BEING TEXT OF AN ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR YAHAYA BELLO OF KOGI STATE ON THE OCCASION OF THE DEMOCRACY DAY, JUNE 12, 2023.
I salute the great people of Kogi State and of Nigeria on this 12th day of June, 2023 – a day we rightfully commemorate as Democracy Day in our nation. It is my humble insistence that when it comes to the practice of democratic governance among the nations of the world, Nigeria has made consistent progress in this Fourth Republic, and we should be proud.
Indeed, we can celebrate how far we have come on this day if only we can count our blessings instead of our missteps. We are a democracy that just 3 decades ago fell into a terrible mishap on June 12, 1993 when our most credible and united mandate was given to a man among us, transcending all our points of division, especially tribe, region and religion.
On that fateful day, our Democracy (and by extension, the whole nation of us), was beaten and left for dead by forces we could not resist initially. From that assault, our democracy slipped into a deep coma for another half a decade before being resuscitated in 1999. Even now, Nigerian Democracy remains nascent – undergoing intensive physical therapy and learning full use of all organs and functionalities.
Yes, June 12, 1993 was a day of sorrow, tears and blood for Nigeria – a day of disenfranchisement and dispossession on which our hard-earned democracy took a knife to the chest and lay in its own pool of blood in full glare of the whole world.
Yet, June 12, 2023, like the many before it, should be a day of introspection and rejoicing on which we ponder on the miracle of how our Democracy, once left for dead on the streets, somehow managed the strength to stagger to its feet and aided by the very finger of God found its way to the Fourth Republic, where, by the imperfect but determined nurture of Nigerians it is gradually regaining its strength, with increasingly bright and favorable prognosis for full recovery.
The lesson of June 12 is that Nigeria’s democracy is not a gift, random candy to be thoughtlessly licked by new generations and discarded. No indeed. It is a priceless legacy built on the labour, sweat and even life blood of countless heroes from every part of this great nation who gave their all, literally, for it.
Many of these heroes lie unknown and unsung, ordinary Nigerians who were felled by bullets or maimed by means we cannot even begin to imagine in those years, months and days of military rule before June 12, 1993, after July 9, 1998 when its protagonist was killed to present and into the future.
They may have made their sacrifice in obscurity, but they are neither forgotten nor ignored. We celebrate them today and always in the face and name of the great man on whose mandate they stood and strove, His Excellency, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola GCFR. June 12 is their day and the inimitable M.K.O Abiola is their alter ego and embodiment. His election, the battle for his stolen mandate and his death in the struggle chronicles the decisive moments of modern Nigerian democracy.
We salute him, and they, today.
The most enduring lesson the present reaps from the labours of these heroes past and the number one characteristic of the democratic system of governance which must stay with us every moment is that it is a triumph of choice in the way we are governed. We are able to choose at elections as we did earlier this year because they paid a price yesterday that many today may find quite steep, if not impossible.
Of course, the challenge at every election is to recruit the best possible manpower choices for our nation from the pool of talent on offer, but even if we miss it, we honour them by keeping faith with the democratic tenets until we can choose again. This assures us, if our choice does not triumph, that it is only a miss and not a failure. Above all, that it is neither final nor fatal because in time we get to choose again.
It is true that on this June 12 our democracy is not yet the colossus we all yearn for it to become, but no Nigerian of goodwill who has played his part in this long and tortuous road that we have journeyed, and who understands the steady, if slow, processes of our recovery will have anything but admiration for our courage and resilience.
The certainty which comforts us above all with every successive June 12 is that our Nigerian Democracy rises, slowly but surely, like the Phoenix, from the ashes of June 12, 1993.
The greatest testament to this renaissance is perhaps the election of His Excellency, Asíwájú Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR as Nigeria’s 16th President earlier this year. Mr. President is a confirmed disciple of Chief MKO Abiola and one of the most prominent footsoldiers of June 12. History tells us that he too, like his principal, was marked for assassination for his services to democracy and barely managed to escape the fate of his leader by the slimmest of fortunes.
Therefore, I am fully persuaded that under his oversight the ideals of June 12 and the very essences of Nigerian Democracy, will find full and faithful expression. Mr. President’s promises of Renewed Hope is one in which Nigerians, especially the youthful demographics, have invested into with everything that we possess. I have no doubt that his Administration will exist solely to fulfill his words to Nigerians.
Democracy is a marathon. Sometimes it speeds downhill over flat ground, and at others it labours uphill over rough terrains but ultimately it is one race and only those who start at the beginning and cross the finish line who receive the prize. June 12 is a significant milestone in our race, a heartbreak hill where we had almost given up, but for MKO Abiola and all the other heroes who gave their all to keep us going.
For everything that June 12, 1993 and every other one after it has meant and will continue to mean to Nigerians – and for every other blessing to our nation, too many to recount, we are thankful to the Almighty God.
Happy Democracy Day, Nigerians.
Governor of Kogi State