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Empowered; Being the Text of a Broadcast by Governor Alex C. Otti, OFR, to Mark the Democracy Day Celebration in Abia State on June 12, 2024

 

1.     Umunne m Ndi Abia, fellow Nigerians, men and women of goodwill, I bring you special Democracy Day greetings from Umuahia, the capital of our great State, Abia. Let me congratulate all of us for the special privilege of witnessing the 2024 Democracy Day celebration. May I also appreciate you, dear compatriots, for your unyielding faith in democracy, especially in the dark days of military dictatorship, when it seemed to many like an unrealistic dream.

 

2.     Long before our independence from the colonial authorities, it was widely accepted that the only form of governance that can endure in the land shall be one where the right to choose, and hold leaders accountable, rests squarely with the people. This historical convention explains why we consistently resisted political usurpers; individuals whose ascension to power happened outside standard democratic norms and practices.

 

3.     Today’s celebration points us to three connected developments in our political evolution: the first is the significance of June 12 and the unforgettable sacrifices that happened between June 12, 1993 when an election that was adjudged to be the freest and fairest in our history was suddenly annulled, and May 29, 1999 when we went the full circle and ushered in the 4th Republic following the election, and swearing in of democratically elected leaders across the federation.

 

4.     June 12 ultimately has become a watershed moment in our national history because it points to our capacity to rise to the demands of greatness on one hand and reminds us of the great danger that often lurks around the corner just when we are closest to the gate of national rebirth on the other.

 

5.     On this day, we are called to rediscover the spirit of nationhood and the power of unity. As I had maintained on several occasions, the greatness of the Nigerian nation goes beyond the rich mineral resources buried beneath its soil. Our truest powers lie in our tenacity in pursuit, and defence of our values; and our generosity of spirit in appreciation of the things that we love most dearly.

 

6.     June 12, 1993 election and the widespread anger that greeted its bizarre annulment lends further credence to the historical truth that democracy is the only form of government that shall be acceptable to all Nigerians. More importantly, we are reminded by what happened in the months and years that followed that Nigerians would stop at nothing to get what they want, however long it may take.

 

7.     Today’s event teaches us in a very unique way that democracy, in form and essence, is a trans-generational journey, a torch that one generation passes on to the next to continue a race that is intrinsically connected to its overall destiny.

 

8.     Democracy is therefore more about what could happen tomorrow than it is about today’s realities. It speaks in principle to our commitment to building a better society for those coming after us, to shield them from the troubles of today while empowering them to deal with the challenges of tomorrow.

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9.     Our parents and grandparents fought the absurdity of colonial occupation that those coming after may be empowered to deal with the challenges of national development headlong. Those who came before us challenged the contraption of military rulership so that in our day, we may work harder at deepening the roots of democratic governance.

 

10. Twenty-five years have passed since we made the ultimate transition from military to democratic governance. Today will therefore be a great day to reflect on how well we have done in the very important assignment of using the levers of democracy to expand the frontiers of material prosperity to millions of our compatriots who had lofty expectations at the dawn of the present era.

 

11. Leaders like Chief M. K. O Abiola, GCFR, his dear wife Kudirat, Pa Alfred Rewane and several other notable and unsung heroes of the democratic struggle offered so much in sacrifice to the campaign for the simple reason that they believed in the promise of democracy. They agreed, just like majority of us today, that it is the most suitable mechanism for harnessing the rich human and material resources of the land for the benefit of present and future generations.

 

12. The most enduring appeal of democracy is not in the promise of El Dorado but in the opportunities it gives adult members of the community to use their votes as instruments of change.

 

13. But democracy is not just about votes and the push to occupy political offices. It is about what we do after the polls are closed, how we use the power that has been conferred on us as citizens, voters and leaders of conscience to steer the ship of state in a desirable direction.

 

14. To be clear, it is not every time that democracy fulfils our expectations. When done right however, democratic outcomes inevitably reflect the will of the majority. Even then, the minority are always guaranteed to have their say and ultimately, get another opportunity to sell their ideas in the future.

 

15. In Abia, we have come a long way as we walk the democratic path, lending our voices to the most important issues of the day since the colonial times, casting our ballots for leaders that captivate our imagination and protesting decisions we find incongruent with our values.

