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June 11, 2024

 Jonathan to Tinubu: Build democracy that ‘ll reduce friction 

Goodluck Jonathan

Jonathan to Tinubu: Build democracy that ‘ll reduce friction 

—Says winner takes all politics inimical to unity, political justice 

—Tells President to dilute politics of ethnicity, religion 

— Urges political class to listen to voice of citizens

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru  

ABUJA —  FORMER President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday told President Bola Tinubu’s administration to build a democracy that will reduce frictions after elections, describing as embarrassing the avalanche of litigations that follow elections in the country.

The former President also warned that democracy that is built on ethnicity and religion does not endure.

Speaking as Chairman of the Democracy Day Public Lecture with the theme: “25 Years of Enduring Democracy: Prospect for the Future,” at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja, the former President noted that in the last 25 years, Nigeria had built an economy that was once the biggest economy in Africa.

Although he said that the country’s democratic consolidation has not been an easy one, he further said for democracy to yield dividends, the political actors must change their flamboyant style.

Jonathan, who emphasized the need to strengthen state institutions in order to strengthen the democracy, condemned what he described as the politics of winners-to-all, saying that it is not healthy in a democratic system.

The former President advised the National Assembly to look at the governance model that can suite the country in order for the people to benefits the needed dividends. 

He said, “25 years ago on May 29 1999, the Fourth Republic was birthed and our nation embarked on a historic journey that will forever keep our country’s future. 

“Against all odds, we emerged from the shadows of military rule and ushered in a new era of democratic governance. The achievement is a testament to the resilience, courage and unwavering determination of the Nigerian people.

“At this point, let me commend His Excellency, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who stood against all temptations and pressure to prolong military rule in Nigeria.

“Because at least I have been a President and I know that it is not easy for a military Head of State to step aside under a year for civilians to take over, we have to always commend you.

“Today, we look back with a sense of gratitude to God and appreciation to many of the heroes of our nation, who through selfless service and courage worked towards the democracy that we’re enjoying today. 

“In fact, (Babagana) Kingibe mentioned key actors including late Abiola’s wife Kudirat and others. And of course, he was the elected vice president of the country, he was the Vice President to M.K.O Abiola, so that’s an area he knows more than me, so I will not want to bore your ears by mentioning names again.

“When we mention June 12, we remember Chief MKO Abiola for his contributions to the consolidation of our democracy. We also remember the famous letter signed by eighteen northern elders and delivered by Chief Solomon Lar, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Ahmed Joda and Chief Sunday Awoniyi to Gen. Sani Abacha demanding the return of Nigeria to democratic rule. 

“You are telling a military dictator we need democracy, that’s another way of saying please get out we want to take over from you. For the military that is treason. So some people entered and confronted a lion all these to come up with a democratic setting.

“The full signatories to that letter were Chief Solomon Lar, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Alhaji Lawal Kaita, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, Prof. Ango Abdulahi, Dr. Suleiman Kumo, Mallam Lawan Dambazzau, Alhaji Iro Abubakar Dan-Musa, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Prof. Jerry Gana, Col. Abubakar Umar (Rtd), Hon. Isaac Shaahu, Dr. Usman Bugaje, Alhaji Mohammed Arzika, Dr. Steve Achema, Dr. Farouk Abdulaziz, Prof. Musa Yakubu. 

“These are the 18 people who signed a letter, urging Abacha to end military rule for Nigeria to go back to a democratic setting.

“Considering our political history as a country, 25 years of unbroken democracy, in my mind is worthy of celebration, as it shows we are making some progress in democratic governance, despite the challenges we face in our journey of nationhood.

“Notably, the path towards democratic consolidation has been a difficult one. The first, second and third republics of our democratic experiments were abruptly ended by the military amidst political crisis and social tension. 

“But after the G-8 letter of Solomon Lar and others, on May 8 1998, members of the G-34 in a letter signed by Dr. Alex Ekwueme, the former vice president had also urged General Abacha to reject his adoption as a presidential candidate and quit power.

 

“Of course, we all remember, for the young people they don’t know but we remember the only person that the cap fits. So Alex Ekwueme and others also confronted that.

“The return of democracy in 1999 after  many years of military reign, signaled a new phase in our national journey and our shared vision of unity, peace and progress. In the last 25 years, we have made modest progress in this regard amidst some challenges as a nation.”

The former President noted that within the past 25 years of democratic government, Nigeria had once emerged the biggest economy in Africa.

According to him, “We’ve built an economy that was once the biggest on the African continent. We have experienced significant infrastructural growth, made strides in the arts and sports and recorded many peaceful political transitions at national and sub national levels.

“Democracy has also brought about improved access to governance. Amplified silent voices and reinforced the idea of sovereignty. 

“Whenever I tune into Nigerian television stations, especially in the mornings and I see young men and women discussing and interrogating social issues and holding the government accountable, I always appreciate democracy.

“Today, citizens have come to terms with the idea of representative governance as they have over the years expressed their power to choose the leaders and demand, accountable leadership and good governance.

