LAGOS – As Nigeria prepares to formally mark June 12 as the Democracy Day today, expectations of Nigerians are high as the nation looks up to President Muhammadu Buhari on the direction his administration will take as it prepares to take the nation to the next level by consolidating on its programmes in the last four years.
During his inauguration on May 29, many Nigerians were shocked as the President failed to address Nigerians on his objectives for the next four years.
Many guests at the Eagle Square venue in Abuja were apparently not impressed upon realising they would not be hearing from the leader on his plans for the country. Many had also thought he will announce his cabinet on that day. But that remains to be done.
Earlier, the Federal Government, through Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the former Minister of Information had earlier said the President will only be sworn-in on May 29 in a low-key event. While inviting world leaders to today’s events, he said a number of the events slated for the occasion had been moved to June 12 Democracy Day.
In demonstrating its commitment to June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, the President on Monday assented to a bill nullifying May 29 previously set aside as a public holiday for the celebration.
The Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, told State House correspondents immediately after the signing that Buhari assented to the Public Holiday Amendment Bill to confer official recognition for June 12 as the Democracy Day.
“May 29th will only be handover date and working day. By the Act amended and signed by Mr. President, May 29 is no more a public holiday. June 12 is now a public holiday and the country’s Democracy Day,” he said.
A lot of Nigerians believe that having failed to speak to the nation on May 29, the President will likely address the nation today.
After his inauguration as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2015, it took almost six months for President Buhari to constitute his cabinet. The President thus disappointed many who had expected him to hit the ground running in view of the urgency in tackling insecurity as manifested by the rampaging Boko Haram insurgents in the North, the rising rate of kidnapping and armed robbery in the South as well as the economic woes resulting from lawlessness and corruption that preceded his assumption of office.
Buhari was criticised for taking so long to name his ministers at a time when the economy was severely hit by the fall in global oil prices, which ultimately contributed to the recession that hit the nation shortly after he took over the mantle of leadership.
The country was believed to be rudderless during the period the country operated without a Federal Executive Council in place and the economy was badly damaged due to capital flight by investors.
When eventually the list was made public in September 2015, there was a public outcry and disenchantment as President Buhari was seen to have come up with people some saw as square pegs in round holes and known faces who have already being speculated by some Nigerians to make the list.
While defending his choice, Buhari, who is widely regarded as Baba-go- slow had said the delay in the appointment of ministers was partly due to the manner in which he took over power from former President Goodluck Jonathan and the need to reorganise the government structures by his administration.
Now that he has governed for years, and having appointed some ministers who may likely be retained. Some Nigerians believed that the President may hit the ground running by naming his cabinet today.
Speaking on this, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti state, Olusegun Osinkolu, said prompt constitution of the cabinet would hasten the implementation of government’s policies and programmes.
According to him “Nigerians are hopeful that the second term would afford the APC the opportunity to consolidate on its policies and programmes and it would be foolhardy for the party to delay actions, for there won’t be any excuse for failure in 2023.”
On his expectations, Dr Kunle Olajide, the Secretary-General, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), said President Buhari must ensure true federalism and national unity. He said the president needed to return the nation to the era of revenue generation and not sharing of allocation.
“His victory carries enormous responsibilities among which were the need to ensure national unity and a revisit of the El-Rufai’s committee report on restructuring”.
“We have to gradually move back to the period of generating revenue and not sharing revenue. “Each federating unit should be allowed to exploit and explore its resources. “They should then pay an agreed percentage to maintain few essential services in the centre such as Defence, Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Customs services,” he said.
Also speaking, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, a former Minister of Education has tasked President Buhari to give attention to the economy and security of the nation in his second term.
Speaking on his agenda for the President, Adeniran said President Buhari must give number one priority to the insecurity challenges in the country, especially the Boko Haram menace.
“The number one thing is the security in the land, the security of lives and properties; and also a secure atmosphere so that people can go about their normal businesses without fear of intimidation or harassment. The issue of Boko Haram is there, the rampage by herdsmen is also there and of course, kidnappers, armed robbers and so forth. Security is very important and I believe the President will give it more attention than ever before. Number two, the issue of reorganising the nation, which we call restructuring of the nation”.
Despite giving the late Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election the highest title in the country, Grand Commander of Federal Republic (GCFR), and declaring June 12 as replacement for May 29 as Democracy day, there has been sustained call on President Buhari to declare Abiola as president.
However, while warning against it, Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has warned against it, saying the move may result in a constitutional crisis.
“Why are people talking like this? Is President Buhari the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? So, President Buhari will now declare Abiola as a former President of Nigeria because he is President? We are throwing so many things into this issue.
“There are many bigger problems in this country. We are going to use that as a red letter day. Have we learnt any lessons from the fall-out of June 12? Those are things we should celebrate. What has happened has happened, can we reverse anything by saying they should declare Abiola as a former president?
“By doing so, you will be laying a precedent that is illegal. For me, we should work to avoid the pitfalls of June 12. I am also glad that the Federal Government has declared June 12 as Democracy day and also announced the date as a public holiday”.
“It is like Martin Luther King day. By saying the federal government should declare Abiola as president; can it bring back those who lost their lives during the democratic struggle? The most important thing like I said is what lessons we have learnt so that the younger generations won’t fall into that abyss?
“If President Buhari should listen to this demand by declaring Abiola as president, we may be heading for a constitutional crisis because some people will come out and say it is an illegal thing” he said.