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‘Nigeria must restructure to dignify June 12’

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Moshood Abiola


• Anyaoku, Afenifere, restate calls for true federalism
• Atiku urges citizens to evaluate leadership requirement
• Tinubu lauds Buhari, heroes of democracy

Calls for the restructuring of the country resounded again yesterday as Nigerians reacted to today’s maiden celebration of June 12 as Democracy Day. The event marks 27 years since the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, widely believed to have been won by the late candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Moshood Abiola.

Former Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku noted that if Nigeria “is to face its serious current challenges effectively, it has to restructure its governance system. I am strongly of the view that, in order to live more effectively with the challenge of development, corruption and insecurity, we need to begin to build a truer nation of more viable federating units that would have responsibility for addressing these issues.”

He said: “Restructuring means a new constitution, adopting a constitution that would be truly people’s constitution, and a constitution that would aim to address these national challenges. If the Executive and the Legislature buy into it, they would take steps to organise a Constituent Assembly that would be genuine representatives of different sections of this country and the Assembly will discuss and agree on the new constitution.

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“I don’t think that the National Assembly, as it is presently constituted, can amend or create the constitution that the country needs. But because it is the National Assembly, the process is that they adopt legislation establishing the real Constituent Assembly that will be responsible for determining the new constitution. I do not see it having a proper role in determining the new constitution.

He said further: “A new, more proper constitution would determine the electoral cycle. If we proceed to have 2023 elections without the new constitution, you would just be repeating what exists at the moment. And everybody would agree that, at the moment, the country is not faring as well as it should be.

“I do not believe that the sort of constitution that would meet the need of this country emerged from the 2014 conference. It did go some way but it did not create the constitution that would address Nigeria’s challenges.

Anyaoku added: “What I am saying is the need to create a constitution that would address Nigeria’s challenges. If you look back at constitutions of 1960 and 1962, Nigeria was faring a lot better than it is now. If we had continued with that constitution, Nigeria, by now, would have been in a much developed and in a better state than we have now.

“We need to return to a truer federation, which it was at that time, because what we have now is more of a federation in name than reality. My idea of the truer federation for Nigeria is based on more viable federating units. The 2014 conference document did not produce more viable federating units.”

Pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, said Nigeria is heading “nowhere on the road of progress except we return to the spirit of June 12 and not the symbolism we are holding at the moment. We have to return the faith of our people in the ballot box like June 12 and restructure the polity so we can make progress under federalism.”

It disclosed this in a statement signed by its leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, in commemoration of the 27th anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

Describing the election as a watershed in “our troubled polity,” it noted: “As we celebrate another anniversary of June 12, now, for the first time, at the national level, it’s perhaps the most auspicious moment to do a critical assessment of our journey on the democratic road.

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“That it took us 26 years to give partial closure to June is a shame. While we acknowledge the official recognition that was done last year, we insist that repairing the damage the annulment did to the polity is more than holiday.

“Abiola promised HOPE in the land but we are under hopelessness in the land as we have regressed under all indices. ‘Farewell to poverty’ was the slogan of Abiola’s campaign but we are the global headquarters of poverty today. The ongoing COVID-19 has exposed how totally dysfunctional our society is. Gainful employment for our teeming youths has become a mirage. Our economy, rather than build on the enviable model instituted at independence, has become a contraption in which the quantum of our revenue is eaten up by corruption.

“The persistent ethnic cleansing in Nigeria, especially since 2015 in Agatu land and continuously in Southern Kaduna, and the seeming complicit posture of the government in this evil, marks a significant level in the unbundling of the shaky pillars of Nigeria.

“The present government has not only shown a lack of creative ability to fund governance through federalism but is piling billions of dollars in loans for that purpose with long-term debt burden on generations of Nigerians.”

On its part, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to restore Nigeria’s federal system of government, as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) promised Nigerians in 2015.

It said: “The current centralist and unitary government that has occasioned inequity, unfair play, injustice, discrimination and disrespect for the rule of law within the skewed, warped and lopsided national structure are unsustainable and cannot endure any longer in Nigeria’s heterogeneous society.”

In a statement by Secretary-General Mr. Ayo Opadokun, NADECO said the seeming disregard for the APC’s electoral promise constitutes a betrayal of public trust.

