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Nigeria’s electoral show of shame – Punch Editorial



The conduct of the 2023 presidential/National Assembly polls on February 25 has once more stirred deep questions on the credibility and integrity of the Independent National Electoral Commission. A host of domestic and international observers agreed that the polls grossly fell short of minimum global standards. It is a shame that after seven election cycles, balloting in Nigeria remains riddled with inefficiency and tainted by accusations of result falsification, vote-buying, voter-suppression, calculated disenfranchisement, and violence.

Just like the previous general elections that were defiled by malpractices, Nigerians are traumatised by the first rounds of balloting in the 2023 election cycle. This is despite the introduction of enhanced technology tools—the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, and the INEC Result Viewing Portal—and repeated promises by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to bequeath clean elections to Nigeria. Clearly, they were empty promises.

Significantly, all the main contenders in the presidential polls, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (declared the winner by INEC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, Peter Obi of Labour Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, have filed complaints. Similar irregularities marred the National Assembly elections held simultaneously on February 25.

Frankly, INEC failed significantly in its assignment though it was backed by a strengthened Electoral Act 2022. Notable voices that have faulted the polling include a former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, the European Union Election Observer Mission, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, a non-governmental organisation, Yiaga Africa, and Chatham House, the UK non-profit.

Obasanjo was blunt, saying the results “brought outside BVAS and server are not a true reflection of the will of Nigerians.” He called for cancellation and fresh balloting in places where irregularities were identified. Leonard declared that the polls did not meet the expectations of Nigerians.

Evidence on polling day and after bore this out. Online media is replete with videos of security agents, public officials and thugs tearing ballot papers, massive thumbprinting, ballot box snatching and other irregularities. There are viral videos showing how results from polling units were altered and later uploaded to the IReV portal, different from the original results.

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INEC messed up by failing in the electronic transmission of results from the polling units to the IReV, as mandated by the Electoral Act. The law was initially hailed as the solution to the pervasive rigging that has rendered past polls in Nigeria questionable.

INEC has no tenable excuse for its resort to manual transmission of results in many places, or uploading days after the polls had been held. This is crucial. In Nigeria, it is during manual collation that politicians mutilate, change, and manipulate votes with the connivance of some compromised INEC officials and security agents. The umpire should never have allowed this to happen; BVAS and IReV were promoted as the game-changers with their capacity for instant and accurate accreditation of genuine voters, and real-time, transparent transmission of results to the IReV portal.

Yiaga Africa, which deployed 3,014 observers across the country, said, “The state-level presidential results for Imo and Rivers are inconsistent with the Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote projections for both states. For Rivers, INEC announced 231,591 votes for APC or 44.2 per cent; 175,071 for LP or 33.4 per cent; and 88, 468 for PDP or 16.9 per cent. This is in sharp contrast to the Yiaga Africa WTV estimates for Rivers which are: APC 21.7 per cent ±5.0 per cent; for LP 50.8 per cent ± 10.6 per cent; and for PDP 22.2 per cent ±6.5 per cent.” It delivered a similar and even more damning verdict for Imo State, where results were declared in some places where voting did not hold.

Barry Andrews, YIAGA’s Chief Observer, declared, “INEC lacked efficient planning and transparency during critical stages of the electoral process, while on election day, trust in INEC was seen to further reduce due to delayed polling processes and information gaps related to much-anticipated access to results on its Results Viewing Portal.”

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INEC’s ICT failure is baffling. It badly tainted the 2023 presidential election as it created room for manipulation, which the loathsome politicians promptly seized. The battle has shifted to the courts, with all its negative connotations.

Elections in Nigeria have usually failed the integrity test, with the results often contested at the courts. The 2015 presidential election was unique because the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, graciously conceded defeat, overruling the hawks in his own party. Buhari’s three earlier presidential runs went right up to the Supreme Court, until his decisive victory at the fourth attempt.

A sad consequence of flawed elections is that the courts have supplanted voters as the ultimate deciders of elections. This is a negation of democracy which is anchored on the will of the people and their inalienable right to freely choose their leaders.

Nigeria must change this narrative. One way out to make the people’s will count is for the courts to order fresh polls where there are credible doubts on the polling, rather than judges deciding the victor.

