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A non-profit organization, 1001+ Voices Initiative for People Empowerment, has said for the democracy day as epitomized in June 12 to be meaningful, Nigerians must build on democratic ethos and make conscious effort to ensure credible elections devoid of thuggery, vote buying and influence peddling.

Speaking on the significance of June 12 in a statement at the weekend, the National Coordinator of the group, Obong Ide Owodiong-Idemeko, “avers that the date represents the struggle for a people’s preference for democracy and electoral responsibility without coercion for a candidate of their choice. It was one day, Nigerians rose to the occasion and demanded that their voice be heard on who should govern them. Thankfully, the full import of that fateful day is accorded the status it deserves. But whether Nigerians have benefited from that struggle is a different story altogether.”

“Since 1999, our democracy has been practiced in reverse. Rule of Law and Separation of Powers which are key ingredients for popular democracy have been practiced in the breach. There are still cases of jackboot situation as we witnessed in Zaki Biam and Odi; numerous cases of human rights abuses and violations over the years. Today, we are seeing wanton arrests of demonstrators, even at our freedom square! Our federation is practiced as a unitary government and the peoples’ representatives are just interested in what they can put in their pocket, among many malaises that have afflicted this country.”

The statement, which was signed by the group’s Executive Secretary, Uwem-obong Ankak, further commemorated with Nigerians on the 2021 democracy day, saying “Though the winner of that election, Chief MKO, Abiola lost his life in the struggle to actualize the mandate freely given by Nigerian people, the date epitomizes the struggle of a people to free themselves from the shackles of military dictatorship and by sheer resilience adopt democracy as the most credible form of government.”

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“June 12, 1993, was a date Nigeria’s democracy was tested and found to be workable. On this day, Nigerians demonstrated their preference for representative government, defied obstacles to elect a President without falling for our fault lines of religion and ethnicity. It was the day the republic we have today was born.”

“Late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Party (NRC) by a wide margin nationally. Furthermore, MKO proved bookmakers wrong by defeating Tofa in his own ward in Kano. This was a watershed in the history of democracy in Nigeria. The election continues to be rated as the most credible election in Nigeria since independence.”

“Unfortunately, the military junta led by General Ibrahim Babangida spurned the people’s hope by annulling, without any plausible reason, that free and fair election. The result was the chaos that almost took the country over the brink. Fortunately, thanks to agitation by civil rights groups and the international community, after all attempts by successive governments to wish that date away failed, the Federal Government under President Buhari, declared that epic date, our Democracy Day.”

“1001+ Voices Initiative is of the opinion that for Nigeria to truly benefit from the spirit and soul of June 12, we must revisit, not only the structural defects of our federation but take a critical look at our leadership recruitment process. A system that does not encourage its best to run for office cannot be sustained. The unwieldy nature of our brand of federalism where powers are concentrated in the exclusive list cannot support development. Other issues like fiscal federalism, large political bureaucracy and centralized security arrangements are some of our Achilles heels. Without doubt, the polity needs restructuring.”

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“Our elections should be won by popular vote and not through the courts. Resolution of our court on election matters should be expeditious. In fact, there should be special courts for electoral offences. Importantly, all arms of government should be autonomous to be able to oversight one another,” the statement concluded.

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