Tinubu’s Dobale, Military Parade, Cultural Displays Highlight Democracy Day Celebration

•President: Democracy worth falling for 

•Atiku, Obi sympathise with Nigeria’s leader over his slip

•Nigerians stage protests in Lagos, Abuja, other cities, police arrest 5

Olawale Ajimotokan, Chuks Okocha, Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Sunday Ehigiator in Lagos

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s slip as he was mounting the parade vehicle was the centre of attention during yesterday’s Democracy Day ceremony at Eagle Square, Abuja.

Tinubu was set for the traditional inspection of guards of honour, when a clumsy step led to a tumble in the parade vehicle.

However, the  President while commenting on his fall at the parade ground made  light humour of  the incident where he missed his steps while making his way into the parade inspection vehicle.

He spoke yesterday night at the State House Conference Centre, at the 25th Democracy Day Anniversary Dinner, an event that paraded not just the crème of the nation’s political class, but also those who participated in the democracy struggle in the 1990s during the military regimes of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha.

Commenting on the social media reaction after he missed his step and fell while climbing into the vehicle earlier in the day; the President described the incident as a move of obeisance to democracy, saying it was a day worth falling for.

According to him, as a traditional Yoruba ‘boy’ he was doing dobale (Yoruba word for prostrating to greet elders) at the Eagle Square, saying democracy was worth falling for.

He said: “June 12 represents the heart and soul of our democratic struggle in the country. Early this morning, I had a swagger and it’s on the social media. They are confused whether I was doing Buga or doing Babaringa but it is a day to celebrate democracy while doing ‘dobale’ for today.

“I am a traditional Yoruba boy, I did my dobale. Democracy is a day that is worth  falling for. It is a thing of  joy to see all of you here.”

Earlier in its reaction to the slip, the presidency, in a statement, pointed out that the president was just a human being like others.

Posting on his X handle, Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, noted that Tinubu was not a superman.

Onanuga wrote: “President Tinubu is not a Superman. He is human, like all of us. President Biden has had several slips in the last three years. Even the younger Barack Obama slipped while President. Political leaders are human. Slipping should not detract from the import of Democracy Day celebration.”

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as well as the presidential candidate of Labour Party (LP) in the 2023 election, Peter Obi, also yesterday, sympathised with Tinubu over the incident.

But as commemoration of the 25th anniversary of democracy in Nigeria went on yesterday, some Nigerians took to the streets in Lagos, Abuja, and Ibadan to protest the current economic hardship in the country.

Five protesters, who wore “Revolution Now” T-shirts, were arrested in Ibadan by men of the Nigeria Police.

Tinubu’s slip, reminiscent of similar falls at state functions by Biden, former US President George W. Bush, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not take the shine off the celebration organised to mark 25 years of unbroken democracy in Nigeria.

Members of the Armed Forces and Police caught the eye with their impressive colour party, march-past in quick time and silent drill, and a combo between the national troupe and the armed forces.

Several dignitaries, including Vice President Kashim Shettima; Senate President Godswill Akpabio; Speaker, House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas; Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Abdullahi Ganduje; service chiefs; ministers; and members of the diplomatic corps graced the occasion.

The arrival of the president’s motorcade about 10.02am was greeted with fanfare, with the outriders leading the convoy, encircling the arena while atop their bikes mounted with sirens and national flags.

About 10.10am, the Parade Commander, Lt. Col. M.A Yusuf, invited the president to inspect the Guards of Honour.

That was followed by the filing out of the guards made up of officers from Nigeria Army, Nigeria Air Force, and Nigeria Police, who thrilled the guest of honour and other guests to a slow march-past before transiting to quick march past 30 minutes later.

There was also a silent display by the Guards Brigade. The silent drill squad displayed complex drill and concurrent movement of hands and formations.

The cultural collaboration by resplendent troupes from the six geo-political zones with the armed forces was coordinated by Opeyemi Alabi.

Another moment was the unveiling of the world’s largest portrait on canvass of Tinubu by the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the signing of the national register.

About 11.47am, the parade commander, Yusuf, approached and got the President’s permission to call off the parade.

Atiku sympathised with Tinubu after the President slipped at Eagle Square during the Democracy Day celebration.

Atiku wrote on X: “I sincerely sympathise with President Bola Tinubu, @officialABAT, over this unfortunate incident as he was set to review the parade on Democracy Day. I do hope that all is well with him.”

Similarly, Obi wrote on his X handle, “I was saddened to learn of President Tinubu’s unfortunate fall today. I wish him well. We achieve nothing by gloating about an accident that could well happen to any of us.”

However, Obi, in a separate statement on the country’s Democracy Day celebration, said democracy had not benefited Nigerians. According to Obi, the country has descended into “a classical state capture”.

