As Nigerians mark the 19th anniversary of democratic government today, a former Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has described the nation’s journey to democracy as ‘torturing’ and one that claimed ‘lives’ under President Muhammadu Buhari led administration.

Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria government returned to civil rule on May 29, 1999 and since then, the date (May 29th) has been set aside as Public Holiday to commemorate what is called Democracy Day.

The ex-VP noted that it was remarkable that despite the assault on the nations’ hard-won democracy by anti-democratic forces, citizens have continued to soldier on as a people and as a country.

Atiku also pointed that the integrity of Nigeria’s electoral process and ability of government to be accountable to the people are the minimum requirements to appreciate the sacrifices of those who gave their all for the enthronement of democracy in the country.

According to him, “Nigeria’s journey to democracy was a tortuous one that claimed lives and limbs of many a patriot and it is incumbent upon us as beneficiaries of their sacrifices to ensure that we advance the course of democracy through transparent elections and making our governmental institutions work for the people.

Even as we celebrate, Atiku continued, my fellow patriots, let us spare some time to reflect and to mourn all those murdered in the on-going needless killings across our dear country.”

The former VP further expressed worry over the incessant killings and spate of attacks by the criminal herdsmen and Bokoharam insurgency at Borno, Yobe, Benue river valley, stretching from Adamawa through Taraba to the confluence of Kogi and Benue, and including Nasarawa, Plateau, Southern Kaduna, and Zamfara states.

Atiku affirmed that other innocent Nigerians have been killed by armed robbers, kidnappers, cattle rustlers and other marauding bandits, adding that the killings have even extended to sacred places of worship where innocent Imams and Christian clergy and worshipers are slaughtered.

“This carnage has gone on for too long and must stop. In a letter that I sent to the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria recently on these killings, I pointed out, and I repeat it here, that only government can stop these senseless killings if we are to avoid major and further damage to the fabric of our fragile unity.

The recent history of Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi and Central African Republic, among others, should be a strident warning to all of us, especially those in government whose primary responsibility is the protection of the citizens, but who have been dithering, making contradictory and ridiculous excuses and engaging in diversionary finger-pointing.

The democracy that we celebrate today is a fruit of the labour of patriots, some of who paid the supreme price. As inheritors of this beautiful concept of democracy, it behooves us to ensure that democracy is nurtured not just as a mechanism for a periodic change of government, but as a social construct”, Atiku said.

The ex-VP stressed that the ultimate virtue in democracy is the power that it bestows in the people, adding that the essence of that power lies in the ability of the people to live a complete lifestyle that enables every man or woman to triumph in his or her legitimate pursuit.

He added that the concept of democracy is absolutely incongruent with a notion of regimentation either in the political or economic sphere.

“As we move forward as a country, it is important that we respond to the dynamics of time in proffering solutions to some of the challenges that beset us. Today, the popular clamour amongst our people is the need to make government more responsive and responsible. Our challenges about insecurity and diversification of the economy have acquired new phases in the past few years and thus should our solutions to those challenges require a brand new thinking.

As the nation goes through a cycle of elections in the coming months, it is important that the integrity of the electoral process is sacrosanct with guarantees of free and fair election. Democracy is by itself a self-correcting concept, but only if there is guarantee of credibility in the electoral process.

We have mourned Nigerian souls to terror attacks enough for us to learn that it is insufficient that the federal government has exclusive statutory mandate in providing security for our people. Our economy has become too exposed to the vagaries of global oil prices for us not to decipher that we need to invest massively in infrastructure and liberalize the economy to create fresh opportunities for the people. Our communities and associations have become so divided and apart that we cannot even begin to confront the most basic of our challenges when we don’t share a mutual sense of belonging.

These are some of the challenges that we must begin to re-evaluate their manifestation, and the significance of our celebration of democracy today should mean that we employ the broadmindedness and participatory notion of democracy in seeking solutions to them”, Atiku stated.