The 2007 polls were particularly bad, and the courts overturned many results at the state and federal levels. Although the Supreme Court refused to overturn or order a rerun of the presidential polls, the winner, the late Umaru Yar’Adua, admitted that the elections that brought him to power were manipulated. The significant recommendations of the Muhammed Uwais-led panel he set up have not been implemented after his incapacitation and death in office in May 2010.

Ahead of the 2019 polls, there was a fierce battle to legalise transmission of election results. Buhari refused to sign that portion then; but he raised hopes when it was enshrined in the Electoral Act 2022. INEC has dashed those hopes.

It failed on several other counts. In the July 2022 off-season governorship election in Osun State, the APC candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, premised part of his litigation on faulty BVAS operations. Digital technology should make elections better. And there was enough time between then and February 25 for INEC to perfect its ICT shortcomings. Conversely, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea, Benin, Comoros, Burkina Faso, and Gabon have successfully deployed digital technology in their elections, the Washington DC-based NGO, Wilson Centre, says.

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Since 1999, logistics challenges have overwhelmed the umpire. There were inexplicable delays in delivering non-sensitive and sensitive materials close to PUs, leaving voters frustrated; many returned home unable to cast their ballots. Consequently, the voter turnout crashed to 27 per cent from the 34.7 per cent recorded in 2019.

INEC has no genuine excuse for these errors with the funding it received. In 2011, logistics and insecurity provoked a six-week postponement; in 2015 and 2019, polling was shifted by one week each. Nigeria is just going round in circles, unable to improve on basic things. Much bigger democracies like India (pop 1.4 billion), the US (pop 334.23 million), Indonesia (pop 275.5 million), and Brazil (pop 215 million), hold credible elections.

INEC, as presently constituted, is an inefficient organisation that has failed to deliver when it mattered most. Candidates who insist that they won pin their hopes on the court, though Nigeria’s apex court has never overturned a presidential poll.

Conversely, Kenya’s constitutional court cancelled a rigged ballot in 2017 and ordered a rerun. Malawi’s Supreme Court also cited widespread irregularities in overturning the country’s 2019 presidential election and ordered a rerun. Leaders occupying office on tainted mandates lack legitimacy and cannot unite the country.

Nigeria should reform its electoral system. INEC should upgrade and perfect its ICT tools and logistics. Its personnel that compromised the polls should be dismissed and handed over to the police for prosecution.

Certainly, Buhari and INEC have embarrassed Nigeria; they should do better in the governorship and state houses of assembly polls.

The Punch Editorial



Naval Base: Exploiting Enugu’s Seaway Potential



Enugu Governor, Dr Peter Mbah and Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla during the visit to Enugu Govt House

During the campaigns, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Dr. Peter Mbah, among other promises, told the people of Enugu State that he would create coastal transportation if elected as governor of the state. He also promised to construct more than 10,000 kilometers of roads and to break the water scarcity jinx in the state within 180 days of his being sworn in as governor if he wins.

Mbah was later to win the governorship seat as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Although like 24 other states, with Enugu as the 25th, the governorship election is still under dispute. But Mbah has been racing to fulfill the promises he made, especially the time-bound promise of providing portable water supply in the metropolis and environs within 180 days.

100 days after, that promise appears at the edge of being fully fulfilled as residents are beginning to notice a burst of water flow along abandoned water pipes in many parts of the metropolis, to the admiration of the people. On the area of roads, not much has been done, but the state government has unveiled a road master plan that would see to the flagging off of construction of more than 80 roads and two flyover bridges within the metropolis and other parts of the state in the shortest possible time. That announcement has equally thrown the citizens into wild jubilations.

How it started

Then, on the establishment of coastal transportation, Mbah had received a barrage of criticism when he made that promise ahead of the governorship elections. Many citizens, especially opposition political parties, scratched their brain and couldn’t put their finger on any part of the state where there exists a large body of water that could provide the anchor for tapping into the “blue economy” or coastal transportation.

However, in a twist of fate, an indigene of Enugu state, Rear (now Vice) Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla was appointed Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, (one of the service chiefs) on June 19, 2023. Mbah immediately paid a visit to CNS Ogalla at the Naval Headquarters in Abuja, July 11, where he among other things solicited the partnership of the Navy to tackle the menace of insecurity in the state and South East. Mbah said the visit was to identify with the naval chief, who is from the state as well as appreciate President Bola Tinubu for the honour of appointing a son of the state as CNS.

