As the nation marks 2018 Democracy Day, former President Goodluck Jonathan has joined in celebrating Nigerian youths, describing them as great achievers who are holding their heads high and greatly proving themselves globally.
The former President also prayed for peace urging Nigerians to always strive to ensure that “our national motto: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress, is a reality and not just mere rhetoric.”
According to a statement by Mr. Ikechukwu Eze, the former President’s media adviser, Jonathan noted that Nigerian youths are high achievers who are making the country proud, adding that all they need are the opportunities to demonstrate their capabilities.
He urged leaders to support the youths rather than discourage them, saying: “Rather than discourage them with our words and actions, we as leaders must give our youths hope by using our language to draw out the very best in them. We must accept that nations only grow when elders plant trees whose shade they know they may never personally enjoy. Leaders must think of the next generation and not just the next election.”
Full text of Jonathan’s Democracy Day statement:
“On this Democracy Day 2018, I want to urge all Nigerians to pray for peace in Nigeria. We need peace in Nigeria. And it is up to you and I to ensure that our National Motto: Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress, is a reality and not just mere rhetoric. I urge Nigerians to understand and accept that nobody’s political, economic, religious or social ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.
“As this year’s Democracy Day falls on the holy month of Ramadan, let me seize the opportunity to also extend Ramadan greetings to the Muslim Ummah. As you pray for Nigeria, I join my faith with yours and look forward to our prayers being answered by Almighty God.
“There are many opportunities and crises on the horizon, but we must have the mentality of seeing the opportunity in crisis rather than the crisis in opportunity.
“We have one of the fastest growing youth population in the world and we must see this as an opportunity, not a crisis. “What our youth need are opportunities to showcase their positive talents. They need leaders who believe in them and show affirmation for them through their words and actions.
Democracy is a game of numbers and the youths have the numbers. More than 50% of our population are youths. If we develop policies, programs and projects to empower the youth of Nigeria, the Nigerian youth, who single handedly created Nollywood, the third largest movie industry in the world, can be expected to return the favour and make
“And they are already making us proud both locally and internationally. Nigerian youths are showcasing their brilliance around the world and I want to make special mention of Ukoma Michael, who at thirteen years of age invented a battery operated fan that lasts for 19 hours on a full charge. This ingenuity domiciled in Michael should be encouraged by our leadership.
“Internationally, Princess Elizabeth Bright and Ramota Tele Lawal, two 22 year old Nigerian youths who in May of 2018 became the youngest elected councillors in the United Kingdom, have made us proud. Very proud indeed.
“These youths are the epitome of the hardworking, talented, innovative and ambitious Nigerian youth who make our nation respected in the community of nations and give us hope for tomorrow and national pride for today.
“Rather than discourage them with our words and actions, we as leaders must give our youths hope by using our language to draw out the very best in them. We must accept that nations only grow when elders plant trees whose shade they know they may never personally enjoy.
“Leaders must think of the next generation and not just the next election.
While we celebrate Ukoma, Elizabeth and Ramota, I know that there are perhaps millions in Nigeria who are equally brilliant and only need the right enabling environment to unleash their creative genius.
They are my inspiration on this Democracy Day. They are the reason why I believe in the continued corporate existence of this great nation founded on justice, equity and freedom.
“Happy Democracy Day. God bless you and your family and may God bless Nigeria. GEJ.”
On his part, Senate President, Bukola Saraki advised Nigerians to guard against actions, statements and moves which can truncate our nation’s democratic process.
In a statement to mark the 2018 Democracy Day, Saraki advised the people to always be vigilant and speak against anti-democratic policies and actions which are capable of subverting rule of law.
He also canvassed strict adherence to the principles of the rule of law, separation of powers, sovereignty of parliament, independence of the judiciary, and freedom of the press, adding that “our constitutional institutions must be preserved and protected”.
“As we celebrate democracy today, I congratulate our people and express my conviction that this system of government is the best so far invented. However, it goes beyond the conduct of elections to put leaders in office. Democracy involves strict adherence to rule of law as against the rule of men. It is about respect for due process and following laid down procedures. It is about respect for and building of institutions,” he said.
He said Nigerians “cannot be celebrating Democracy Day without canvassing for caution on some recent negative developments in our polity, particularly as we prepare for next year’s general elections. These include abuse of office in a manner that suggests persecution and oppression of perceived enemies, stifling of free expression, undermining of democratic institutions, and impunity on the part of certain persons who behave as though they are above the laws of the land”.
He lamented that “these developments should be of concern to all democrats. Other political and opinion leaders who decided to veil their sight as if they are not seeing these infractions on democracy and choose to keep quiet, should know that they equally pose danger to the survival of our country”.
“History will not be fair to us if we allow our complacency to jeopardize democracy. We all must be able to speak out with strong voice on issues that constitute a danger to democracy. Eternal vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty,” he further stated.
“At this point, let us remember and salute our heroes of democracy, those who toiled and paid different prices for us to have elected government, particularly, those who paid the ultimate price with their lives. Their labour shall definitely not be in vain.
“Also, it is important for us to quickly tackle all issues that can undermine our democracy, particularly insecurity and lack of good governance. We must immediately find solution to the security issues and ensure that we return the regime of peace, safety of lives and property in all parts of our country. In the same way, we must do all that is necessary to deliver good governance to our people and fight corruption at all levels. These challenges must be confronted by all political leaders devoid of party loyalty, ethnicity, religion and personal preferences. We must all set aside our personal interests and work as a collective on these aforementioned issues.
“It is equally necessary to warn that with the 2015 polls, we have set a very high standard in Africa. We cannot afford to perform less in 2019. The next general elections must be freer, fairer and more peaceful than the last one. Those responsible for conducting the polls must raise the bar and work to take Nigeria to a higher level of electoral process.
“It is important for all of us to note that Nigeria will continue to exist after the 2019 polls. Just as the country is still here after the 2015 polls. We must therefore not do anything that will threaten the existence of the country or its peace, unity and tranquility.
“Let me use this occasion to urge our all our people to avoid making and circulating hate speech which can further accentuate our fault lines and set one section of the country against the other. Rather, we should all embrace tolerance and the need to be our brother’s keeper. We all have a lot to gain from a united and stronger Nigeria than having a nation embedded in conflict.
“As we celebrate Democracy Day, it is my wish that Nigerians will continue to enjoy good governance, provided by freely elected government and sustained by strong and impartial institutions, all of which will lead to the creation of a developed society with the citizens freely enjoying a high standard of living,” Saraki stated.