 

16. At the dawn of the 4th Republic, we were optimistic that we shall reach the Promised Land in good time and reclaim our place in the sky as a community of diligent and resourceful people.  Our commitment to excellence is the reason Abians excel in all fields of human calling, creating innovative solutions, and ultimately making the world a better place.

 

17. Individually, we were champions and heroes but as a State, we found it difficult to answer very disturbing questions about our place in the development ladder. We were mocked for our failures and expectedly, many found the sharp contrast between our potential and the reality difficult to reconcile.

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18. How can a State be so blessed and yet remain uninspiring on very critical frontier of development? To find reasonable answers to this, and other nagging questions, the enduring promise of democracy as the most important vehicle for changing the fortunes of a society became very attractive.

 

19. Human and material resources were mobilised and ten years ago, the journey to retake collective control of our common destiny began. We knocked on doors and took up spaces across various media platforms to sell our vision of a new order to Ndi Abia, arguing at the time that we deserved better than what the old order offered.

 

20. We never expected the transition from the old to the new to be easy because democracy is about propositions and counter-propositions. The people ultimately would have the final say, and they did.

 

21. The majority believed in our cause but the powers that were at that time had other ideas. The aim was to dampen our faith in democracy but we refused to surrender. We kept pushing and in time, the resistance withered and the will of the people prevailed.

 

22. Our victory in 2023 was not essentially about any particular individual. It is about Ndi Abia, the men and women who never lost faith in democracy, who never stopped believing and stood their ground until victory was achieved. Today we celebrate the tenacity of our people, and their enduring belief in the superior proposition of democracy.

 

23. Because we believed, Abia has become a model democratic society where the leadership is absolutely accountable to the people, not to a tiny cabal of godfathers. Great things are happening and millions of Abians at home and in the Diaspora are genuinely proud of the transformation that has taken place over the past 12 months.

 

24. Whether it is the reconstruction of long-abandoned roads in different parts of the State, the rapid push to rid the city centres of mountains of refuse and make our urban centres more habitable, the efforts to reclaim several communities from the hold of criminals, and the return to regular payment of salaries and pensions, none of it could have happened outside the wheels of the democratic process.

 

25. As I mentioned earlier, democracy is never about making the perfect leadership choice but a progressive push to find leaders with superior development propositions. We made a great leap in 2023 to welcome a new party, and a new set of leaders whose philosophy of development resonated more with the common man in all parts of the State.

 

26. The various development projects we initiated since May 29 last year are pathways to a better future for our hardworking population. Businesses that left the State following a long period of infrastructure collapse and abandonment are returning, new investments are springing up simply because the investors have gotten a signal that excites them.

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27. Our target is to create millions of new jobs for the young people, support our local entrepreneurs to dream bigger, and ultimately tackle the menace of poverty. We will make Abia a prime destination for all who seek superior rewards for every legitimate investment in efforts and resources.

 

28. Wherever you are, whatever you do, the Government will do its part by providing you with the right support to soar higher. For us in the Labour Party, our conviction is that democracy thrives best in the prosperity, and welfare of the common man.

 

29. The last 25 years have been very challenging and many are understandably losing faith in the promises of democracy. We must never deny the sufferings of our compatriots because everyone is important, and every pain matters.

 

30. As a Government, we shall continue to do the best we can, within the limits of available resources, to cater for everyone by providing the right structures to support the labour of the general population, without ignoring the material needs of those who for one reason or the other, are unable to fend for themselves. We shall not reach the mark in one day but we will commit every waking hour to the task of meeting the aspirations we share as a democratic society.

 

31. I, therefore, encourage you umu nne m, not to despair. We have embarked on a journey of self-discovery and as our parents who walked this path before us knew, the glory is in the consistency and the daily progress we make as we march collectively into the Promised Land, supporting the weak, and leaving no one behind.

 

32. Our dear State, Abia, will be great in our lifetime. It is a dream we are entirely committed to achieving. As citizens, we have been empowered to be central to the development process through constructive engagements with the authorities, fulfilling our obligations as citizens, and cooperating with the security agencies to make our State a crime-free society.

 

33. Thank you for listening, happy democracy day, and may God bless you all.

 

Dr Alex C. Otti, OFR,
12/06/2024