ICYMI

June 13, 2024

Democracy Day: Eminent citizens, elder statesmen chart way forward

Democracy Day

By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon, Olasunkanmi Akoni, John Alechenu, Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo, Shina Abubakar, Luminous Jannamike & Efe Onodjae, LAGOS.

AS Nigeria marked Democracy Day, yesterday, a host of eminent Nigerians and groups proffered solutions to the country’s raging socioeconomic challenges, as protests broke out in Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna and Osun.

Those who spoke were united on the need to tackle poverty, insecurity, corruption and poor amenities among others, but they were not unanimous on how to do so.

Among those who spoke yesterday were former Commonwealth Secretary General and Chairman of The Patriots, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; former Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Ike Nwachukwu; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah Aare-Ona-Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams; President of Women Arise Initiative, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin; Professor Olufemi Obayori, Labour Party Presidential Candidate in the 2023 poll, Mr Peter Obi; and the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, among others.

Obi said democracy has suffered state capture.

Protest against hardship in Lagos

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Lagos, demanding an end to the economic hardship and hunger ravaging the country, as part of activities to mark Democracy Day. The protesters, mostly youths, carried placards and banners with inscriptions such as “We are hungry”, “End poverty now”, and “Government, do something.”

A coalition of Nigerian Civil Societies, including the Take-It-Back Movement, TIB; Joint Action Force, JAF; Education Rights Campaign, ERC; Community Women Initiative, and Socialist Workers and Youth League, SWL, led the protest. The protesters, who took to the bridge, in Ikeja blocked it, depriving motorists of passage, as a way to express their grievances over the present economic state.

The presence of armed policemen led by the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Police Command, CP Adegoke Fayoade, did not deter them as they chanted solidarity songs.

Speaking with Vanguard, the National Coordinator of ERC, Hassan Soweto, said: “We came out this morning as hungry Nigerians, who are fed up with the condition of hardship that the current administration has brought to the country.

“It’s been one year of pain and hunger as a direct product of the anti-poor policies of the government. They removed fuel subsidies, devalued the naira, and increased electricity tariffs. The combination of all of these policies is why we are protesting. We are here today to say enough of these hardships.”

On his part, the National Mobiliser of Joint Action Force, Peluola Adewale, said the reason for their protest was “because silence is no longer an option. This is one of the many actions and protests we will take to let President Bola Tinubu know we are hungry. We can’t remain at home and expect change. That’s why we are protesting.”

Vanguard observed that some market men and women also joined the protesters in solidarity.

Policemen and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, were seen maintaining free flow of traffic.

Kaduna, Abuja protests

In Kaduna, Kasim Balarabe Musa, son of the late Balarabe Musa, Second Republic Governor of old Kaduna State and leader of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP, led a peaceful protest calling on President Tinubu to resign.

Leading the protest, Kasim told the teeming PRP members that there was no single achievement of the President worthy of being celebrated on Democracy Day, because the country had retrogressed in many aspects.

In Abuja, scores of Nigerians gathered to protest the country’s economic hardship and demanded a change from the government.

The protesters, led by an activist Deji Adeyanju, defied heavy security presence to converge on the Julius Berger roundabout at about 8 a.m., carrying placards with bold inscriptions such as ‘We are hungry’, ‘June 12: A day of action against hunger and hardship,’ while chanting slogans.

They accused the government of implementing anti-people policies that have led to widespread poverty and suffering.

The protesters demanded that the government take immediate steps to address the issues facing Nigerians, including an end to corruption and impunity, and prioritization 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 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.”

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

CSOs protest against hardship in Osun

In Osogbo, the Osun State capital, a coalition of civil societies thronged major roads peacefully protesting against hardship in the country.

The group consisting of different human rights groups were joined by student groups carrying different placards with inscriptions such as “Declare State of Emergency for Agriculture”, “Subsidize food and electricity”, “Education is a right not privilege”, “Stop the ongoing hardship”, and “End Hunger and insecurity” among others.

The group led by the chairman of the coalition, Waheed Lawal commenced the June 12 procession protest at 8 am, at Ayetoro, and walked through Igbona, Olonkoro, Old Garage to MDS and stopped at Olaiya Bridge to address the gathering.

Lawal said that the demand for a wage increase by labour was justifiable considering the skyrocketing prices of food, goods and services in the country, saying Nigerians are hungry and demand quick intervention in the current situation.

Also, the Programme Director, Centre for Sustained Dialogue said Nigerian leaders had always been the enemy of progress and anti-masses, hence, the need to put them on their toes with peaceful protest on memorable days like June 12.

His counterpart at CDHR, Emmanuel Olowu, said since 1999 that the country returned to democracy, most government policies had not been pro-masses and called for amendment of the constitution to accommodate single-term tenure for political office holders.

