Contrary to speculations that President Muhammadu Buhari fell to pressures from leaders of the South-West geopolitical zone to recognize June 12 as national Democracy Day over political interest, the President on Wednesday said his decision was hinged on the need to correct alleged injustice meted out on the entire country by the military government.
According to Buhari, recognizing the date was a pre-requisite for peace and unity as well as a process for healing and reconciliation of the country.
Buhari gave this account at the Eagle Square, Abuja, where the maiden declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day was commemorated.
The President seized the opportunity to officially rename the Abuja National Stadium after late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, saying it was also a ploy to partially atone for the damages done in annulling the presidential elections in 1993.
Recall that former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the presidential elections held in Nigeria on 12 June 1993, the first that was held since the 1983 military coup.
Abiola, who contested the presidential election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) with Babagana Kingibe as running mate was claimed to have defeated his opponent, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) by wide a margin.
But before the final results could be announced, the military government ordered the process to be halted indefinitely.
His words, “As we all know, correcting injustice is a pre-requisite for peace and unity. As part of the process of healing and reconciliation, I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with National Honours, as I did with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. The purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the Presidential elections of that year.
“Today, I propose the renaming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called Moshood Abiola National Stadium.”
Meanwhile, just like the May 29 inauguration activities to herald the second term administration of Buhari’s government, some former presidents were conspicuously absent.
Some of the absentees included ex-presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, former Head of States, Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Although they were scheduled to attend the function, as it was outlined in the programme of the day, they were nowhere to be found when the ceremony kicked off.
Instead, President Buhari played host to a number of Presidents from the African continent, some of whom included, President of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz; President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame; President of Liberia, George Weah; President of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso and President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo.
Others were President of Senegal, Macky Sall; Prime Minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda; President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow; President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou; President of Guinea-Bissau, José Mário Gómes Vaz and President of Benin Republic, Patrice Talon, among others.
The incumbent Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, his Deputy Ovie Omo-Agege, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu were also present at the well-attended ceremony.
Owing to social inequality and the rising case of unemployment in the country, the presidency said it has commenced the gathering of a comprehensive database for poorest citizens most of whom are most vulnerable to anti-social crimes.
As a means of unveiling his administration’s agenda for the next four years, Buhari said he was optimistic of removing at least 100 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years.
He plans to do this by improving the lives of the people by consolidating on the gains of the last four years, especially the Social Investment Programme (SIP).
He said, “A database of poor and vulnerable households is being carefully built based on age, gender, disability, educational levels for proper planning in this Administration’s war against poverty.
“A database of unemployed but qualified youth has also been developed under the National Social Investment Programme which can be used by the public and private sectors for recruitment purposes.
“Cumulatively, nearly two million beneficiaries have received aid under this Programme apart from Anchors Borrowers Programme and School Feeding initiative each reaching 2 million recipients. And we will do more. Much more.”
He also vowed that his government will continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programs, education, technology and improved information.
“Our social intervention programs are a model for other nations. Together with state governments, we provide millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and of course, conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”
According to the President, he was not unaware of the strong correlation between inequality and insecurity which now manifests in the form of banditry, kidnappings.
“The principal thrust of this new Administration is to consolidate on the achievements of the last four years, correct the lapses inevitable in all human endeavours and tackle the new challenges the country is faced with and chart a bold plan for transforming Nigeria.
“For the next four years, we will remain committed to improving the lives of people by consolidating efforts to address these key issues as well as emerging challenges of climate change, resettling displaced communities and dealing decisively with the new flashes of insecurity across the country, and the impacts on food scarcity and regional stability.
“We are not daunted by the enormity of the tasks ahead. Instead, we are revived by this new mandate to work collaboratively with state and local governments, legislators, the diplomatic corps and all Nigerians to rebuild and reposition our country as the heartbeat and reference point for our continent.
“Despite the enormous resources pledged to infrastructure development these past four years, there remains the urgent need to modernize our roads and bridges, electricity grid, ports and rail systems.
“Whilst agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession, we are more committed than ever to work with the private sector to improve productivity and accelerate economic growth.
“The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index which is the gauge of manufacturing activity in the country has also risen for 26 consecutive months since March 2017 indicating continuous growth and expansion in our manufacturing sector,” he noted.
As if taking a swipe on state governments for failure to harness resources within their states, Buhari said they must attract investments to complement the efforts of government at revamping the economy.
“Nationwide development cannot occur from Abuja alone; it must occur at States. And Government cannot do it all, I, therefore, implore all State Governments, especially those with large rural economies, to aggressively solicit investments in your states.
“Invest in developing human capital, reducing bureaucracy and corruption, hosting and attending investment summits and improving the ease of doing business,” he stated.
The event came to a climax with combined troops drawn from the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force, Police all performing march parade to the admiration of the guests.
Cultural troupes also used dance steps to depict the rich heritage of the country.