President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday reminded Nigerians of the need to safeguard the democratic choices of Nigerians as he recalled the June 12,1993 elections, the result of which he said was annulled by the “worst of our leadership”.
He spoke in a dawn broadcast to mark this year’s Democracy Day, now celebrated every June 12 in honour of the 1993 election and its presumed winner, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO), who was denied assuming office by then military head of state, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) as he annulled the election results, and rendered the poll inconclusive.
Buhari recalled that the election saw the best of Nigerian citizens who defied a odds to freely elect their preferred candidates, but the moment also saw the worst of Nigeria’s leadership when the IBB-led government cancelled the unanimous wish of Nigerians.
According to Buhari: “From 1999, we consistently celebrated Democracy Day to mark the end of military rule and the return of power and control into the hands of those freely elected by the people. On this day, Nigerians recommit themselves to ensuring we protect and preserve the ideals of democracy.
“In 2018, we moved Democracy Day from 29th of May to the 12th of June. This change was to remind all Nigerians of one free election after which the presumed winner along with Nigerians were denied their rights and their choice.
“On June 12th 1993, Nigerians saw the best in our citizens as we all went out to vote peacefully. By June 24th 1993, we also saw the worst of our leadership as the elections were annulled.
“We must never forget the sacrifices of the heroes of Nigeria’s democracy during 1993. Their patriotism and peaceful struggle should guide our actions especially when it comes to electing our leaders and holding them accountable, now and in future.”
The President assured Nigerians that as another presidential election come in 2023, he remained committed and determined to ensure that the new President after him woukd be elected through a peaceful and transparent process.
“It is important for all of us to remember that June 12th, 2023 will be exactly 30 years from the 1993 Presidential elections. In honour and memory of one of our national heroes for democracy, Chief M.K.O Abiola, GCFR, we must all work together to ensure this transition is done in a peaceful manner.
“I am hopeful that we can achieve this. The signs so far are positive”, he said while noting that all registered political parties have recently conducted peaceful and orderly primaries to select their candidates for the 2023 general elections.
Cautioning against conducting politics like a “do or die” affair, Buhari said “we must all remember democracy is about the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers.
“I will therefore take this opportunity on this very special day to ask all candidates to continue running issue focused campaigns and to treat opponents with dignity.
“As leaders, you must all showcase high character and never forget that the world is watching us and Africa looks up to Nigeria to provide example in governance. The tone you set at the top will surely be replicated in your followers.”
He noted his government’s efforts and investments to ensure that votes count, saying that “the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary were and still remain united and committed to ensure these reforms are fully implemented in the 2023 general elections”.
He restated that his administration was worried and addressing the challenges of insecurity in the country, especially towards ensuring that the 2023 general elections are safe and secure for all Nigerians.
“I ask all citizens to support and cooperate with our security agencies by reporting any suspicious characters and activities to law enforcement agencies. We can only have a safe country if we are able to prevent crime not after the crime has been committed”, he pleaded.
He further stated that ” on this special day, I want us all to put all victims of terrorist activities in our thoughts and prayers. I am living daily with the grief and worry for all those victims and prisoners of terrorism and kidnapping. I and the security agencies are doing all we can to free those unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen safely.
“For those who have lost their lives, we will continue to seek justice for their families against the perpetrators. For those currently in captivity, we will not stop until they are freed, and their kidnappers are brought to justice. If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction.”
Buhari ended his broadcast thus: “I will conclude this Democracy Day speech, my last as President, by assuring you of my commitment to protect Nigeria and Nigerians from all enemies from within and outside.
“I am also promising you a free, fair and transparent electoral process. And I am pleading with all citizens to come together and work with Government to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.”