In his final Democracy Day speech before the end of his term, President Muhammadu Buhari called the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election “the worst of our leadership”.
In a televised broadcast to Nigerians on Sunday morning, Buhari pledged a legacy of “a free, fair and transparent process” in the 2023 polls to mark the 30th anniversary of the historic election won by MKO Abiola.
The military government led by Ibrahim Babangida canceled the election, plunging the country into a protracted political crisis that crippled the economy and increased ethnic tensions.
Abiola eventually died in government custody in 1998 after being arrested and detained for attempting to retrieve the warrant.
In his speech, Buhari said, “On June 12, 1993, Nigerians saw the best of our citizens as we all went peacefully to vote. On June 24, 1993, we also saw the worst of our leadership when the elections were cancelled.
Nigeria had always celebrated Democracy Day on May 29 since the return to civilian rule in 1999, but in 2018 Buhari declared June 12 a public holiday and Democracy Day.
The anniversary of the transition to the fourth republic is still marked on May 29.
THE FULL TEXT
Dear Nigerians, today, June 12, marks another anniversary of Democracy Day and an occasion to celebrate the freedom and unity of our nation.
Since 1999, we have consistently celebrated Democracy Day to mark the end of military rule and the return of power and control to those freely elected by the people. On this day, Nigerians recommit to ensuring that we protect and preserve the ideals of democracy.
In 2018, we moved Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12. This change was meant to remind all Nigerians of a free election after which the presumptive winner as well as Nigerians were denied their rights and choice.
On June 12, 1993, Nigerians saw the best of our citizens as we all went peacefully to vote. On June 24, 1993, we also saw the worst of our leadership as the elections were cancelled.
We must never forget the sacrifices of the heroes of Nigerian democracy in 1993. Their patriotism and peaceful struggle should guide our actions, especially when it comes to electing our leaders and holding them accountable, now and in the future. ‘coming.
Dear Nigerians, this is my last democracy day speech as president. By June 12, 2023, exactly one year from today, you will already have a new president. I remain committed and determined to ensure that the new President is elected through a peaceful and transparent process.
It is important for all of us to remember that June 12, 2023 will be exactly 30 years after the 1993 presidential elections. In honor and memory of one of our national heroes for democracy, Chief MKO Abiola, GCFR, we all need to work together to make this transition peaceful.
I hope we can achieve this. So far, the signs are positive. Recently, all registered political parties held primaries to select their candidates for the 2023 general election.
These primaries were peaceful and orderly. Those who have won have been magnanimous in their victories. Those who lost were gracious in defeat. And those aggrieved have chosen to seek judicial justice rather than jungle justice.
I have followed the party primaries closely, from the state level to the presidential level. I was very impressed to see in all the political parties that most of the candidates organized broadcast-based campaigns. Language and tone were generally measured and controlled.
Another positive element that emerged from the 2022 party primaries was the significant increase in the number of women and young people, especially in all parties. I was very happy to see this development. This bodes well for the future. These trends clearly show the level of maturity our democracy has reached over the past 23 years.
As we enter general election season, we must maintain this mature attitude towards campaigning and, ultimately, voting. We must never see it as a do or die affair. We must all remember that democracy is a matter of the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers.
I will therefore take this opportunity on this very special day to ask all candidates to continue to conduct targeted campaigns and treat opponents with dignity. As leaders, you must all show character and never forget that the world is watching us and that Africa is looking to Nigeria to lead by example in governance. The tone you set at the top will surely be replicated among your followers.
For voters, I am pleased to inform you that over the past 7 years, our government at all levels has made significant investments to reform and improve our electoral laws, systems and processes to protect your votes.
The Executive, Legislature and Judiciary were and remain united and determined to ensure that these reforms are fully implemented in the 2023 general elections. Dear Nigerians, your right to choose your government will be preserved and protected.
I know that many of us are concerned about the growing insecurity due to terrorist activities in certain parts of the country. As a government, we are working hard to contain and address these challenges. And ensure that the 2023 general elections are safe and secure for all Nigerians.
But to achieve this, we all have to contribute. This is not the government’s job alone. I ask all citizens to support and cooperate with our security agencies by reporting suspicious characters and activity to law enforcement. We can only have a safe country if we are able to prevent crime and not after it has been committed.
On this special day, I want us to place all victims of terrorist activity in our thoughts and prayers. I live daily with the grief and concern of all those victims and prisoners of terrorism and kidnappings. The security agencies and I are doing all we can to release these unfortunate countrymen and compatriots safely.
For those who lost their lives, we will continue to seek justice for their families against the perpetrators. For those currently in captivity, we will not stop until they are released and their captors are brought to justice. If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction.
We have reformed some of our security structures. Some of the defenses we purchased three years ago have arrived and have been deployed.
Our cybersecurity and surveillance systems are being upgraded to further improve our ability to track and trace criminal elements. We are also recruiting and training new personnel in all of our security and intelligence agencies to strengthen the country’s overall security.
I will conclude this Democracy Day speech, my last as President, by assuring you of my commitment to protect Nigeria and Nigerians from all enemies within and without.
I also promise you a free, fair and transparent electoral process. And I plead with all citizens to come together and work with the government to build a peaceful and prosperous nation.
May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.