Anyaoku, Nwachukwu, seek new constitution

At a June 12 event organised by The Patriots in Alausa, Lagos, Chief Anyaoku, General Ike Nwachukwu, and Mr. Peter Obi said there is an urgent need for a federal constitution that will truly reflect and accommodate Nigeria’s diversity to save the country from the brink of collapse.

The prominent Nigerians, including the leader of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Shettima Yerima, spoke at a June 12 Colloquium, entitled: “Securing the future of Nigeria through a new democratic people’s Constitution.”

Also, Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and his Chief of Staff, Mr Tayo Ayinde, and other personalities called on Nigerians to cherish and live by the tenets of democracy for the prosperity and progress of the nation.

They gave the charge at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the “Epetedo Self Declaration” and 13th National Discourse, organized by the Coalition for a Better Nigeria, themed: “Converting the Pain of June 12 Election Annulment to Gain of Present Administration,” held at Moshood Kashimawo Olawale, MKO, Abiola’s House, Ikeja, Lagos.

The speakers at the colloquium noted that the Nigerian project “is not working positively because the country operates a constitution that does not suit its numerous challenges confronting her.”

Anyaoku, who chaired The Patriots’ event, noted that Nigeria from onset has been facing the challenges of managing its diversity without headway, noting that the 1960 and 1963 constitutions were drafted to address the challenges until the military came in January 1966 and scuttled the arrangements.

His words: “Unless a courageous action is taken to give the country a new constitution,the country will continue to move towards collapse.”

Anyaoku explained that some countries that failed to address their diversity had disintegrated, He cited Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Sudan as examples.

Anyaoku maintained that other pluralist nations that addressed their diversity still remain intact, citing examples of Canada and India.

The global statesman explained that even the 1999 Constitution as amended lacks the legitimacy to address Nigeria’s diversity.

General Nwachukwu noted that attempts had been made in the past to return Nigeria to true democracy, saying: “What Nigeria needs now is a true federalist constitution that accommodates our diversity as a nation and the time to make the change is now.”

Nwachukwu listed seven points for the new constitution to include: Federalist constitution that gives autonomy to federating units that guarantee freedom of speech, provide security of lives and prosperity, forge a sustainable balanced country, among others.

Ezekwesili said: “Nigeria is still struggling to have a democracy. The journey to have a democracy is premised on the rule of law, but Nigeria does not have that,” stressing that political freedom correlates to economic freedom and leads to productivity and prosperity.

She said the lack of democracy made Nigeria to be backward, adding that what Nigeria is operating is a monopoly of democracy.

Obi, who was represented by Dr Tanko Yunusa, Chief Spokesperson Obi-Datti and Director of Media LP, called for a true Nigeria constitution.

Our democracy has suffered state capture — Obi

Obi in a post on his X handle, said that Nigeria’s democracy has deteriorated to state capture and instead of benefiting all, has become a deprivation to all.

He said: “As our dear nation marks Democracy Day today, commemorating 25 years of striving to be a democratic country, the fundamental question for all of us remains: Are we truly democratic?
“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.
“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.

“Unfortunately, the opposite is the case in our situation. To further illustrate that we are not truly democratic and have only produced the vices enumerated above, we are now ranked as follows:
“In the measurement of democracy, we have a democracy index score of 4.23, which ranks us low on the Global Democracy Index.

“In the Corruption Perception Index, we are ranked 145th among the 180 countries measured, showing a high level of corruption in Nigeria.

“In the rule of law measurement, we are ranked 120th out of 142 countries measured in the World Justice Project, WJP, Rule of Law Index, indicating that Nigeria suffers from gross disobedience to the rule of law.

“The 2024 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, RSF, describes Nigeria as one of West Africa’s most dangerous and difficult countries for journalists.

“Nigeria ranks 112th out of 180 countries where journalists are regularly monitored, attacked, and arbitrarily arrested. We are ranked 109th out of 125 countries measured on the Global Hunger Index,” he added.

Sanwo-Olu, Ayinde, others extol MKO

At the 30th anniversary of the “Epetedo Self Declaration and 13th National Discourse, “ Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Deputy Governor. Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said: “As a nation, we must cherish our democracy and be democrats in all we do. Besides, democracy is not about force but conviction of ideas. So, it is not that my views must always win. It means we must debate it, we must talk about it and must come together to agree about it.”

Sanwo-Olu, also stated that public commentators must speak with the fear of God, be patriotic, love the country and adhere to the tenets of democracy which are essential qualities for good governance.

Earlier, in his lecture titled; “Impact of June 12 on the Democratic and Economic Development of Nigeria,” Debo Adeniran, reiterated that the late Abiola was a pillar of strength and hope for Nigerians and Africans, who paid the supreme sacrifice for Nigeria’s freedom.