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Mbah’s focus

But it was during a return visit to Mbah at Enugu that the Naval Chief, Ogalla, announced to the public the plan of the Navy to build a naval base at Enugu. It was during that visit that Ogalla revealed that there was an abandoned seaport and jetty at Ogurugu, in Uzo-Uwani local government area of the state used by the colonial masters.

The revelation indeed, dawned on the people of the state that there actually exists a large body of water with potential economic activities. It was also at that moment that the earlier campaign promise of Mbah to develop the coastal transportation to shore up the economy of the state began to dawn on the people as realizable.

People now realize that Enugu state has maritime boundaries with Anambra and Kogi states through the River Niger. It was during that maiden courtesy visit that the Naval Chief, Ogalla made it clear that “our presence will strengthen Enugu’s internal security and boost investors’ confidence” in the state.

Ogalla’s pledge

Ogalla said the Nigerian Navy will establish an operational base in Enugu State to improve the security of lives and property by securing the state’s coastal areas. He commended Gov Mbah for his “bold actions” in fighting in- security in the state since he was sworn in as governor of the state. The Navy chief said he was impressed with the successes recorded by the governor within the short period he has been in office.

“The Nigerian Navy has three primary roles, which are first, the military duties, being the protection of this country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty from the maritime domain. We have policing roles as well as diplomatic roles,” he said. Ogalla said an operational base in Enugu will help to assure investors that the South-East is safe and open for business. He said the base will be stationed at the Adada River in Uzo Uwani LGA.

• Enugu Deputy Gov Barr Ifeanyi Ossai and Naval team during inspection visit to Ogurugu community

“We have noticed that within this role of policing duties, we have not really extended our functions to Enugu State, and we want to do that with your support. “To this end, we plan to extend our operations to encompass and cover the broader spectrum of Enugu State, knowing that the state has a navigable river around Uzo Uwani.

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Essense of the river

“That river used to be a seaport during the colonial era, and it has been abandoned. “We believe that if we are able to police that area, it will give assurance to investors, who will now invest in the development of that seaway for the benefit of the people of Enugu State,” Mr Ogalla stated.

He appealed for the support of the governor to carry out the “bold initiative towards showing presence within that important seaway” in the state. “Our operations there will be aimed at providing internal security operations both through area surveillance and patrol in such a manner that economic activities can thrive without hindrance,” he added.

The governor described the appointment of the Navy chief as something of “immense value and significance, not just to the people of Enugu State, but to the entire South-East region.” He hailed the planned establishment of a naval operational base in Enugu State, saying the “erroneous impression” that Enugu was landlocked emanated from the underdevelopment of the state’s waterways and added that the security of the coastal areas would change the narrative.

Benefit of inspection

To make good his promise, the Chief of Naval Staff undertook physical inspection of the abandoned jetty at Ogurugu, and immediately after the visit sent a Naval committee for a follow-up visit, apparently for the purpose of feasibility study and physical designs for the projects.

The inspection of the River at Ogurugu in Uzo-Uwani LGA

• The inspection of the River at Ogurugu in Uzo-Uwani LGA

It was during the committee visit to Gov Mbah that the governor again pledged the support of the state government to the Nigerian Navy in its efforts to establish a naval operational base, hospital and welfare school in the state. Mbah personally received members of the Naval Committee led by Rear Admiral Chijioke Onyemaobi at the Enugu Government House.

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The governor, who appreciated the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, for matching his words with action by constituting the committee and ensuring that works commence in no distant time, added that the establishment of the proposed facilities would be of immense benefit and strategic importance to the state.

While commending some of the projects the Nigerian Navy planned to site in the state, the governor stated that the naval operational base, naval hospital and naval welfare school would restore the lost glory of the state as the premier headquarters of the old southern region of Nigeria. Speaking earlier, the leader of the committee commended the governor for the support the administration had given them in terms of logistics, accommodation and others throughout their stay in the state.

He said the importance of having a naval operational base in the state was to provide additional security which would strengthen Enugu’s internal security, boost investors’ confidence and encourage more commercial activities in the area.

Residents hail Mbah

Rear Admiral Onyemaobi also informed the governor that their visit to the Government House was to give him updates on their findings at the Ogurugu community where the inland water and abandoned aerodromes facilities are located, saying the depth and size of the water are adequate for the establishment of the base.

According to him, they equally visited the proposed site for the Nigerian Navy Welfare School at Umuopu in Igboeze North local government area of the state and found it suitable for the project. He lauded the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division Enugu, the Director, Department of State Services, and the Commissioner of Police, Enugu State Command, for the support and assurances they received from them.

