Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki has commended Nigerians for working to sustain democracy in the past 17 years despite the various challenges the country has encountered within the period.
In a statement to mark the 2016 Democracy Day, Saraki described democracy as not only the most globally accepted system of government but also the best solution to the problems confronting a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious society like Nigeria.
The Senate President said that in the last 17 years, the electorate have become more discerning and sophisticated as the nation has got to the point that people elected to the various offices have become conscious of the fact that they are under constant watch and when they fail to meet the expectation of the voters, they will be “given the red card”.
According to the statement, signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, “It is the first time in our national history that we will have 17 unbroken years of democratically elected governments.
“Last year, our people demonstrated that our democracy is fast maturing as they voted out a party in power and elected another party. Since then, one can notice how people have become more and more interested in governance and the performance of those elected and appointed into public offices.
“In my own view, these are signs that our democracy has matured. Our people deserve commendation for that. This positive development is also already reflecting in the quality of governance and the level of development being witnessed across board in the country”, he stated.
The Senate President further called on elected and appointed officials at all levels of government to continue to justify the confidence people reposed in them as he said that he and his colleagues in the Senate are conscious of the fact that if they fail to live up to the expectation of the people, the next elections are just around the corner.
He added that at this point, the nation must improve on the conduct of elections in such a manner that the free will of the electorate will be reflected in the results, adding that for the country to become a matured democracy, elections must be peaceful, free and fair.
“The issue of free and fair elections is a joint responsibility for all of us. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must continue to improve on its process and machinery for conduct of elections while the people must learn to shun violence and all forms of unlawful conduct during electioneering. We cannot be celebrating many years of democracy if people still take elections as if it is war and refuse to accept the decision of the majority.
“We in the National Assembly will continue to strengthen the electoral laws and other legislations that can build institutional checks against the abuse of the laws by individuals and groups. We must get to the point where people who resort to violence to achieve political objectives are severely punished”, Saraki stated.
He added that Nigeria must become a model in Africa for the enthronement of rule of law and protection of fundamental human rights of all individuals and that the country must show good example to other countries on the continent and in the Commonwealth nations in that regard.
Saraki noted that in the area of the economy, the entire world is facing challenging times and that what the country needs to overcome the situation are discipline, prudent management of her resources and and exploration of hitherto neglected areas in creating national wealth.
“I can assure our people that the present economic problem is a temporary challenge. We will all be happy very soon. It is for this reason that, as I congratulate our people on this occasion of Democracy Day, I call on them to continue to pray for the government and support all efforts aimed at ensuring that we all reap the dividends of democracy.
“We should remember that tough times do not last but tough people do. God bless Nigeria. God bless Nigerians”, Saraki stated.