My Message To Nigerians On The Occasion Of The 21st Anniversary Of Democracy Day
The celebration of Democracy Day is an affirmation of our collective struggles towards a system of participatory government and acceptance of primacy of the rule of law.
Along the line in the struggle which spanned decades, many a compatriot paid the ultimate price. While today may well be a day dedicated to democracy, it is also very well a remembrance day for our fallen heroes of democratic rule.
Just like the late Bashorun MKO Abiola continues to be the symbol of the June 12 struggle, there are many others like the late Chief Alfred Rewane; my mentor, Tafida Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola and many more too numerous to mention who lost their lives in order for us to have a democracy.
Yet, there are so many other heroes who remain unsung. They are Nigerians who have fallen victims of bad governance.
While we may have a day dedicated to celebrating democracy, it remains saddening that we have not delivered enough dividends to our people to be happy over.
From 1999 to the present time, our democracy has thrown up all shades of characters at the leadership levels. Many, if not all of them have tried their best to deliver good governance to the country. But the results of their efforts, judging by what we have at hand today, clearly shows that our best has not been good enough thus far.
It is clear that the problem of leadership is at the epicenter of governance issues that has afflicted Nigeria since the restoration of this democratic dispensation. To get at this problem would require the voting citizens of the country to undertake a more critical evaluation of national leadership recruitment – a rare gift which democracy guarantees through the instrumentality of periodic elections.
It is when we do that, that democracy can pass as a self-correcting mechanism and when it is denied, we are left with a pseudo-democracy which is counterproductive to the notion of participatory democracy.
As we celebrate today our 21st anniversary of unbroken democratic rule, it is necessary that we canonize the memories of our heroes of democracy by expanding the application of democracy as a mechanism of good governance by making sure that ballots cast during an election are sacrosanct in order for leaders who represent the true aspirations of the people to emerge.
However, to ensure the integrity of the electoral process, that votes are not only counted, but that they do count, there is an urgent need to accelerate needed electoral reforms that will address the lapses in previous elections.
On the occasion of Democracy Day, being marked against the backdrop of the uncertainties of this season, may the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in the struggle to enthrone the democratic rule that we are enjoying today never be in vain.
Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007
11th June 2020