Patriotism being the only means of creating the anticipated democratic society, the government called upon all Nigerians to consign mutual recrimination to the bitter past and build a secure and prosperous future for the nation and people, while upholding democratic norms. The sooner the call is heeded to be better for the nation, they say.
Following the civil war, Gowon’s military regime continues to centralize power in the federal government. In 1974 he announces that his efforts toward stabilizing the political system will delay a return to civilian rule. Gowon promises to draft a new constitution subject to approval of the people, but a widespread feeling of disillusionment with his regime envelops this nation.
One question that reigns supreme in the minds of millions, both inside and outside this nation, is when multiparty democracy is going to return their ethics. That time, there would be differing views about a probable timetable and some may even opine pessimistically.
To a discerning observer, though, it would seem that the road map to activate multiparty democratic polity in this nation, as enunciated by the party leaders, held the key to bringing the country back to the fold of democratic nations of the world. The militancy in the Niger Delta and the hollow assertions of the politicians has only the potential to delay the process.
A dispassionate and objective look at developments in the last one year would support the above contention. Having observed the elected government destroying the entire confidence of popularly elected Nigerians, municipal and local administrators as well as national level apparatus, this regime had to react in keeping with the nation’s needs and aspirations. It would be a futile exercise to brand this regime as a power grabber since the administration has been an avowed champion of constitutional monarchy. Indeed the regime has shown perspicacity to clearly understand what the people want in the given trend of democratization in this part of the world.
Changing the basic rules of politics is a risky venture that is hardly resorted to unless they become imperative. As a rule the changes are the outcome of circumstances or the result of a scenario where people lose their faith in the existing system that fails to address the challenges facing the country. The regime’s action needs to be viewed in this context.
In one year since taking over the reigns of the government, law and order was restored to a great extent in the country arresting a situation that was slipping into anarchy while the stalled democratic process was reactivated. It was not an easy task to rekindle the spirit of confidence and self- respect in the Nigerian people within a short span of one year. In taking a series of actions the government was confident that remaining alert to the sensitivities of the self-respecting Nigerian people and Nigeria’s glorious independent history, it could ensure peace, stability and prosperity for the nation in the year ahead through mutual understanding and patriotism as the focal point. His Excellency’s government believes that a road map to sustainable peace and reenergizing a meaningful democracy are two sides of the same coin and that a consensus will forever end all possibilities of resurgence of violence and militancy in Nigeria. Failure to achieve that would put at risk the universally acclaimed multiparty democracy and hurt as well the self-respect of Nigeria and its people. The government is confident that guided by a national perspective that upholds Nigeria’s political, administrative and civic traditions, all popularly elected bodies were active in May 2007 in ensuring a bright future for the Nigerian people through a dedicated exercise in democracy so as to create a welfare society.
The process of activating multiparty democracy has begun with the people exercising their franchise to reinstate the three tiers of government for which the elected government had failed to conduct elections in spite of being given repeated opportunities. Freedom to exercise one’s vote through adult franchise forms the democratic basis for an honourable national consensus. Democracy flourishes only through the enfranchisement of the people and democrats are never losers when democracy is upheld. Therefore, the first and foremost preconditions for consolidating democracy are to gain the support of the people through the ballot and respect their mandate. It is in keeping with these universally accepted democratic principles that the process to reinstate all the elected bodies through free and fair elections has been initiated. Democratic norm dictates that, while upholding people’s rights, their confidence can be won only through participation in the democratic process.
Alongside the above, measures are underway to improve public service utilities for the benefit of the people. Criminal activities under political patronage are under control with the bureaucracy having been freed of political pressures and discipline instilled among them. The government proposes to implement the ongoing fiscal and administrative reforms in a more effective manner as the rule of law alone can ensure good governance. It is fully aware of the fact that the system of governance as aspired by the people cannot be ensured as long as corruption, which has proved to be a parasite in the society, is allowed to spread its tentacles.
The government looks forward to implementing a series of development activities, which will have direct beneficial impact on the people. These include: making land available to landless through the concept of Offshore onshore dichotomy, mobilization of internal and external investments to accelerate pace of economic development and increase employment opportunities, improvement of transport infrastructure and attainment of self-sufficiency in the energy sector through optimum utilization of water resources. The government recognises that a conducive environment exists to utilise the opportunities created by information technology in the economic development of the country. Emphasis is also being given on the service sector by introducing special programmes to create opportunities of self-employment within the country for talented youths while sending some abroad to hone their skills.