The naval chief, who used the opportunity to seek the support of the state government, said the CNS was keen on speedy mobilisation of materials into the sites for work to commence.

It is to be noted that the Deputy Governor, Barr Ifeanyi Ossai accompanied the Naval Chiefs to the Ogurugu jetty during the various inspection visits.

It was during one of such visits that Ossai reiterated the resolve of the state government to harness the opportunities presented by the Ogurugu water-way and jetty to boost the state’s economy, ease transportation, and create employment. (New Telegraph)

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What Governor Mbah told Enugu people after 100 Days in office



Enugu Governor, Dr Peter Mbah


1. Ndi Enugu, on this day, 100 days ago, we gathered to inaugurate this administration under the mandate you freely handed me in trust. Today, as we commemorate the 100 days anniversary of that momentous occasion, it is only fitting that we spare a moment to reflect on the time spent, specifically identifying what has been achieved and matters we are still working on, as well as, of course, areas where we are still finalizing plans to address.

2. In my inaugural speech, I spoke confidently like a marathoner who understood the contours of the race he was about to run. Like a visioner, I saw ahead of this time. My eyes penetrated layers of months and years ahead into our own brand of the Promised Land. While many saw what we forecast as our plans in office as overtly ambitious, we were convinced that, with the active support of Ndi Enugu, we would outshoot our projections.

3. In my the speech, I made two instructive anecdotes to evoke the future that lies ahead of Ndi Enugu. They were narratives of Emeka and Ikechukwu. Today, the 100 days anniversary of our being in office, a hopeless Emeka may not have totally transformed into an Ikechukwu but the fertilization of the ground for the growth of an Ikechukwu has begun in earnest.

4. In 100 days, I have used every fibre of my being to serve you. I wake up and go to bed thinking of what will change the lives of an average Enugu man/woman on the street. Nothing in the world seems to matter to me; indeed, nothing in the world compares to making Ndi Enugu a happier people.

5. Yes, this journey isn’t the quick dash of a 100-meter race but a marathon. Those who know the stuff with which superstructures are built will know that we have spend our first 100 days preparing the enduring foundation of all the promises we made to our people.

6. We have run a purpose-driven leadership that is woven round the interests and overall well-being of our people. It gives me the kick spending quality time deliberating over matters that will change the quality of life of the people.

7. In that same inaugural speech, I spoke glowingly of our commitment to growing the economy of Enugu State, to set our State on the path to achieve a GDP of $30b in the next 8 yearswhile eradicating poverty. This has remained our overriding focus, and in the journey towards that objective, we have hit the ground running and achieved a number of exciting landmarks in the last 100 days.

8. As we all know, economic development of any sort is almost an impossibility in an environment of insecurity. This was why we faced the issue of insecurity in the State squarely. We tackled relentlessly the proscription of the unlawful Monday Sit-at-Home order in Enugu State. We were resolute in making sure that we eradicate it from our state. As we all can see, we have made tremendous progress in this regard.

9. We have also backed up this thrust by boosting security presence in Enugu State working with the Nigeria Police, the Army and all other security forces. We have launched the Distress Response Squad in the State and have already procured a number of vehicles to enhance their effectiveness and mobility. We are not stopping at this as we are about to commence the rollout of a statewide CCTV camera network which will provide 247 surveillance of the State and inform swift security response to any breach of peace anywhere in our State. In this same vein, we are in the advanced stages of establishing a Security Trust Fund to make our heightened security posture more sustainable in the long term.

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10. In the area of energy supply and management, we have successfully signed into law the Enugu State Power law, which domesticates the Electricity Act 2023 and now gives the State regulatory power to establish an Enugu State Electricity Market and to attract investors to expand power generation and distribution across the State. In addition to this, we have developed the Enugu State Electricity Policy which contains the Enugu State Electricity market design and participants. It goes without saying that these achievementsare a critical step in the effort to industrialize our state. This is because there cannot be any sustainable industry in the absence of affordable power supply.

11. We also promised to hold, within 100 days in office, an investors’ roundtable in Enugu attracting investors from all over the world. Last week, on September 1, we held a hugely successful roundtable which attracted the best of the private sector and the development partner sector with the likes of AfDB, AFREXIM,FCDO, the World Bank etc. in attendance. While the roundtable is not an end in itself, it signposts Enugu’s seriousness about the race to attract private capital into the State. It also marks the beginning of the process of working with the investment world to curate our project pipeline, with the aim of preparing them for investment in the not distant future.

