Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy, I have signed the appropriate warrants ordering the release of 41 convicts currently imprisoned across different correctional facilities in Ogun State. I have also signed warrants converting the death sentences of 45 inmates to prison sentences.

“This gesture signals a break from past grievances and a move towards a more inclusive and compassionate society where merciful second chances are granted to deserving offenders.

“All convicts who have received this gesture have shown remorse for their crimes, acquired skills and certifications in prison, with several of them receiving university degrees from the National Open University of Nigeria. They have also demonstrated verified good conduct during their imprisonment.”

He said the celebration held immense significance as it marks the triumph of democracy, the power of the people, and the pursuit of justice and freedom, observing that the history of Nigeria’s democracy is one of struggle and perseverance.

“June 12, 1993, stands as a watershed moment in this journey. On that particular day, Nigerians transcended differences of tribe, gender, and even the unique joint Muslim-Muslim ticket to speak unanimously through the ballot.

“They elected the late Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola and Babagana Kingibe of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) as President and Vice-President, respectively.

Although the election was globally acclaimed as the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s history, the military annulled its results, dashing the hopes raised by this democratic exercise.

“That election remains a pivotal moment in our country’s democratic history. It has become the benchmark against which the successes of subsequent elections are measured. For all its import, it reminds us of the power of unity, resilience, and the collective determination to uphold the principles of democracy.

“It is a testament to the strength and resilience of the Nigerian people, who have shown unwavering commitment to democracy and the belief in a better future,” the governor added.

In a lecture titled: “June 12: Defining Moment in the Democratic Development of Nigeria,” the guest lecturer, Mr. Richard Akinnola, while giving a background to what led to the crisis, chided the nation’s judiciary for being a tool in the hands of the military government to annul the June 12 elections.

He condemned those who have been calling for the return of the military as the result of the hardship in the country.

“In fact, June 12 stands as a defining moment and a watershed in our quest for democracy. That is why we should be very careful. Some people who did not experience what we went through are not subtly calling for the military.

“We must say no, never do we call for military again. Whatever the challenges we are having, let’s fight, let us argue, let us disagree, let us abuse each other, but never should we be tempted to invite the military,” he advised.

Akinnola, who described the June 12 elections as the best in the history of the nation, noting that the aftermath of the annulment led to killings of pro-democracy activists just as it ushered in mutual mistrust among the citizens.

The guest lecturer said for democracy to thrive in the country, Nigerians must keep their leaders on their toes, saying though it is necessary to celebrate the day, people should not forget those who sacrificed their lives for the democracy being enjoyed in the country now.

We Are On Course to Build Resilient Nation, Says APC

The APC has said despite imperfections associated with democracy it has set the country on course to build a strong, vibrant and resilient nation.

Its National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka in a statement issued yesterday, said Nigerians must take pride in this remarkable achievement that the country was celebrating 25 years of democracy.

He said embedded the idea of political democracy was the intrinsic and instrumental value of the sovereign power that it bestows on citizens to choose, of their own free will, those who govern as well as the power to hold them accountable through periodic elections and other constitutionally enshrined mechanisms.

Morka noted: “However, like with every human device and agency, democracy is not without its imperfections and challenges.

“Our country has had its fair share of setbacks, pain and disappointments. These are inevitable and inescapable by-products of democratic construction. But importantly, it has set us, irreversibly, on course to build a strong, vibrant and resilient nation.

“Democracy provides us the opportunity of essential freedom to harness our finest human and material resources, under the participatory authority of our people, for beneficial and sustainable governance.”

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