[FILES] Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/ BABAJIDE SANWO-OLU
On this occasion of the June 12, 2022 Democracy Day, it is my honor and privilege to specially commemorate our democratic journey, and all the very significant gains we have made over the last two decades. After three short-lived Republics, we entered a fourth that has now lasted 23 years, and seen, among other significant events, the transfer of presidential power from a ruling party to an opposition party.
Very importantly, June 12 is also a day to remember the June 12, 1993 presidential elections that were widely adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria, but which were tragically annulled by the military dictatorship at the time. There is no gainsaying the fact that the democracy we enjoy today in Nigeria has been built upon the immense sacrifice that June 12 represented and still represents.
Our dear Lagos was the epicenter of the national protests and the activism that followed the annulment. Lagosians trooped out in large numbers, young and old, male and female, to make their voices heard, to stand up to the forces that wanted to deny the democratic rights of Nigerians to choose their President. Indeed, Bashorun MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12, 1993 election, lived and worked in Lagos.
His business empire was headquartered here as well. Lagos State gave the world the famous Epetedo Declaration, which was Bashorun Abiola’s final public appearance. He was also arrested here in Lagos. Indeed, many of the leading names of the June 12 struggle were Lagosians, regardless of where they traced their ethnic or family origins. A lot of the blood that was shed, was shed in Lagos. Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane, Sola Omatsola, were shot and killed in Lagos by murderous enemies of true democracy. Many others were forced underground, living in disguise and running from safe-house to safe-house across the city.
In 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari righted a historical wrong by formally recognizing June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, and we have commemorated the new day since 2019. Bashorun Abiola and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe, were awarded the highest honours in the land, the GCFR and GCON, respectively. In Mr. President’s words, on that historic occasion: “Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12, 1993. The June 12 that overcame our various divides, and the June 12 that produced unity and National cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today, and we will nurture it to our next generation.”
This is the challenge before all of us today, as Lagosians and Nigerians. June 12 must become a symbol of unity, of hope, of aspiration for a better tomorrow, one built upon true democratic ideals and practices.
It is perhaps fitting that we are celebrating this year’s Democracy Day in the immediate aftermath of the first phase of the 2023 political season. In the last four weeks, the various political parties in the country have been holding Primaries to select their flagbearers for offices, from the State Houses of Assembly all the way to the Presidency. We have seen our democracy at work. It is not perfect, but no democracy is. There are still gaps to be closed, and processes to be improved upon, but there is no doubt that the journey we started over two decades ago is fully on course and maturing.
Earlier this year a new Electoral Act was passed by the National Assembly, and assented to by President Buhari. This is yet another milestone in our democratic journey, joining others like the Not Too Young To Run Act, and a number of amendments to our Constitution, some completed, others ongoing. Which is exactly how democracy is meant to work: a constant and consistent effort at improvement, through the instrumentality of new laws, policies, and the introduction of technology.
Fellow Lagosians, the ultimate goal of a democracy is to improve the lives of the people. As your elected government, we do not take this responsibility lightly at all. Since 1999, successive governments in Lagos State have worked hard to meet the yearnings of the people who have consistently given us the mandate through the ballot box. We are grateful to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for kickstarting this journey, and for laying the foundation for a truly modern and prosperous Lagos State. In education, healthcare, housing, transport, environment, technology, security, and many other areas, Lagos has continued to live up to its “Pacesetter” status. As we start the final year of our first term in office, our focus is on completing the many laudable programmes and projects that we have started. Even as this period will overlap with campaign season, you, the good people of Lagos State, can rest assured that we will never allow politicking to get in the way of governance. Our work for a Greater Lagos continues, even as we seek your mandate for a new term in office.
At this juncture let me specially thank my co-travellers and colleagues in the ship of governance of Lagos State, for their immense dedication to the vision. The Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and all members of the State Executive Council; the Speaker, Right Honourable Mudashiru Obasa, and all members of the Lagos State House of Assembly; the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon. Justice Kazeem Alogba, and all members of the Judiciary; the Lagos State Civil Service, the engine-room for the delivery of our governance vision; our most esteemed Traditional Rulers, and the leadership of our Local Government Areas and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs). Thank you all.
On this auspicious occasion of Democracy Day 2022, we celebrate all your efforts and commitment to the development of Lagos State, and to the strengthening of our democratic ideals. Let me also thank the leadership and members of our great party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), for providing a home and platform for the manifestation of truly progressive ideas and solutions. To all Lagosians, our entrepreneurs, students, salaried workers, homemakers, transport and market unions, religious and civic leaders, members of the civil society, and everyone else, thank you for your support.
Let Democracy Day be a reminder of the importance of joining hands to build the future we want. Twenty-nine years ago on this day, Nigerians trooped enthusiastically to the polls, defying stereotypes of ethnicity and religion to prove to ourselves and the world that a new Nigeria is possible. Regrettably, the powers-that-be at the time truncated that dream.
But it was merely a delay, not a denial. We have since been blessed with a new opportunity to build on the hope and the potential of June 12, 1993. That responsibility is now in our hands, and posterity will not forgive us if we squander it.
God bless Lagos State, God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos State delivered this on June 12, 2022 to mark Democracy Day.