Nigerians, yesterday, marked Democracy Day and June 12 to commemorate Chief Kashimowo Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the annulled 1992 presidential election.
There were celebrations and protests across the country with various state governors, parties and individuals making statements to mark the day.
In Kwara State, Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaqs said the country had grown on all fronts despite the challenges of nation building, population bulge, and national security and development.
“I felicitate with Kwarans, and indeed all Nigerians, on this day of June 12 which has come to symbolise the struggle of our people for human rights, participatory democracy, and development,” he said.
His Ekiti State counterpart, Governor Kayode Fayemi, said democracy remained the best option for the country, and therefore, urged all and sundry to be more determined in ensuring that democracy works in the country.
Fayemi added that through the determination of the citizens and their active participation in the democratic process, Nigerians could achieve a truly great country of their dream.
Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, on his own part, addressed some protesters in Ibadan when they stormed his residence at Agodi to demand better governance from President Muhammadu Buhari.
A video clip that went viral on the social media showed Makinde using megaphone to address the protesters. But the video did not really capture his speech that could have been transcribed.
Markets were locked just as angry youths converged on Mokola Roundabout in Ibadan demanding a better country.
Sunday Sun observed that there was heavy deployment of security men in most parts of the state capital as men of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC), Amotekun Corps were seen at strategic locations.
Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong used the occasion to grant pardon to seven prisoners. Lalong disclosed this in a state broadcast. He urged the people of Plateau State to continue to pray for peace and unity of the state and Nigeria.
Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum, while in his address to mark the occasion, said he was not satisfied with his performance in the two years of his leadership.
He said while politicians were busy talking about 2023, his concerns were on the future of the state. “We’ve built schools, yes. We’ve built health centres, but where are the teachers? Where are the doctors and nurses? While we talk here about what we’ve done in the last two years in office, I’m rather concerned about quality teachers for the schools, qualified doctors and nurses for the hospitals,” he declared.
Speaking on the occasion, Ondo State governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, lamented the current economic situation in the country and called for an urgent solution to the problems bedeviling the nation.
Akeredolu, who spoke at a public lecture organised by the state government to commemorate the day, expressed concern over the state of insecurity in the country.
He said the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola had a vision to end poverty in the country but 28 years after the annulment of his election, solutions had not been found to the problem of poverty in Nigeria.
A guest lecturer, Mr Femi Aborisade, called on the government at all levels to be sensitive to the plights of Nigerians and provide succour for them.
Meanwhile, there was protest in Akure, the Ondo State capital, as youths went on the streets demanding good governance and an end to insecurity in the country.
Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri, used the occasion to express his administration’s determination to change the developmental narrative of the state.
Responding to a question on the president’s recent directive to revive cattle grazing routes across the country, Diri said there were no such routes in the state.
He explained that although he was not countering the Federal Government’s decision to resuscitate grazing routes, his administration had put in place a legal framework to ban open grazing and movement of cattle on foot.
“For us, there are no cattle grazing routes in Bayelsa State. Our people are traditionally and occupationally fishermen. The idea of cattle grazing routes in Bayelsa is very strange to us in this part of the country.”
Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun, said that the best way for Nigerians to immortalise and celebrate late MKO Abiola and June 12, was to build bridges and demolish sectarian fences.
The governor, who said Nigerians cannot afford to bring down the country or show despair in its future, noted that the supreme price paid by the late Abiola and his mandate should serve as a reminder that Nigerians are stronger together as a nation.
Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, said that Nigeria must build democracy, nationhood on strong institutions, as well as equity, justice, fairness
He added that the absence of strong institutions, equity, justice, political will and fairness was responsible for Nigeria’s wobbled nationhood and democracy.
He stressed that the country must find the courage to institute these virtues and values in its polity to build a strong, virile and prosperous nation desired by the citizens.
The Minority caucus in the House of Representatives used the occasion to expressed dismay over the hostility meted to Nigerians by the Federal Government who staged protests, yesterday, in commemoration of the June 12 Democracy Day.
