Democracy Day Message by the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chief Supo Shonibare on the occasion of June 12th Democracy Day anniversary.
As we celebrate Democracy Day today, we must remember our founding fathers – Mr. Ernest Ikoli, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Mallam Aminu Kano, Mr Joseph Tarka, Dr. Michael Okpara, Dr. Denis Osadebe and so many other leaders, who all worked to usher in a democratic, federal, independent nation.
Our country travelled along the path of entrenching an independent democratic culture for a short period of six years, but when the First Republic was abruptly terminated, the nation departed from the covenant that we would be united in a diverse, democratic federal entity without the central power dominating and taking over any constituent part.
This same tendency to dominate was re-enacted in the Second Republic, where , anti-democratic tools were used to subvert the electoral process, which is the only tool available for a democratic culture to determine its leadership. The blatant manipulation of the electoral process tainted the credibility of the results.
Once we embark down that dark alley of falsifying the mandate of the electorate when determining those whom we elect to safeguard our wellbeing and generally superintend our collective wealth on our behalf, we depart from the path of being a democratic nation.
This is why we always remember and celebrate today in honour of the victor and presumptive President-elect of the June 12th elections: Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, for his resilience in not abandoning the people’s mandate in spite of being incarcerated and subjected to untold hardship and isolation for years (which will be better appreciated by Nigerians after just a few weeks of ‘Lockdown’ in our homes). We also celebrate this day in honour of the many men and women who came out in their millions, most of them to vote massively for a Moslem-Moslem ticket, in probably one of the most transparent elections ever conducted on our shores. On this day too, we remember those who insisted on a democratic path for Nigeria: the
Campaign for Democracy (CD), the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), United Action for Democracy (UAD) and
other pro-democracy groups who took up the gauntlet to champion the cause of democracy
when even the political parties had abandoned it. We also remember many life lost; including that of Pa Alfred Rewane , Alhaja Kudirat Abiola & many more unsung, in the unrelenting efforts & struggle to defend the democratic mandate.
That election of June 12th 1993 has set the benchmark for free and fair elections in Nigeria. That election demonstrated our capacity for unity in diversity – diversity in religion and ethnicity, among so many other factors. Nigerians were united in voting for a democratic culture and in their desire to consign the Military to the barracks. So June 12th is the right day to celebrate Democracy.
It is even more important for Nigerians to continue to celebrate that epoch-making event because our nation has digressed from the path of building on the credibility of that process, to a polity characterised by massive electoral malpractices, allegations of involvement of security agencies in supporting candidates, and curious judicial electoral victories – all factors that negate the essence of the concept of one person one vote. We have also departed from the Federal structure bequeathed to us and have strayed towards a unitary structure with its attendant fault lines, which our founding fathers had counselled was capable of halting the quest to found a stable united federal state in a multi-ethnic nation. We must collectively resolve to stand up to be counted to prevent the collapse of the Nigerian project.
We must return our country to the path and spirit of June 12. Those who emerge from rigged and contrived elections may be our rulers, but they are not our elected leaders. We need to build up forces in the civil society groups and progressive political parties and the nation at large, to unite to found a political vehicle capable of championing the need to quickly evolve a united federal democratic culture, able to rescue the nation from the downward slide to the precipice of being a failed Nation, with the attendant chaos and breakdown of law and order which that portends.
We must use this day to begin to mobilize for that new deal for a virile federal entity united in developing in our diverse entities.
National publicity secretary, SDP.
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