Twenty-nine years ago (June 12), we witnessed a scene that had once seemed impossible; an election where, for the first time the people of Nigeria had a choice, a choice they made by voting MKO Abiola the acclaimed winner of the June 12 1993 election in the most freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria.
History was made! The victory of 1993 was inevitable. It was the culmination of years of struggle by Nigerians to have a flourishing democracy. A Democracy that was meant to give the Nigerian people opportunity to vote and be voted for. A system of governance that will at least give citizens basic necessities of life.
The 1993 elections which was later annulled brought about the 1999 democratic experiment and 23 years down the line, how have we faired? 23 years is enough for us to have built a democratic culture and system that will allow for free and fair elections, a system that will allow people to vote and be voted for in a transparent process which will see loosers appreciating the efforts in their trials and winners hitting their chests that they actually won.
But here we are, 23 years down the line, it seems we have been overwhelmed by our inability to get it right. We are currently trapped in our normal past of imposition of candidates, manipulation of the electioneering process and above all, rigging of elections which ought to have been a thing of the past by now.
2023 presents us as a nation with another opportunity to either get it right, or remain where we are. Our choices will either make us or mar us as a people. Whatever choices we make, let’s keep in mind the need to uphold our unity and peaceful co-existence as Nigerians, as a country and prevent us from drifting the way of Mali, South Sudan, Ethiopia and other war-torn African countries.
I therefore urge the youths of this country to rise up and take their destiny in their hands. You have the numeric power to determine who becomes what in Nigeria, if and only if, you will not allow your votes to be bought and will not collect peanuts on the election day to sell your conscience.
It is therefore imperative to remind Nigerians both young and old that democracy is not just about voting on the election day, but a process which involves participation in electing good candidates for political parties, getting your permanent voter card and above all, going out to vote in the candidate of your choice on the election day. So, let us bear in mind that if the first process is not gotten right, we may have succeeded in doing nothing.
In 2023, we must all strife to make sure we elect people who will allow our democracy to be defined not by what or who we are against, but by politics of inclusion and tolerance that welcomes all our citizens. People that will drive our economy to deliver a broader prosperity that will create more opportunities accross Cross River State in particular, and Nigeria in general, especially for the young people.
We should elect Leaders who will uphold public trust and stand against corruption by not stealing from the pockets of their own people. Leaders whose yes will be yes, and no will be no.
Happy Democracy Day!