Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, has insisted that June 12 of every year is the most suitable and proper day to mark Democracy Day in Nigeria.
Mr. Aregbesola, in his address marking the 23rd anniversary of the annuled June 12, 1993 election, said it was on that date Nigerians across all divides freely chose their leader and unequivocally affirmed the unity of the country.
He said Nigerians and lovers of democracy would remain committed to June 12 as a political watershed in the annals of the nation, saying May 29 only symbolises the day the military handed over the affairs of the country to a democratically elected government.
He said June 12, in 1993, was a day Nigerians united to vote the acclaimed winner of the presidential election, late MKO Abiola without recourse to religion, ethnicity or ideology.
He stated that the unity with which the multi-ethnic groups spoke and acted was what is being celebrated till today.
He however noted that since the annulment of that election 23 years ago, Nigerians waited another 16 years for a leader that would take them to the Promised Land until the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
“We will never drop our commitment to June 12. Nigerians, in their heterogeneity, on June 12, 1993, voted for Chief Abiola in a pattern that defied ethnicity, religion, ideology and locality.
“It was a pattern that made mockery of the fabled fault-lines and fissiparous tendencies of the Nigerian federation and projected a nation united behind a popular leader.
“May 29, in 1999, was the date the military handed over power to civilian administration and will remain symbolic for the transition to civil rule and the opportunity it presents for realising a truly democratic government that approximates the yearnings and aspirations of the people for a leader that will lead them to the Promised Land of security and life more abundant.
“We waited for 16 years for that leadership to emerge and we thank God for the election and coming to power of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“A government with a human face is here at last. He represents the aspirations and symbolism of June 12 in that he also got a pan-Nigerian mandate that once again defied the divisions in our country.
“He represents hope for change and national rebirth. He is on that path. God willing, he will lead us to the Promised Land,” Mr. Aregbesola said.
According to him, May 29 is an offshoot 12 because it was in the relentless struggle to revalidate the annulled June 12 election that led to the abrupt termination of military rule in 1999.
He saluted all patriots, living and dead, who fought tooth and nail for the actualisation of June 12, saying they deserved to be celebrated till eternity.
He continued: “May 29, however, is a child of June 12 being that it was the unrelenting pursuit of the actualisation of June 12 with the sweat and blood of our patriots that led to military disengagement and civilian rule on May 29.
“We salute and commend the courage of our patriots, living and dead, who sacrificed everything, including their lives, in the cause of June 12 and birth of democracy in our land. You are our heroes and heroines.
“You will never be forgotten, but will live in our hearts forever. Your wish has been largely fulfilled, though we acknowledge that democracy anywhere is an unfinished business.
“We must keep nurturing it with the nutrients of peace, love and hard work and protect it with mutual respect, tolerance and unbounded patriotism.”
Mr. Aregbesola averred that democracy remained the best form of government anywhere in the world despite any imperfections.
He held that it was the form of government that allowed the people to choose whoever they wanted to lead them.
He stated that one of its safety catches remained the opportunity to correct any mistake through the ballots.
The governor added, “Since our inauguration, we have put you, our people, at the heart of government and worked to make democracy meaningful and impactful.
“Every policy we have made, every decision we have taken is to further the peoples’ interest and lift them from the morass of hopelessness, helplessness, dejection, poverty and ignorance into the cape of peace, security, prosperity and abundant life.
“We have revived education with new schools, free meals, free school uniforms, improved infrastructure, motivation for teachers and so on.
“We have enhanced transportation and beauty of our landscape with the construction of over 1,000 kilometres of roads across the state. We have vigorously pursued urban renewal and sent flooding packing from our state. We have rehabilitated hospitals and improved healthcare delivery for all the people.
“We have encouraged agriculture, made food to be abundantly available and made farmers to be prosperous. We have created tens of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly through O’YES, O’REAP, O’MEALS, OPON IMO, O’AMBULANCE, O’SCHOOL, AGBA OSUN, O’BOPS, O’FOPS and other ‘Os’.
“We have also deepened democracy by allowing the opposition a robust room to operate and not retaliating all the wrongs we suffered when we were in opposition.
“Our accommodating spirit and genuine outreach to all have won the leading lights of the opposition to our side and made democratic participation in Osun to be more inclusive. We have enhanced the rights of all to freely worship as he or she deems fit. We have done all these because we value the people.”
The governor also commended the workers in the state for their support and belief in his government.
He said the state civil servants were indispensable in the service to the masses, adding that they had sacrificed and given their best to the service to humanity.
“They have shown understanding of the situation we are, even as we try to mitigate the consequences of the shortfall in revenue occasioned by a drop in the price of crude oil. I want to assure them that good times are here and we shall all enjoy the fruits of our labour.
“As we celebrate June 12 as Democracy Day, let us remember the struggles and sacrifices of our heroes and heroines by continuing to be good citizens, by working hard and paying our taxes.
“It is for this reason that we have declared tomorrow as public holiday, in commemoration of this watershed date and to honour the memory, of Chief Abiola, his wife, Kudirat Abiola, who was cowardly murdered by agents of the evil regime and other Nigerians who suffered for standing for what they believed to be right,” he said.