Obi stated: “An unexamined life is not worth living, so it is now time to re-examine what we have been doing over this quarter of a century. Democracy, as we know, is the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

The LP presidential candidate explained: “While we may say that in 1999 we started in earnest in the right direction, today, we have deteriorated into what can be classified as classical state capture. Instead of benefiting all, it has become a deprivation to all.

“The consequences of not being a true democracy have led to leadership failures that have resulted in uncontrolled systemic corruption, high levels of insecurity, lack of freedom of speech, increasing poverty rates, and unprecedented levels of hunger and hardship, which remain unsolved and are growing geometrically.

“True democracy should be people-oriented, where the rights of citizens are respected, the laws are obeyed, the leaders remain accountable to the people, and people’s welfare and care, especially for the poor, become paramount and high priorities,” he stressed.

He urged Nigerians to use the commemoration of June 12 as an occasion to return to a truly democratic nation and stand in defence of Nigeria’s democracy.

“I urge everyone to respect and protect the institutions of the democratic state, obey the governing laws of the state, be accountable to the people, and fulfil the responsibilities of responsible governance as contained in the constitution,”

“As we build a New Nigeria, these tenets shall be the pillars of our true democracy. It is possible,” Obi said.

However, some Nigerians took to the streets in Lagos, Abuja, and Ibadan to protest the current economic hardship in the country.

In Lagos, amid tight security yesterday morning, protesters in large numbers stormed the Ikeja Under Bridge demanding good governance and a turnaround of the country’s economic situation.

They chanted solidarity songs as they wielded placards and banners. Some of the placards had inscriptions like, “President Tinubu, let the poor breath”, “For another general strike with mass protest now”, and “Payment of living wage to all Nigerian workers now”.

The protest was led by some civil society groups, including the Take It Back Movement, Education Rights Campaign, Coalition for Revolution, and Socialist Workers League.

In Ibadan, the protesters demanded an end to hardship in the country, insecurity, police brutality, and kidnapping, reversal of electricity tariff hike, and an end to attacks on press freedom, among others.

Five protesters wearing “Revolution Now” shirts were arrested at Mokola Roundabout in Ibadan by officers of the Nigeria Police. They were among protesters who gathered to demonstrate under the aegis of Take It Back Movement, in collaboration with Concerned Nigerians, another advocacy and human rights group.

The protesters gathered for a peaceful protest on the state of the nation. One of the protesters said they had planned the protest to coincide with the Democracy Day celebration.

They began protesting around 9.15am, singing songs, displaying a long banner and placards with inscriptions, like “We are hungry”, “Justice cannot be silenced”, “The power of people is greater than the people in power”, “United we stand, divided we fall”.

But around 9:30am, security operatives, led by Oyo State Commissioner of Police, Adebola Hamzat, accosted and dragged some of the demonstrators into a white Hilux bus.

The arrest was done amid heavy presence of police operatives, with Hilux buses and an armoured tank on standby.

Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, Hamzat stepped out of one of the Hilux buses in his entourage and ordered the protesters’ arrest. He queried the officers present at the scene, berating them for allowing the protesters to carry on with the protest despite his repeated warnings and public statements.

In Abuja, scores of Nigerians also came out in the early hours of Wednesday to protest over the country’s economic hardship, as they pressed their demand for change from the government.

The protesters, led by activist, Deji Adeyanju, defied heavy security presence to converge on the Julius Berger roundabout by 8am. They were seen carrying placards with bold inscriptions, such as “We are hungry”, and “June 12: A day of action against hunger & hardship”, while chanting slogans.

The protesters accused the government of implementing anti-people policies that had led to widespread poverty and suffering.

They demanded that the government takes immediate steps to address the issues facing Nigerians, including corruption and impunity, and prioritisation of citizens’ welfare.

Speaking to journalists during the demonstration, Adeyanju said: “We have gathered here because we believe that the DSS should not intimidate Nigerians. The DSS should not be the ones telling Nigerians when to protest and when not to protest.

“That is why, in defiance to the threat issued by the DSS yesterday, warning all Nigerians to stay off the protest, we have decided that no matter how few we are, we will come and make our grievances known.

“The country is not working, Nigerians are hungry, the economy is bad, the naira has depreciated. For 25 years of democracy, there is nothing to show for it, except poverty, hunger, and corruption.

“We celebrate the memory of late Moshood Abiola for the sacrifice he made during the June 12 struggle. We will continue to enjoin the leaders who are now reaping from where they did not sow, that they should be more democratic and stay away from corruption.

“We will continue to protest against bad governance, corruption, and economic hardship wherever we are, and we will not be intimidated by the empty threat of the DSS,” he noted.

Despite the heavy security presence, the protest remained peaceful, with no reports of violence or arrests in Abuja.

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