Nigeria for the first time in her 59-year history will celebrate Democracy Day on the 12th of June. In the past, Democracy Day held on the 29th day of May, a date which its significance lies in the military handover to a civilian government, marking the beginning of the fourth republic, and the present democratic dispensation enjoyed by Nigerians. The government of President Buhari last year (2019) decided to change the schedule for celebrating Nigeria’s democracy to June 12, because the annulled June 12th, 1993, presidential election witnessed Nigerians, mindless of ethnic affiliations, or religious differences, coming out to vote their choice candidate into power, with high hopes of ending military rule in the country and embracing democracy.
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An estimated population of 14 million Nigerians trooped to polling stations to vote. However, the euphoria was shortlived as results were never announced. But, unofficial results from the various polling stations, gathered by civil society groups showed that the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (now late), won the election. Buhari’s decision to change Democracy Day celebration date to June 12th lies in the fact that it reminds Nigerians of when they resolved to look aside sectionalism and accept democracy as the right step in our drive towards nation-building.
Nigeria joined the rest of the world in 1999 to embrace democracy which entails fundamental human rights for citizens, mindless of religion, ethnicity, and class. Nigerians now enjoy certain rights and privileges as embedded in the amended constitution of 1999 such as freedom and equal rights for citizens to vote candidates of the choice during elections, freedom of speech, movement, marriage, and a lot more. Democracy which preaches tolerance has undoubtedly proven to be the way forward for the country, as for the first time in its history, Nigeria has enjoyed over 20 years of uninterrupted civil rule. Nigerians are reminded that their choice to embrace democracy means they no longer have to live under the fear of military dictatorships which denies them of certain individual rights and privileges.
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Democracy means no one is indispensable in a country that used to be popular for abuse of human rights. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is supreme, void of individual connections or influence. Nigerians while enjoying the rights and freedom associated with democracy are reminded of the limitations attached and the punishment that follows disobedience to the rule of law. Nobody, including the political class, is above the law unlike what was obtainable during the years we struggled with edicts from military leaders.
The acceptance of elections, a product of democracy, as the best means of switching power is a big gain for Nigeria- a country that is multi-ethnic. Questions regarding who should lead the country is easily settled as the candidate that pulls the highest number of votes during elections takes over power, mindless of the tribe or group they belong to. Also, citizens are free to vote for their chosen candidate without being coerced to do so. Issues relating to sit-tight leadership or overstay in power have been successfully buried with the advent of democratic rule. The maximum a candidate can stay in power is two terms of eight years (four years per term).
Nigerians have a lot to celebrate, however, democracy is progressive. Democracy is not an option, but an obligation, to us all. HAPPY DEMOCRACY DAY!
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