12. Related to the matter of attracting external capital, we have repositioned the state in its relationship with key development partners like the World Bank, AFD (the French Development Agency) and opened the door to new funding for the State’s projects. In line with this new posture, we have

o Recently paid our share of the funding for the International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) Value Chain Development Programme development of agricultural value chains totaling N274m, which will facilitate the receipt of up to N1.2billion from IFAD for developing agricultural markets and increasing market access for smallholder farmers and small to medium-scale agro-processors. It will also enhance smallholder productivity – and thus increasing the volume and quality of marketable produce – by strengthening farmers’ organizations as well as supporting smallholder production.

o We have also met all our obligations regarding joining the World Bank Livestock Productivity and Resilience Support project (L-PRES), a 6-year project aimed at improving livestock productivity, resilience and commercialization of selected value chains to strengthen the country’s capacity to respond to crises or emergency. This programme is expected to attract up to $10m into Enugu’s livestock value chain over the planned period

o We have met all the obligations for joining the Nigeria for Women project, including committing over N400m as our counterpart funding for the project which is a strategic long term partnership between the Federal Government and the World Bank to support the Government’s goal of ensuring gender equality. This arrangement will result in the inflow of up to $10m to Enugu State over the planned period for the execution of projects to boost the economic capacity of our women in Enugu State and consequently our households.

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13.In line with these initial steps, we plan to continue to leverage the support of these and other development partners and multilateral agencies to bring development to Ndi Enugu.

· Further to our commitment to increasing revenue generation and blocking all income leakages to make government more efficient, we have undertaken a detailed review of operational processes in key MDAs, and commenced a full automation of all the key functions of the State government. Under this programme, we have currently developed an Artificial Intelligence-powered process automation flow that will ensure that Certificates of Occupancy will soon be generated within 48 hours in Enugu. The resulting Unified Architecture will also enhance annual Internally Generated Revenues from land transactions. We have also set up an ultra-modern and intelligent government website and currently at least 11 MDAs have had their data uploaded and can be accessed online.

· Agriculture is a key plank in our economic growth plan, and in line with this, we have also made significant progress in the Sector. We have commenced the formation of the Enugu State Agricultural Land Bank where we plan to ultimately set aside up to 300,000 hectares of land for agricultural use. Land is currently being earmarked under a partnership with willing communities across selected local governments and surveyed for this purpose. We have also commenced the planting of cassava under the pilot scheme of the Cassava to Ethanol program in Aninri, Nkanu East and Uzo-Uwani. This is a partnership with Biosources & Technologies Limited aimed at developing the bio-economy sector of Enugu State.

· In the area of pension and gratuity payments, we have been able to reconfirm all pending pension and gratuity payments, and payments of arrears have since been started. In addition, we have commenced the clean-up and overhaul of all outstanding pensions and gratuities to local government workers and primary school teachers.

· We have also commenced the review of the Enugu Pension Law with a view to adopting the Contributory Pension Scheme in Enugu State so as to ensure that we move away from the challenges encountered with the current problematic defined benefits schemes in operation in the State.

· We have also addressed the issue of waste disposal and management in the State, with a revitalization of the Waste management agency ESWAMA. We have now cleared up all the major collections of uncleared refuse littering various parts of Enugu metropolis, Nsukka and other towns in the State. To ensure this drive is sustained we have now commenced the use of specialized refuse compactor trucks to ensure efficient removal of municipal waste.

· To enhance the fiscal synergy between all tiers of government in the State, we have reached a mutual understanding with the Local Governments where we shall collaborate by contributing towards the achievement of critical projects.

· In the area of sports management, it has continued to be a matter of concern to this administration that our leading football brand in the State, Rangers International FC, does not play at its traditional home ground at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. To address this anomaly, we have taken immediate steps to complete the re-laying of the playing surface at the Stadium. All requisite payments have been made and we can assure the lovers of Rangers that our darling team will return to playing its home games in our own stadium before the end of November.