“Our civic space has largely flourished with a vibrant civil society community, increased media freedom and very very active press.”

He said that it had not been all that rosy in the past 25 years as the country has been confronted with some challenges despite the success recorded.

Jonathan said, “Our journey to democratic consolidation has not been an easy one. It has been a mixed bag of gains and losses, progress and pain. We have continued to deal with the issue of insecurity, inequality, unemployment as well as electoral disputes and violence.

“Despite the challenges associated with Democracy, the general feeling is that citizens prefer democracy and to any other form of government not only in Nigeria, but almost across the world.

“As a nation, our resolve has been challenged many times. But through shared faith and unity we have continued to match on and we will continue to match on. 

“We must underscore the fact that democracy is a journey, not a destination. Our Democracy though still young has weathered storms, overcome challenges and proven its endurance. It has become a beacon of hope, not just for our nation but for the entire continent.

“In these 25 years, four power transitions from one president to the other, I am not talking about the election, because like Kingibe said, two presidents handover to themselves. 

“What we have four situations where, Presidents handover to another president even in a case where a sitting President died. These are challenges that could have brought this republic to another end but we survived it.

“Democratic institutions have been expanded, this progress while commendable also remind us that our work is far from done we still have more to do. It is therefore time can make this journey seamless through good citizenship, patriotic service, as well as sacrificial and exemplary stewardship. 

“We must continue to build upon the foundations laid, deepens our democratic roots and ensure that the dividends of democracy are felt by all Nigerians regardless of their economic status, social status or geographical setting.

“For democracy to yield its desired dividend, we the political  class and elites must lead by example and work with unity of purpose to guarantee peace and social justice for the citizens. And our lifestyle  must reflect that we are elected people.

Winner takes all syndrome 

“A situation where children of political office holders go to parties and start spraying dollars is not the kind of democracy we want to witness in this country.

“We must work together despite our political differences, accommodate our diversity and prioritize policies that will impact the lives of our citizens. As we project towards celebrating a golden jubilee of uninterrupted democracy, which I believe we will, we are celebrating 25 years, we will also celebrate the golden jubilee.

“In the alternative, we need to work assiduously towards further strengthening state institutions, so that they can withstand the shocks that threaten democratic governance. 

“Democracy as a form of government is anchored on sets of promises in line with the nation’s development and growth aspirations. The fulfilment of these promises reinforces the citizens trust and faith in the government. 

“As we celebrate 25 years of unbroken democracy, we look to the future with the hope that Democracy has come to stay and that Democrats will continue to take firm roots in our nation and we will have cause to celebrate a centenary of uninterrupted democratic governance. 

“Of course, we wish our grandchildren luck to celebrate that. To attain such a feat, the political actors and everyone at the helm of affairs of this country must listen to the voices of the citizens.

“As I round off, let me say that we need to come up with a model of democratic practice that will be more inclusive and reinforces social cohesion. 

“The zero sort of kind of politics, where a winner takes it all has not helped us to foster unity and political justice.

“A political party for example, that scores up to 30% of votes during an election at either national or subnational level, should have something to go. I’m not clearly recommending proportional representation but different governments come up with models of democracy that suits them. 

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“After all the all presidents of the world don’t emerge through the same process, in Nigeria we elect our president directly. In number of countries presidents are elected indirectly. 

“The power of our presidents are defined by different constitutions and so on and so forth.

“So our National Assembly can also look at models that will fit us. The zero sum that a party that even sometimes get 40% of the votes, especially at the state level, will have nothing, gives rise to this Do or Die politics.

 

“The zero sum approach, I think, is inimical to consolidating and strengthening our democracy.

“Let me conclude by saying that together, we can forge a Nigeria where every citizen has a voice, where opportunities abound, and where the promise of a better tomorrow is not just a dream but a tangible reality. 

“Let us therefore, celebrate this milestone with pride and renewed determination. Let us ensure that the next 25 years of our democracy is even more transformative and inclusive, and more prosperous for all of us.

“In line with the wordings of our national anthem I think the second stanza, to hand over to our children a banner without stain. 

“We must not hand over to our children a democracy built on politics of region and religion. A democracy built on ethnicity does not endure; it will continue to wobble.

“So far, the Honourable Vice President, you are also representing the president, for me, we are hoping that you will build more infrastructure for us, improve the quality of education, health facilities etc etc. 

“But one key thing that for the next 25 years, you will be a midwife because you are starting the next 25 years is to build a democracy that will reduce friction. 

“The avalanche  of litigation that follows every round of election in Nigeria is very embarrassing. And because of the kind of democracy we practise, democracy built on all kinds of sentiments, either the way you worship God or the map of the country where you come from you both have to gradually make sure that in the next 25 !years, this is diluted. 

“If we must have a solid and enduring democracy, and I know you and the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who was a key actor in the June 12 crisis, have the capacity to navigate through that process.

“This programme and others commemorating this landmark was point the way to that glorious future and prepare the nation for a golden and centenary celebrations of enduring democracy.”