When in 1999, then President Olusegun Matthew Okikiola Obasanjo initially christened May 29 of every year of the nation’s history as Democracy Day, he did not mince words. Be it on what he intended the import of that date to signpost locally and in the international arena, Obasanjo, even against the thinking of pro-June 12 apostles simply put, meant well.
But in declaring May 29 a National Public Holiday, the government intended it to commemorate the restoration of democracy in the country, ending multiple decades of military rule that began in 1966 and had been interrupted only by a brief period of democracy from 1979 to 1983.
No doubt, the end of military rule brought about a new era of regular elections as well as the return of civil liberties, press freedom and an end to arbitrary arrests and torture, with records of human rights violations on the decline. Nigeria also began a long campaign against the bureaucratic and military corruption that had paralysed the economy and severely tarnished the nation’s international reputation.
About 16 years after, we declare that just like the nation’s landmark unbroken record of democracy, the country has recorded great improvements in the entrenchment of rule of law and protection of the fundamental human rights of her citizens which were subject of abuse under long years of military rule.
Also, the Jonathan administration has within the last few years deepened democracy by promoting cherished values like freedom of speech and association as well as the promotion of the rule of law. The alleged use of anti-graft agencies to persecute perceived enemies of the state or politically exposed persons has become a thing of the past.
As the presidential election has come and gone, we cannot but underscore President Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda which has helped in no small measure to raise the bar in areas of democracy dividends especially on the performance of the nation’s economy and other democracy deliverables.
Thus, from the power sector, where the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, has been unbundled into about 18 successor companies for greater efficiency and effectiveness in power generation and distribution, to the transport sector where the railway service, which had been moribund after long years of decay, got a new life, the transformation has been rapid. In agriculture, aviation, banking, communications technology among others, the testimony has been that of tremendous success.
Besides, under President Jonathan’s watch, in the last four years Nigeria’s foreign investment profile skyrocketed with great potential as one of the world’s emerging economies. The current economic indicators are much healthier than he met them. There are visible signs that the president’s resolve to change the governance paradigm from a tea party to serious business of managing the country’s economy is paying off after all, making Nigeria the number one investors’ destination in Africa. But this economic evolution wouldn’t have come so abruptly without a sturdy passion for change.
Obviously propelled by an unquenchable desire to alter the poor living condition of Nigerians he had identified with by recounting his own humble beginnings during the 2011 presidential campaigns, President Jonathan constituted a 24-man National Economic Management Team, EMT, on August 18, 2011, to help him achieve his objective of revamping the nation’s economy. And do we need say more? Nigeria is ion the march right now.
Save for the insurgency issues of the country’s North East geo-political zone, especially in Borno state and areas directly linked to Cameroun, Chad and Nigerwhich of course the administration has tackled head-on, the country can well pass for a wholly progressive one on the march to glory land.
That the outcome of March 28 presidential poll saw Jonathan conceding victory to his All Progressives Congress, APC opponent and former military leader, General Muhammadu Buhari, does not and will certainly not play down his giant strides on the sands of time. His recent statesmanship displayed on the heels of the recent poll which was not entirely free from interferences to save the country from derailment further underscore him as the true Hero of Nigeria’s democracy. He must be so honoured.