Abiola’s daughter, Lola, speaks

The first daughter of late MKO, Mrs. Lola Abiola-Edewor, commended the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari for recognizing June 12 and making it Democracy Day and President Tinubu for his constant support to the family.

Abiola-Edewor stressed the need for Nigerians to be patient with the present administration as the president means well for the citizens which can be seen in his policies and mantra, “the Renewed Hope.”

She therefore urged Nigerians to continue to support and pray for the leadership of the country to succeed, as “Rome was not built in a day, and “I can assure us all that those promises will come to pass because Asiwaju is a grassroots man and cares for everyone, particularly the masses.”

Adams, Odumakin, Obayori others seek regionalism

The protests came as the Aareonakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams; President of Women Arise Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin; Professor Olufemi Obayori, among others, made a strong case for regionalism, saying Nigeria’s progress is tied to regionalism.

They spoke at an event organized by the Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, which was held at Excellence Hotel, Ogba in Lagos, to commemorate June 12.

In his opening remarks, Adams said: “I am making a strong case for regionalism because Nigeria has come a long way. And 64 years in the life of a nation is no joke.

“But it must be stated that without regionalism, there is no way Nigeria can move forward. It is only a fool who does the same thing, over and over again, and expects a different result. It is not going to happen.

“Regionalism gives room for proper planning and cohesion. It enhances healthy rivalry among the regions as well as all tiers of government.

“Regionalism will enhance effective security in Nigeria. It will also drive and encourage both social and economic development in Nigeria.”

On their part, the guest speakers, Prof. Oseni Afisi, a professor of Philosophy and Director of Special Interventions, Lagos State University, Ojo, and Dr Olanrewaju Hammed of the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, Akoka, who spoke separately on the theme ‘Nigeria’s 64 years of Checkered History: The Imperatives of Regionalism/Restructuring’, said it is important to address the various structural imbalances hindering the progress of Nigeria.

Afisi said: “Nigeria’s history is replete with various events that have shaped the nation. We must also highlight the rich cultural diversity of Nigeria, however, the problem of ethnicity and significant power struggle has led to the various political instability that have been the bane of Nigeria as a country.”

Also, , Dr Hammed said: “Nigeria has a good prospect of becoming the giant of Africa,but in fulfilling this dream,there is a need for Nigeria to return to regionalism.”

Our democracy’s in recession, doesn’t reflect our cultural experiences — Kukah

Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Kukah, speaking at The Platform Nigeria, a programme by Lagos-based church, Covenant Nation, to mark the 2024 Democracy Day, said the Nigerian democracy is in recession because it doesn’t reflect our cultural experiences as a diverse nation.

According to the cleric, Nigeria’s democracy was not founded on the country’s historical, cultural or anthropological experiences, unlike Europe where principles of democracy were founded on the thinking of several philosophers.

He said: “What is missing in our conversation is that unlike where the principles of democracy were founded on the thinking of several philosophers from Plato, Socrates, Aristotle etc, our democracy has paid very little attention.

“We have been involved in intellectual conversations about democracy but modern liberal democracy as we understand it today benefitted extensively from the work of people like St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas.

“Unfortunately, our democracy is in decline, and is in recession precisely because it is evident to us that what we are working with is not something that comes from our own historical, cultural or even anthropological experiences,” he said.

Address Nigerians’ suffering — CAN tells FG

On its part, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, urged the Federal Government to address the suffering of Nigerians, citing the need for urgent action on insecurity, economic hardship, and social injustice.

In a statement by its President, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, the leadership of the apex Christian body said: “As we celebrate 25 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria and the 31st anniversary of the widely acclaimed ‘freest and fairest’ presidential election of June 12, 1993, we must acknowledge that our democracy still faces significant challenges.

“Insecurity, economic hardship, and social injustice continue to afflict our citizens. We urge the government to prioritize the common good, address these pressing issues, and ensure that our democracy serves the people, not just the interests of a few.

“We emphasize the importance of integrity, transparency, and accountability in governance. Our leaders must recognize that power is a sacred trust, and they will be held accountable for their actions.

“We also stress the need for unity and inclusivity, recognizing the value of our diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Let us work together to build a stronger, more just Nigeria, where everyone has a voice and equal opportunities.”

Nigerians must rise to protect their votes, defend democracy – LP

National Chairman of the Labour Party, LP, Julius Abure, enjoined Nigerians to draw inspiration from the June 12, 1993 election and the struggles which followed and rise in defence of their votes and democracy going forward.

Abure said this at a public lecture to mark the June 12 anniversary, at the party’s National Secretariat, in Abuja, on Wednesday.

