Next week, we shall be marking another Democracy Day in memory of the June 12, 1993, election believed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola but which was annulled by the military regime of that time based on some unexplained reasons. Earlier, we used to mark our Democracy Day on May 29 in commemoration of May 29, 1999, when we returned to the present political dispensation after years of military dictatorship. It was former President Muhammadu Buhari who instituted June 12 as the new Democracy Day some years back.

Whether May 29 or June 12 is marked as our Democracy Day, some critics do not believe that the two dates should take precedence over October 1, 1960, when we got independence from Britain, our erstwhile colonial overlords. In other words, October 1 should and ought to be our Democracy Day because that was the day we regained our political and democratic rights. June 12 and May 29 were built on the gains of October 1. There would not have been May 29 and June 12 without October 1. We must not lose sense of this significant aspect of our history

Therefore, whether we mark Democracy Day on October 1, or May 29 or June 12, we must begin to interrogate our political and democratic systems and begin to build a system that works and works for all of us. Very soon, we shall be celebrating our 64 years of independence. Some days ago, we marked our 25 years of unbroken years of democratic governance. Has democracy translated to better life for Nigerians? Has democracy ensured that Nigerians are more secured? Has democracy ensured more foods for Nigerians? Has democracy moved the nation forward or backward? Has democracy ensured that we are united and see ourselves as brothers and sisters in spite of our tribal and linguistic diversity? There are indeed many questions to ask and there are bound to be many answers too. The answers will be as varied as our over 250 languages and ethnic groups.

When the British people came here in the 18th century to assume the forceful occupation and governance of what has become Nigeria, the Niger area, they met diverse tribal peoples and diverse languages and cultures. This can explain why the British author of our first national anthem, ‘Nigeria we hail thee’ which President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has returned and jettisoned the 1978 ‘Arise O Compatriots’ approved by Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo in 1978, reminded us that despite our tribal and linguistic differences, ‘in brotherhood we stand.’ Lillian Williams, the author of our first national anthem written in 1959, urged us to build a country where ‘no man is oppressed.’

Whenever the old national anthem is played, it reminds us of our humble beginning, our history and journey to nationhood. Its lyrics and rhythm evoke feelings of nationalism and patriotism. Many Nigerians have nostalgic feelings about our first national anthem because of its meaning, history and musicality. President Tinubu may have been prompted by these feelings of patriotism and nationalism to revert to the first national anthem. He may also be thinking of a national rebirth for the country and envisaging where we should be in the next three or more years.

While change is necessary and constant in the life of a human being, a business or a nation, change alone without concomitant positive human actions in line with the direction of the change will amount to chasing after the wind. Whether it is ‘Nigeria we hail thee’ or ‘Arise O Compatriots’ we recite with gusto, what matters most is our attitude to our country, our motherland or fatherland, and how we treat it with love  or hate. How we treat the laws that govern Nigeria and what we do when other Nigerians try to disobey the laws of the country will matter most than reciting the national anthem with much vigour and strength.

Is a nation built by gods or human beings? Is a nation built by its leaders or its people? Is a nation built on luck and mere wishful thinking? Can leaders take bold decisions that may likely hurt the people in the beginning but later bring succor? As we march ahead in building a country of our dream, let’s pause and answer these questions as honestly as we can. The answers to them will be of immense help in overcoming our present socio-economic challenges as a nation and charting the way forward.

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As we mark our Democracy Day, what are we doing to ensure that we have a system that works as there is in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada and other countries? Let’s begin to lay the foundation of a nation where things work. We must begin this journey by building a democracy that works, a democracy where leaders are held accountable and where leaders serve the people and not the other way round.

Let’s be thinking of selfless leaders, leaders with messianic flavours, leaders that are willing to sacrifice themselves for the people and even be willing to die for them. Are our leaders willing to take to this route of national redemption? Whether we have in place a presidential system of government as we hurriedly copied from the US without much of its tenets or the parliamentary system modeled after Britain which we quickly jettisoned without much practice, what is paramount is building a system that works and works very pragmatically for the people.

In further developing our democracy and ensuring that it endures, the three tiers of government, federal, state and local governments, must be made to work effectively for the good of the people. We need to build a governance system that centres around the goodness of the people. The federal government must provide exemplary leadership for the good of all Nigerians. Similarly, the three arms of government, the executive, legislature and the judiciary must also work seamlessly to ensure the goodness of all Nigerians.

The state governors should provide commensurate leadership that attends to the needs of people at the subnational level. States should not be peopled with modern day emperors and dictators, who daily contribute to the underdevelopment and stunting of our nascent democracy. One of the evils of our new democracy is the killing of the local government administration by the governors.

The absence of governance at the third tier of government is responsible for the exacerbation of poverty and insecurity in the country. It is also responsible for some restiveness and agitation in some regions of the country. If the citizens are gainfully employed and are busy doing one thing or the other, they won’t have time for criminality and other vices. Crises are rife where people are marginalized, neglected or alienated.

Therefore, President Bola Tinubu’s bold move to ensure democracy at the third tier of government is timely and commendable. It needs the support of all well-meaning Nigerians. It is also in the best interest of the governors to ensure that there is democratically elected government at the local government level. The 774 councils should be centres of development and good governance.

Moving forward in our democratic march, we shall begin to build a country based on merit and a land where no man or woman is oppressed, a country based on equality before the law, justice and equity. We need a country where the citizens and leaders should obey the laws and where democratic institutions are strong and resilient.

Without resilient democratic institutions, no amount of nationalistic rhetoric or sloganeering will build the Nigeria of our dream. We must nurture and build our democracy and our nation with love and togetherness. Foreigners will not do so for us. It is our duty to fix our democracy and our country. Although it is not yet Uhuru for our democratic journey, there is ample hope that we shall get there. Getting there requires the input of every Nigerian.

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