The caucus, in a statement by the minority leader, Ndudi Elumelu, said the violent assault on Nigerians by the security forces was condemnable, unjustifiable and at variance with fundamental democratic ethos of freedom of expression as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Similarly, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) itself condemned the clampdown on peaceful protesters by alleged agents of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the federal government.
It said in statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, that the clampdown on citizens on Democracy Day is “a sacrilegious demonstration of APC’s aversion to democracy.”
However, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was relatively peaceful, although there were reports that there would be mass protests in virtually all states of the federation and in the Diaspora in commemoration of the day.
The Federal Capital Territory(FCT), police command, said it dispersed members of the proscribed Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN)-Shiites and other groups from taking advantage of the June 12 Democracy day to embark on protest in the nation’s capital.
In Edo State, a combined security operatives were at the National Museum, Benin, venue of the takeoff point of the June 12 protest to forestall possible break down of law and order.
Lamenting on the occasion, the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, said the 14 elected lawmakers of the House of Assembly decided to go with their godfather despite his plea that they should make themselves available for their inauguration.
In Benue, our correspondent observed that there was calm in Makurdi, the State capital, as well as other major cities, including Gboko, Otukpo, Katsina-Ala, among others. People went about their normal activities without any problem. All markets within the metropolis were opened for business just as commercial transportation went on uninterrupted.
It was also observed that security operatives were deployed in all books and crannies of the Makurdi metropolis to ensure peace, law and order.
But in Lagos, the police dispersed protesters who had earlier gathered at Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota in the morning. The State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu who later visited the scene, said every citizen of the country has constitutional right to protest and expressed his or her feeling in public but the person must follow due protest, adding that the Lagos event was already hijacked by hoodlums before the police dispersed them.
“Whoever wants to stage protest let the government be aware; the park in question is a government property, managed by an agency; if the government gave approval for the usage of the park and the police is also notify, nobody we harass them, but we also provide security for them in order to ensure their safety,” he said.
Deputy Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Toby Okechukwu, used the occasion to charged leaders in the country to tow the path of justice, equity, dialogue, and rule of law, so as to arrest worsening insecurity and separatist agitations across the country, lamenting that the country is in a state of anomie and dysfunction.
He said: “The greatest debt the governments and leaders of Nigeria owe every part of this country and every Nigerian is a sense of justice and equity according to the letters and spirit of our constitution while alive, not posthumously as in the case of Chief MKO Abiola.”
Lady Chidi Onyemelukwe, a frontline governorship aspirant in Anambra 2021 on the platform of PDP and daughter of Nigeria’s ex-vice president, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, said Nigeria was much more fragile today than it was 22 years ago.
Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, lamented that the late Aare MKO Abiola would never be happy in his grave to see that the democracy he lived and died for had turned to autocratic in nature and practice.
Adams while speaking at the annual June 12 commemoration event organized by the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), at the Excellence Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, lamented that Nigeria’s democracy evolved in disunity, rivalry and wanton killings across the nation, adding that the democracy the late Aare MKO Abiola lived and died for had failed to accommodate the worthy ideals the late Abiola cherished most.
National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) used the occasion to enjoin other well-meaning Nigerians to task President Muhammadu Buhari to commit to enduring electoral reforms to safeguard Nigeria’s electoral system.
The NAS Capoon, Mr Abiola Owoaje, in a statement titled: “22 Years of Unbroken Democracy: Whither Nigeria” also lamented the continued repression of dissenting voices and suppression of protests in the country.
According to him, President Buhari must work towards bequeathing an enduring legacy of electoral reforms that would ensure free, fair and transparent elections.
In Rivers State, some groups staged a peaceful protest against the Federal Government over issues bordering on insecurity, violation of human rights and non-compliance to the constitution of the country.
The Coallition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), who marched along the streets of Port Harcourt, claimed that Nigerians had not felt the positive impact of the democratic system, especially under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
On its part, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), called on the Federal Government to urgently convoke a national dialogue over worsening insecurity in Nigeria.
The students made the call during a press conference in commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day celebration, saying the students have been major victims of insecurity in the country.
Meanwhile, Vatsa community in Lapai Local Government Area of Niger State has used the occasion to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to grant their son, late General Mamman Jiya Vatsa who was executed in an alleged coup in 1986 a state pardon.