14. During these 100 days most importantly, we have done a lot of thoughtful planning to lay the groundwork for some of the rapid progress which Ndi Enugu can look forward to in the near future. Examples of the fruits of this hard work include:

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· This government realizes the importance of water. Mmiri bu ndu. We have made extensive progress in meeting our promise to provide water to Ndi Enugu. Currently, we have commenced production of over 25 million litres of water daily at our Ninth Mile location, the most we have achieved in the last 20 years, and we are poised to have up to 70 million liters daily by the end of next month. At this rate, we are ahead of the curve in our race to deliver water to Ndi Enugu by the end of November which will mark 180 days since our inauguration, in line with our promise.

· We have also planned a new Enugu City, which will provide space to decongest Enugu city and allow it grow rapidly, while providing real estate investment opportunities for Ndi Enugu as well as investors from the diaspora. The design of this new city is at an advanced stage.

· In the next few weeks, work will commence on 81 urban roads across the State, and at least 2 fly over bridges (at Abakpa and Holy Ghost-Ogbete-Old Park axis) as well as 7 of our priority roads, many of which are going to be built anew.

· Commencement of the construction of 260 model basic schools across the wards in the State. This will mark the commencement of our Cut-Off point programme, an expected turnaround of basic education in Enugu State

· Commencement of the refurbishment of at least 260 Primary Health Care Centres in the State to help ensure access to quality healthcare across the state.

15. As I mentioned at the beginning of this speech, these are very early days yet and there is certainly hard work to do in the months and years ahead. However, these first few days have reconfirmed my confidence that our stated objectives, though they may appear ambitious, are far from unrealizable.

16. First, I have seen the strong willingness of the private sector to invest in the State, as well as the unrelenting support available from the numerous development agencies, but most importantly, I have experienced the spirit and resilience of Ndi Enugu, which have become ever more apparent to me in these last 100 days.

17. These give me hope and confidence in the future of the State.

18. In the coming quarters, I will continue to keep you up to date regarding our progress on this journey that we have committed to undertake together. This we will do through townhall sessions and media briefings by myself or other delegated officers of government.

19.As I bring this address to a close, let me thank the staff of the Enugu State Government and my appointed cabinet for their unalloyed commitment to this job at hand. I trust that I can continue to rely on your support and loyalty in the coming years as we work to realize our promising tomorrow in Enugu State.

20. I must also again thank Ndi Enugu for choosing us for this job, and We will continue to deliver output that continually reaffirms to you that you have made the right choice.

21. Thank you for the support and God Bless.

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Full Text: Tinubu’s 2023 Democracy Day speech



President Bola Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu on Monday addressed Nigerians in commemoration of 2023 Democracy Day with promises to respect rule of law and reward Nigerians for their sacrifices on subsidy removal.

Read full speech below:


Fellow Nigerians,

2. It is exactly three decades today that Nigerians went to the polls to exercise their inalienable right to elect a President of their choice to lead the transition from military dictatorship to a representative government of the people.

3. The abortion, by military fiat, of the decisive victory of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the June 12, 1993, presidential election, up to that time, the fairest and freest election in the country’s political evolution, turned out, ironically, to be the seed that germinated into the prolonged struggle that gave birth to the democracy we currently enjoy since 1999.

4. In rising to strongly oppose the arbitrary annulment of the will of the majority of Nigerians as expressed in that historic election, the substantial number of our people who participated in the struggle to de-annul the election signified their fierce commitment to enthroning democracy as a form of government that best ennobles the liberty, the dignity of the individual and the integrity as well as the stability of the polity. The fierce opposition to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the unrelenting pro-democracy onslaught it unleashed was the equivalent of the battle against colonial rule by our founding fathers that resulted in the gaining of Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

5. Just like the anti-colonial movement, the pro-June 12 vanguard demonstrated, once again, the enduring validity of the 19th century historian, Arnold Toynbee’s eternal postulation, that civilization and societies experience progress as they are forced to respond to challenges posed by the environment. The unjust annulment of a widely acknowledged free and fair election was a challenge that elicited resistance by a resurgent civil society, leading ultimately to the attainment of our ‘second independence’ as exemplified by the return of democratic governance in 1999.

6. Fellow compatriots, we celebrate a day that has remained a watershed in our nation’s history, not just today, but for every June 12, for the endless future that our beloved country shall exist and wax stronger and stronger, generations of Nigerians will always remind themselves that the democracy that is steadily growing to become the defining essence of our polity was not gifted to us on a silver platter.

