On this day, June 12, we celebrate democracy and commemorate those who have sacrificed so much to establish this most benign and noble form of governance in our land.
Let us never treat this day as one devoid of special meaning, as just another holiday on the yearly calendar. We must keep in special and important remembrance why June 12 is Democracy Day and why all Nigerians should honour it.
Today is the 29th Anniversary of the annulment of the 1993 presidential election. That election was the freest and fairest Nigeria had experienced up to that moment and it yet remains as one of the best elections the nation has seen. That presidential election was clearly won by the late Chief MKO Abiola.
Given the good conduct and quality of that election, it appeared that a moment of transcendental importance, a true watershed, had taken place in the history of our young nation. It seemed as if military dictatorship had wisely yielded to the proposition that the sovereign will of the people as expressed through the electoral process should be the foundation of governance. A new way had come to Nigeria.
But democracy would not be established without greater struggle. Dictatorship would not recede willingly and without struggles. Thus, the hand of dictatorship annulled the election and clung insensiblyto power.
The annulment compelled the nation into an epic struggle of democracy versus dictatorship, choice versus coercion, and people versus power. In this confrontation between a bright future and bleak past, goodness, and the belief that we can become our better selves triumphed over cynicism and the blatant disregard of a powerful few for the collective welfare of the many. Democracy won. But it did so at a dear and high price. The man who should have been presidentlost his life while suffering in unlawful detention. Other democratic patriots suffered the same fate. Lives and livelihoods were endangered and shattered.
But the love of the human spirit for freedom and justice is unstoppable. No amount of weaponry, no measure of suppressive force and no amount of propaganda can long restrain the cry for liberty and the rightful demand for a voice in how society is governed.
That election though almost thirty years ago provides vital and reassuring lessons to Nigeria today. First, it shows that we are capable of democratic excellence and conducting elections as good as anywhere else on earth. Second, Chief MKO Abiola won a truly national mandate. His victory and mandate, though unfairly and unlawfully stolen, shows Nigeria’s unity is not animpractical dream. Although we are diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion, we all seek good governance, a better life and the positive things that result fromsustained good governance.
For me personally, Democracy Day holds a special meaning. I was a close supporter of MKO Abiola and had entered politics believing that we could change the face of this nation for permanent good. When the military dictatorship tried to bury that dream, I was there at the birth of the NADECO movement. The democratic lessons I learned then have guided the path of public service which I have tried to follow since those days.
This year, Democracy Day holds even greater significance. We just concluded fair, transparent, and open primaries in our party, the All ProgressivesCongress. The PDP also concluded their own primaries a few days earlier. Other parties too have conducted primaries. Even though we shall engage in intense and important political competition during the coming presidential campaign, I congratulate all the other candidates for their nominations and their parties for doing their part to sustain democratic processes as the mainstay of our political life.
The APC was able to conduct a successful primary election due to the sage leadership of President Buhari, and key party stakeholders like the Governors, party leadership and the Delegates. I was fortunate enough to win the APC primary due to the support of so many important people in the party.
I shall never forget the confidence they have reposed in me and shall always do my best for the nation and my party.
The role they have given me is one of weighty responsibility and sober considerations.
On this Democracy Day, I dedicate myself and my upcoming campaign to the spirit of June 12 and what it best symbolizes for today’s Nigeria.
Just like democracy finally won against dictatorship, I know that prosperity shall overcome poverty, peaceshall outlast violence, compassion will conquer hatred and good will defeat evil. Justice, security, and economic development will visit and reside in every hamlet, household, village, and city in our nation. The spirit of June 12 shall expand to become the spirit of Nigeria and our national greatness and destiny.
My prayer, on this day, is that people from all walks of life and all parts of the country unite to build a more industrious and peaceful society such that all Nigerians may enjoy a greater future.
This occasion also compels us to again thank President Muhammadu Buhari for his successful efforts to name today June 12 as Democracy Day for our beloved republic. God bless Nigeria.
May the souls of the martyrs of June 12 and the Democratic struggle continue to rest in peace.
I thank you all.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu
June 12, 2022.