He expressed regret that three decades after the historic 1993 elections Nigeria was still struggling with the basics of conducting credible elections.

Abure drew parallels between the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the February 14 , 2023 election conducted by the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

According to him, while the General Ibrahim Babangida-led military regime annulled the June 12 elections, INEC annulled the February 25, 2023 election.

He explained that as a political party, the LP under his leadership was working hard to sensitize members as well as Nigerians on the need to push for an all-encompassing electoral reform ahead of the 2027 election to prevent a repeat of what happened in 2023.

Abure said:”We are to ensure that people themselves are not involved in betraying the patties. I used to argue that our problem is that of leadership but have come to realize that leadership emerges from among the people.

“We have a situation where even INEC commissioners and party officials take bribes. Party agents also do the same. We cannot continue to let this happen.”

Other speakers at the occasion which included LP members of the House of Representatives and a former Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Dr. Sam Amadi, called for a probe of INEC finances.

Amadi, a legal practitioner and expert in political economy, demanded that a probe of INEC’s electoral expenditure for the 2023 elections should form part of the 10th National Assembly’s oversight functions.

Speaking in like manner, a member of the LP caucus in the House of Representatives, Victor Oghene, promised that he and his colleagues would do all within their power to ensure that electoral reforms get the necessary support ahead of future elections.

Chairman of the Political Commission of the Trade Union Congress, TUC Mr. Matins Egbanube dismissed speculations that there were divisions within the Labour Party.

Youths must rise, take ownership of our democracy — ADC

African Democratic Congress, ADC, said after 25 years of uninterrupted democracy and three decades since the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, it was time for Nigerian youths to take ownership of our democracy.

National Youth Leader of the party, Chukwuka Odimbu, said this at the party’s one-day National Leadership Conference in Abuja, yesterday.

The event was organised as part of activities marking this year’s Democracy Day.
He said: “As Nigerians commemorate this 12th day of June as Democracy Day; it is indeed a memorable and eventful period.

“It is in the history of our existence as people of common pain, the nation of consanguinity and a democratic independent entity.

“ADC hereby implores our youths to take ownership of our dear country as it belongs to all of us.
“As youths, we make up a chunk of the country’s population; our numerical strength is unmatchable as we have a vital role to play towards sensitizing the entire populace.

“Our role is simple; preach peace in principle-action and speech, then participate in governance towards purposeful engagement and sustainable development.”

Food insecurity, disillusionment among youths, threat to democracy — Sen Foundation

On its part, the Senator Polycarp Nwite Foundation for Democratic Accountability, SPNFDA, fingered widespread hunger and insensitivity of the political class in the face of a challenging economy, as some of the issues threatening the sustainability of democracy in Nigeria, and urged government to take urgent action to restore public trust in democratic governance.

Senator Nwite was Nigeria’s Ambassador to Botswana, a Senior Special Assistant to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and a frontline activist of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, a broad coalition of Nigerians, formed in May 1994 to fight for the enthronement of civil rule in Nigeria.

The foundation named after the late Third Republic Senator Nwite said that democracy ought to inspire hope, rather than despair.

In a statement by its Executive Director, Mr Michael Nwite, the foundation identified “palpable food insecurity, Insensitivity of the political class and declining faith in political leadership as being responsible for the widespread disillusionment among Nigerian youths – the successor leadership generation – many of whom are now turning their back on the nation in preference for foreign democracies.

The foundation said it is concerned that “These factors in addition to diverse other economic challenges and the lingering intractable security problem in the country, have become the oxygen fuelling criminality and the current exodus by young Nigerians to foreign lands, in search of better economic and social fortunes, referred to as ‘Japa’ syndrome in local parlance.”

Be serious about democratic goods, Youth Party tasks FG

The Youth Party urged President Bola Tinubu to be serious about addressing the rising cost of living and the minimum wage as part of democratic goods with the same speed the old National Anthem was reintroduced and passed by both chambers of the National Assembly.

The Party in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Ayodele Adio, accused the Federal Government of lack of seriousness in its dialogue with labour on the minimum wage issue.

The party stated that “If the National Assembly can pass the national anthem into law within a short period, they should be able to pass the minimum wage act into law without further delay.

The party urged the Federal Government to appoint credible Nigerians such as the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, Bishop of Sokoto Mathew Hassan Kukah, former President General Yakubu Gowon, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, among others to dialogue with labour as people no longer have confidence in the seriousness of the Federal Government delegation.

The party also faulted the payment of N90 billion to subsidise the cost of the 2024 hajj pilgrimage by the Federal Government.

To cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal, the Youth Party urged the FG and State governments to provide affordable transport by providing at least 100 CNG buses in each of the 36 states to enable the people to enjoy the dividends of democracy.