Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiolan
June 12, 1993 Nigerians, overwhelmed by military dictatorship set aside sentiments and massively voted for presidential candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, in the freest, most credible presidential election in the country.
For the first time Nigerians voted and their votes counted in the most transparent election in which the electoral body, National Electoral Commission adopted Option A4 voting system where voters queued behind candidates of their choice, were counted while on queue, cast their votes and results declared on the spot.
Before the votes were cast, the number of voters behind their candidates had indicated the winner in that polling unit. It was democracy in action.
There was no violence or manipulation of election results, yet General Ibrahim Babangida’s military junta annulled the poll before final result was declared leading to nationwide protests, violence and political impasse.
As a face saving device, Babangida set up an ill conceived interim national government led by Chief Earnest Shonekan and stepped aside. A court declared the interim government illegal and was quickly overthrown by General Sani Abacha three months after it was hurriedly constituted.
In effort to actualize his mandate, Abiola declared himself president, was arrested and detained. He died while negotiation was on to free him shortly after General Abdulsalami Abubakar assumed office following the death of Abacha in June 1998.
Many Nigerians lost their lives, several others were detained or went on self exile. Nigeria became a pariah state groping in democratic darkness. The giant of Africa was isolated and quarantined by the international community with no palliatives to fed her oppressed, suppressed and subdued citizenry.
Today, we pay glowing tributes to the heroes and heroines of Nigerian democracy who sacrificed their lives for the enthronement of civil rule in the country. Their patriotic efforts were not in vain as Nigeria returned to representative governance on 29th May 1999. It is our collective duty to ensure that our frail democracy survives all assaults by reactionary forces.
The essence of Democracy Day is for Nigerians not to take our hard earned democracy for granted and use the occasion for sober reflection and seminars on how to build, nurture and deepen the nation’s political process.
Government at all levels should provide dividends of democracy to the populace, particularly in this period of COVID-19 pandemic with the resultant global lockdown that has impoverished millions of our compatriots.
This is in tandem with Section 14(2)b of the 1999 constitution as amended, which states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. It is obvious that since 1999 past and present governments have failed woefully to raise the people’s standards of living.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world and a beggar nation continually seeking for loans around the world in spite of abundant human and natural resources.
Women are grossly marginalised in all aspects of our national life. Government at all levels should use the occasion of this year’s Democracy Day to formulate and implement policies that will boost and empower women and youth participation in politics and government.
The continuous recycling of retired and tired politicians is the cause of leadership fatigue in government that has impeded our democratic process.
President Mohammadu Buhari
It is sad that women who resisted colonial rule are now endangered species in Nigeria, victims of gruesome rape and killings. There is no age limit to these dastardly acts of devaluation and defiling of the female folk – babies, girls and elderly women in their 70s and 80s have been consistently raped and some murdered across the country and this happens daily as if Nigeria is a banana republic.
My heart goes out to Vera Omozuwa, a year-one student of the University of Benin who was raped and killed while studying in a church in the city and Barakat Bello, an 18-year old student of Federal College of Animal Health and Production, Ibadan who was raped and brutally murdered at home. The story is the same everywhere, everyday. Enough is enough.
I call for death sentence for rapists and urge the National Assembly and various State Houses of Assembly to pass laws in this regard. Rape has become a national emergency that must be stopped immediately for the safety of the female folk in Nigeria. Security agents have treated the matter with kid gloves for years as if the lives of women and girls don’t matter.
The national outcry over incessant rape cases today is a call for drastic action. I urge all patriotic Nigerians and the international community to join in this war against rape and corruption in Nigeria. We are all in it together. Together, we shall overcome this national trauma.
Happy Democracy Day!
Mrs. Seiyefa Fetipigi Eches, Former Governorship Candidate
Democratic People’s Congress (DPC) in the 2019 Bayelsa State Governorship Election