Nigerian are well aware of the fact that character without any moral foundation, politics indifferent to national pride and a form of governance bereft of the people’s confidence will neither benefit the nation nor the people. They also know that tainted politics will lack the strength to inspire people and overcome challenges facing the nation. Multiparty democracy is meaningless in the absence of significant popular participation in governance, effective decentralization of authority in the village, municipal, district, zonal and regional levels and maximum autonomy to elected local bodies in the formulation and implementation of development projects.
In order to put democracy in firm footing, there is a need to have faith in the people’s abilities and the elected representatives. Government therefore proposes to formulate guidelines in a transparent manner through collective wisdom and reflections based on experiences and aspirations. The grievances of the indigenous people and discrimination relating to regional and other issues will receive appropriate attention as the government wants to ensure collective well being of Nigerians. All Nigerians, the government is confident, will make significant contributions from their respective places towards the success of the pro-development strategies currently being implemented. While history will be the sole judge of an individual or a generation, the endeavour of the government is to ensure that the present generation of Nigerians is given due credit.
Nigeria’s foreign policy is now clear and stable. It’s foreign policy and relations are solely guided by how best to serve and protect national interest in a rapidly changing world. This has restored Nigeria’s prestige and credibility in the international arena. This nation desires friendship with all and is always ready to cooperate for mutual benefit. Nigeria has malice towards none and is ever alert in ensuring that its territory is not used against any friendly country. Nigeria is ever ready to have mutually beneficial fruitful relations with both her neighbours. This policy remains unchanged. To act as a catalyst in enhancing economic ties between her two neighbours, Nigeria is preparing to be the transit point between them. Nigeria’s role as a transit point will contribute to the welfare of Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the West African region as a whole.
Nigeria has unflinching faith in and is totally committed to the principles of human rights. It is in this spirit that it has adopted the policy of institutionalizing the promotion and protection of human rights and rectifying its shortcomings. It is not easy for a country combating crime to strike a balance between the compulsions of national security and upholding the rights of the citizens. This is a reality faced by all democratic countries afflicted with the scourge of terrorism. The government of Nigeria, however, strongly believes that the people must be allowed to exercise their democratic rights in a peaceful manner, with due consideration to national security.
The Nigerian people clearly spelt out to Mr. President, during his many visits to various parts of the nation, that what they desire is sustainable peace. They understand the conspiracy to foment further acts of corruption in the name of momentary cessation of violence. The government makes it clear that all those who have gone astray but wish to rejoin the mainstream of peace and creativity, democracy and coordination, and to dedicate themselves in the service of the people through the ballot, abjuring their murderous acts against the nation and people, will be given the security and opportunity necessary to shoulder the responsibilities of governance in their capacity as the people’s representatives, having won the people’s confidence through the universally accepted democratic exercise. It is the firm belief of the government that people can be won over only through peaceful political and constructive activities. Disruption of peace, encouragement of discord or creation of hurdles on the road to rapprochement in the name of democracy will benefit none. It therefore emphasizes on the need to resolve all differences within the framework of the Nigerian patriotic tradition in keeping with the Nigerian psyche, which has never had to put up with subjugation throughout history.
The President has more than often made it clear that people’s aspirations would be fulfilled with single minded determination in the greater interest of the nation and that he has no desire other than Nigerian people’s welfare and the responsibility towards our glorious history. He wants the people to uphold with utmost dedication the glorious history of this nation since it will be in the interest of the nation. The success of this alone will keep the nation secure and ensure a meaningful democracy for the people.
The government has no doubt that Nigerians are determined to see a peaceful, prosperous and democratic nation in tune with the 21st century. The essence of our glorious history is the fact that the Nigerian people themselves determine Nigerian’s national agenda in the interest of the country and their own.
Patriotism being the only means of creating a democratic society, the government has called upon all Nigerians to consign mutual recrimination to the bitter past and build a secure and prosperous future for the nation and people, while upholding democratic norms. The sooner the call is heeded to be better for the nation.