*Dissecting President’s Democracy Day Speech
By George Onmonya Daniel
Nigerians had looked forward with excitement to the speech of President Muhammadu Buhari on June 12, 2019. A day that has now become the approved Democracy Day in honor of late Moshood Abiola, the winner of the 1993 presidential election which was later annulled by the then ruling military junta led by retired General Ibrahim Babangida.
Recall that President Buhari had last year declared June 12 as Democracy Day. This year, he made it clear that the first anniversary of June 12 would be special and for that reason the much anticipated inauguration address to commence the second term of the president was postponed till June 12.
Garba Shehu, a spokesman to the president, described the speech as two in one, first was in commemoration of June 12 meant to honor the late Abiola and the sacrifices he made for democracy as well as honoring the individuals who were involved in the struggle. In addition, the speech was also auspicious for the president to address Nigerians on his performance in the last four years of his first term.
How do Nigerians feel about the June 12 speech and what has it really achieved? One school of thought would tell you the whole essence of the speech is to situate the place of June 12 and as well address Nigerians, on the plans of the present administration to boost the morale of the nation.
The commemoration of June 12 is quite popular, and most Nigerians feel it is an honor well deserved for democracy. A few people, on the other hand, would tell you that they were not convinced with the speech of the President about the future of the nation. But this is not strange and is expected in a country of diverse interests and opinions.
For those who rated Buhari’s speech high, they believe it met its desired effect, reassuring and restoring some level of hope to the nation; satisfaction in what the government has done in the past and its plans to consolidate on it and improve on the lot of Nigerians. The administration’s cardinal agenda: to fight corruption, secure lives and properties and improve on the economy, through agriculture, entrepreneurship, and infrastructural development, have largely been successful. Much more can be done.
On security, the president said: “Most of the instances of inter-communal and inter-religious strife and violence were and are still are as a result of sponsorship or incitements by ethnic, political or religious leaders hoping to benefit by exploiting our divisions and fault lines, thereby weakening our country.”
In some of his statements prior to June 12th, he has blamed the current spate of security problems on climate change, which has triggered conflicts between the Fulani herdsmen and farmers. However, many Nigerians are worried about the Fulani militias’ wanton attacks on villagers, the wave of criminality and mass murdering adventure which the administration refers to as banditry.
On the economy, Buhari also believes that agriculture will be the future saving grace for the nation and one major area he believes provision of over 100 million jobs could be created in a space of ten years with good and proactive leadership.
With social investment programme which is focused on feeding school pupils, Nigerians would require some asurances on the sustainability of the laudable programme and many good plans and policies of this administration after four years. Will a subsequent government continue with its plans or jettison most of them? They see this administration as having only four years and not ten years.
In the area of its fight against corruption, a lot of Nigerians do agree that the financial recklessness of past administrations exemplified in shameless looting of the treasury has reduced in most quarters within the government. There is still so much to be done, as some Nigerians believe that the war on corruption is a long journey.
A few experts and critical stakeholders have reacted to the president’s speech. Paul Alaje, an economist while speaking on a programme on Channels Television, stated there is no way Nigeria’s economic fortunes can change without power. Without power there is no way Nigeria can be able to create 100 million jobs. “Power is the foundation of industrialization of any nation, and Nigeria cannot be talking about creating that much jobs without a solid foundation in power.” He also reiterated that Nigeria cannot be talking about such mass employment while generating less than 5,000 megawatts of electricity in a country of about 200 million people
No less a figure as Aliko Dangote, Nigeria’s top industrialist, has lamented the poor state of power generation capacity of Africa’s giant. He compared Nigeria to Egypt, a country with 97.5 million population generating 34,700 megawatts electricity with 99 percent power coverage of its population.
When the president linked inequality as one of the causes of the rising spate of crime in the nation, and the plight of his administration in addressing it, a finance expert, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, said Nigeria needs to lay a solid foundation for development by investing in its infrastructure especially in rail, road and pipeline to transport oil, products and commodities to other parts of the country.
Rewane believes that with a fresh mandate already secured by the Nigerian leader, he has the opportunity again now to lay down the foundation in the next four years of his constitutionally permitted tenure for posterity and legacy building.
Despite all the debates, many Nigerians are optimistic that the vision enunciated by the Buhari Administration is realisable with an unwavering commitment to its own policy and support of all citizens.