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7. We can easily recall the sacrifice and martyrdom of Chief MKO Abiola, the custodian of the sacred mandate that was so cruelly annulled. He sacrificed his life in unyielding, patriotic defense of the ideals of democracy as symbolized in his choice, by his fellow countrymen and women, as their duly-elected President. There was an easier choice for him. It was to forgo the justice of his cause and opt for the path of ease and capitulation in the face of the tyranny of power. To his eternal credit and immortal glory, Abiola said no. He demonstrated the time-tested eternal truth that there are certain ideals and principles that are far more valuable than life itself.

8. Everyday, on this day, down the ages we will recall the several other heroes of democracy such as Kudirat Abiola, wife of Chief Abiola, who was brutally murdered while in the trenches fighting on the side of the people. We remember Pa Alfred Rewane, one of the heroes of our independence struggle and Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (rtd) who were silenced by the military junta while in pursuit of democracy. They gave their yesterday for the liberty that is ours today.

9. The point is that we must never take this democracy for granted. We must forever jealously guard and protect it like a precious jewel. For, a people can never truly appreciate the freedoms and rights democracy guarantees them until they lose it

10. We have traversed the dark, thorny path of dictatorship before and those who experienced it can readily testify to the unbridgeable gap between the dignity of freedom and the humiliation and degradation of tyranny. True, rancorous debates, interminable wrangling, ceaseless quarrels, bitter electoral contestations may be perceived by some as unattractive features of democracy. But they also testify to its merit and value.

11. This year, we held the seventh in the cycle of elections that have become sacred rituals of our democratic practice in this dispensation since 1999.

13. Those who cannot endure and accept the pain of defeat in elections do not deserve the joy of victory when it is their turn to triumph. Above all, those who disagree with the outcome of the elections are taking full advantage of the constitutional provisions to seek redress in court and that is one of the reasons why democracy is still the best form of government invented by man.

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14. For Chief MKO Abiola, the symbol of this day, in whose memory June 12 became a national holiday, democracy is eternal.

15. It is about rule of law and vibrant judiciary that can be trusted to deliver justice and strengthen institutions. It has become imperative to state here that the unnecessary illegal orders used to truncate or abridge democracy will no longer be tolerated.

16. The recent harmonization of the retirement age for judicial officers is meant to strengthen the rule of law, which is a critical pillar of democracy. The reform has just started.

17. The democracy that will yield right dividends to the people who are the shareholders means more than just freedom of choice and right to get people into elective offices. It means social and economic justice for our people. To the winner of June 12, democracy offers the best chance to fight and eliminate poverty. Thirty years ago, he christened his campaign manifesto, ‘Farewell to Poverty’ because he was convinced that there is nothing divine about poverty. It is a man-made problem that can be eliminated with clearly thought out social and economic policies.

18. It is for this reason that, in my inauguration address on May 29, I gave effect to the decision taken by my predecessor-in-office to remove the fuel subsidy albatross and free up for collective use the much-needed resources, which had hitherto been pocketed by a few rich. I admit that the decision will impose extra burden on the masses of our people. I feel your pain. This is one decision we must bear to save our country from going under and take our resources away from the stranglehold of a few unpatriotic elements.

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19. Painfully, I have asked you, my compatriots, to sacrifice a little more for the survival of our country. For your trust and belief in us, I assure you that your sacrifice shall not be in vain. The government I lead will repay you through massive investment in transportation infrastructure, education, regular power supply, healthcare and other public utilities that will improve the quality of lives.

20. The democracy MKO Abiola died for is one that promotes the welfare of the people over personal interests of the ruling class and one where the governed can find personal fulfillment and happiness. That is the hope MKO Abiola ignited throughout our country in 1993.

21. On this year’s Democracy Day, I enjoin us all to rededicate ourselves to strengthening this form of government of free peoples that has been our guiding light these past 24 years. In particular, those of us who have been privileged to be elected into public offices at various levels in both the executive and legislative arms of government must recommit ourselves to offering selfless service to the people, and delivering concrete democracy dividends in accordance with our electoral promises.

22. On my part and that of my administration, I pledge anew our commitment to diligently fulfilling every component of our electoral pact with the people – the ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda.

23. We shall be faithful to truth. Faithful to equity. And faithful to justice. We shall exercise our authority and mandate to govern with fairness, respect for the rule of law, and commitment to always uphold the dignity of all our people.

24. On this note, I wish us all a happy Democracy Day celebration and pray that the light of liberty shall never be extinguished in our land.

25. Thank you all and may God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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