A former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, on Wednesday said there was need for deepening of the country’s democracy, to serve as catalyst for progress.
Ezekwesili, also a former Vice President of the World Bank, emphasised the need while speaking at a lecture on June 12 at the home of late MKO Abiola in Ikeja, Lagos State.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the lecture was organised by June 12 Movement, a pro-democracy group, to commemorate the June 12 1993 elections.
The former minister said democracy should be about the people as well as their welfare.
She, however, expressed regrets that the country’s democracy had not fared well to serve interests of the masses in the last 20years.
The former World Bank executive said for the country to move in the path of progress, there was a compelling need to begin to do the right things to deepen democracy.
She said: “Democracy, they say, should be a government of the people by the people for the people.
“But have we had that in the past 20 years? No. Democracy has only worked for a few and not the Nigerian people.
“The rate of poverty has continued to increase and only recently, the country was labelled the poverty capital of the world.
“If democracy must work for the people in this country, there is compelling need for us to have a leadership that reflects the choice of the people and that will respond to their needs.”
The former minister said lessons abound for the country’s democracy through the June 12 1993 elections.
She said the election was a watershed in the country’s democratic history, as it was a day Nigerians spoke with one voice to elect MKO Abiola as president.
She described late Abiola as a man of the people, saying the country would progress with leaders who cared about the masses.
Also speaking, Sentor Shehu Sani reiterated the call to deepen the nation’s democracy.
He said the country must embrace restructuring to move in the direction of sustainable development.
Sani said: “For us to achieve sustainable development in the country, there is need for us to restructure the country.
“We cannot continue to pretend about it. We need to restructure to move this country forward.
“States and LGAs cannot continue to go to Abuja at the end of every month for money, we need to restructure so that the federating units can develop their strengths and contribute more to development.”
He described June 12 as a very important point in the history of the country, as it was the day Nigerians chose a leader they believed in.
ani urged Nigerians to continue to appreciate the sacrifice made by MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the election, saying “without June 12, there can’t be May 29th”.
Sani also urged Nigerians to appreciate the courage of President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day after denials by previous governments.
Also speaking, Mike Igjni, INEC Resident Electoral Officer of Akwa Ibom, said the elite were the beneficiaries of the country’s democracy.
He said there was need to deepen democracy to make it work for the common man.
He said: “Democracy today is for elite. They are the major beneficiaries. The common man is not feeling the impact, there is need to deepen it to serve all Nigerians.”
He said his experiences as REC in Akwa Ibom in the last elections showed that the country’s democracy was far from being perfect.
Igini claimed politicians tried to subvert the will of the people by wanting to write the results of elections instead allowing votes to count.
He said: “But I let them know that you cannot write results where I am, the people’s will must prevail.”
He expressed regrets that the country’s elections were still characterised by violence, saying that was a threat to democracy.
Igini said that late Abiola was a symbol of democracy, as the June 12 election represented what elections should be like.
He said Abiola was a lover of the people, and many Nigerians, including him, benefitted from his generosity.
Igini said Nigeria would be a better place with leaders with large hearts like Abiola.
Mohammed Fawehinmi, son of late human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, also advocated deepening of democracy, describing the June 12 election as a reference point in the country’s democratic history.
NAN reports that prayers were offered for the peaceful repose of Abiola’s soul at the programme while there was also laying of wreath on his tomb.