Similarly, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, noted that Nigeria must be restructured into federating units, if it wishes to be from “bondage”.
“When the federating units are allowed to develop at their own pace, there will be mutual benefits and progress. The federating states will be geared towards achieving the best for the people at the grassroots. This is possible when there is healthy competition among the federating units. The issue of security and state police would be taken care of without fear or favour. That is how it is in other climes where democracy thrives,” he said in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Kehinde Aderemi.

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Adams further expressed joy that part of the dreams of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) under his leadership was realised with the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day.

Also, the spokesman of the Middle Belt Forum, Isuwa Dogo, noted: “Buhari must set aside his ethnic, religious and sectional approach to governance and revert to the 2014 conference report. Otherwise, what we call Democracy Day or June 12 is a ‘419 democracy and recognition’. Everything and anything this administration stands for is absolutely opposite to what democracy stands for. And for Nigerians to really appreciate that Buhari recognised June 12 as Democracy Day, he must begin to put in place the implementation of the 2014 National Conference recommendation.”

Dr. Kunle Olajide, Secretary General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), said: “Until Nigeria is able to find a sincere and committed leader, who will revert to the last conference report with a view to implementing its recommendations and restructure the country, June 12, as Democracy Day, means nothing.”

He nevertheless noted that the honour granted to Abiola by Buhari “was a good gesture” that would also rub off on “all those who lost their lives for June 12.”

But Alhaji Tanko, a former liaison officer to the late President Shehu Shagari, didn’t think there was much to celebrate about Abiola’s sacrifice and June 12.

Abiola was not the first martyr of democracy in Nigeria, he said, noting: “Many Nigerians, especially the founding fathers of the country, started and paid the supreme price for democracy.”

He however advocated “three critical issues” that must be addressed for the country to move forward democratically. “There is a need to have viable political parties that would be owned and controlled by the people unlike the ones we have at present.

“We need a credible election system that will reflect the wishes of the electorate and not a situation, like we are seeing, where the courts decide the outcomes of election. There is also the need for Nigeria to have a sound and credible judicial system,” he said.

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Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar also admitted: “Just like the late Bashorun M.K.O. 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.”

He said: “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.

“Between 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 epicentre 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.”

According to him, “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.”He added: “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.”

IN his message, ‘June 12: A Milestone For Democracy’, APC National Leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu also acknowledged the contributions of other Nigerians to the country’s democratic journey.

“People like the late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, the late Gani Fawehinmi, Baba Omojola, the late Pa Rewane, the late Pa Enahoro, Baba Ajasin, Pa Adesanya, Baba Adebanjo, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Femi Falana, members of the civil society groups, student-activists and others fought hard and struggled mightily on our behalf. Many laid down their lives that we may have this brighter moment,” said.

Stressing: “In spirit, Abiola was truly the first president of this democratic period,” Tinubu said: “Bashorun Moshood Abiola stood fast and strong despite the enormous pressure against him. Those who hated democracy and equality tried to break his spirit and make him lose hope that democracy would ever come to our land. Abiola withstood it all and held to a dream.

“They could not crush his spirit so they took his body. They did not allow his dream turn to reality but victory was still his because he held fast with uncommon determination and principle.”

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He commended Buhari “for having the political courage to make June 12 Democracy Day.” According to him, “It would have been easier to let things stay as they were. But President Buhari, himself a man of integrity and honesty, realised the import of June 12 and understood that this day more than any other best symbolised our national pursuit of democracy. Despite political opposition, President Buhari helped set the record straight by making today, June 12, Democracy Day.”

Optimistic that the country could still climb to higher levels of progress, Tinubu said: “The times we face are not the easiest but we have a destiny to reach and a democratic roadmap on how to get there. Hand in hand, let us get there together.”

MEANWHILE, Prophet T.B. Joshua, whose birthday coincides with Nigeria’s Democracy Day, urged people all over the world to embrace love.In a message marking his 57th birthday, the founder of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) explained what he means by love.

“Love that has feet to move to the needy, to move to the sick ones, to move to the hungry ones; love that has hands to help others without expectation; love that has eyes to see misery and want; and love that has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.”

He said further: “Let the feelings of others matter to us. ‘Will these children not go to school? How can these people be lonely and homeless?’ There are many sick ones, hungry people, widows and orphans in our communities. Let us care for them.”

Quoting Matthew 25:40, “The king will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” T.B. Joshua stressed: “Whatsoever you do to the least one, that you do to God.”

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