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5 things I picked from President Buhari’s last Democracy Day speech – By Israel Ojoko

More than once, I have read through Muhammadu Buhari’s last Democracy Day speech as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and part of what I decipher is a man saying goodbye in a most stylish manner. 
In the past seven years, I have watched, listened and read Buhari’s many speeches on many occasions and I can see the difference in the last one made on Sunday to mark another Democracy Day. 

The latest speech lacks the usual hope, life, and many promises that come with a typical Buhari address. It also lacks the usual reference to his many perceived achievements in various sectors of the economy even though many Nigerians would disagree with him. Despite the contradictory opinions of millions of his fellow countrymen, Buhari would sing his praises to the high heavens from a prepared speech. 

From the construction of another Niger bridge to the fight and eradication of Covid-19, from the increase in electricity megawatts to the fight against corruption, the usual Buhari will, no matter how little, touch on most of these areas as he always make effort to retain the confidence of Nigerians. 

But Sunday’s 2022 Democracy Day speech sounded like that of a man who has closed shop, given up and moving on. So, here are five things I picked from Buhari’s latest speech.

Dropping the mantle 

Buhari’s 2022 Democracy Day speech depict that the president is packing his bags and has nothing else to offer in terms of growing the economy. 

Unlike his usual speech where he will reel out his achievements in agriculture, electricity, education, security, health, and lots more, as well as his immediate plans and steps being taken to improve their situations, Buhari in his final Democracy Day speech as president, did not even bother to push it, maybe there’s nothing more to push.

He only addressed the dwindling security situation in the country, and that’s it. I am sure the reason for that is because of the terrorist attack on the St Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Osun State which left about 50 innocent worshippers dead, including children. He also remembered many victims that have been kidnapped across the country and the many deaths owing to insecurity in the north.

“On this special day, I want us all to put all victims of terrorist activities in our thoughts and prayers. I am living daily with the grief and worry for all those victims and prisoners of terrorism and kidnapping. I and the security agencies are doing all we can to free those unfortunate countrymen and countrywomen safely.

“For those who have lost their lives, we will continue to seek justice for their families against the perpetrators. For those currently in captivity, we will not stop until they are freed, and their kidnappers are brought to justice. If we all unite, we will be victorious against these agents of terror and destruction.”

IBB’s regime the worst

 One of the remarkable things Buhari, in his speech, clearly pointed out, was that the military regime of Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida is the worst leadership Nigeria ever suffered. The president noted that the month of June in 1993 was one that came with mixed fortune. 

“On June 12th, 1993, Nigerians saw the best in our citizens as we all went out to vote peacefully. By June 24th, 1993, we also saw the worst of our leadership as the elections were annulled.” Buhari said.

Nigerians must be careful 

Knowing fully well how most Nigerians easily forget their history and are unable to learn from the past, Buhari issued a subtle warning that the citizens must shine their eyes on electing leaders in the 2023 general elections and beyond.

“We must never forget the sacrifices of the heroes of Nigeria’s democracy during 1993. Their patriotism and peaceful struggle should guide our actions especially when it comes to electing our leaders and holding them accountable, now and in the future.”

Political ambition is not a do-or-die affair 

Just like I pointed out in my last article, Buhari reminded politicians that their pursuit to secure a political office should not be a do-or-die affair. This statement must be referring to All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential flag bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who is ready to fight dirty if need be, to become the next president. Tinubu’s words and body language have said it all, and Buhari is wary of the consequences that might result from his desperation. 

“As we move into the general election campaign season, we must sustain this mature attitude to campaigning and ultimately, voting. We must never see it as a “do or die” affair. We must all remember democracy is about the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers.”

The major task

It is good that Buhari knows that one major thing he owes Nigerians right now is not just a free and fair election, but a peaceful one with minimal damages, coupled with a smooth transition of power. Yes, he has been overwhelmed by the growing security challenges in the past seven years, but there is no excuse for a failed election that doesn’t reflect the people’s choice. 

Don’t get me wrong, the country cannot pack up because Buhari is packing his bags, university students must return to the classroom, lecturers must resume lectures, our health system must not completely collapse, and delivering a safe, free and fair election that will produce the choice of the majority is non-negotiable. 

“For the voters, I am pleased to inform you that in the last 7 years, our government across all tiers, has made significant investments to reform and enhance our electoral laws, systems, and processes to safeguard your votes.

“The Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary were and still remain united and committed to ensuring these reforms are fully implemented in the 2023 general elections. Fellow Nigerians, your right to choose your government will be preserved and protected.”

Israel is a Nigerian journalist and can be reached via israelojoko14@gmail.com

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