June 12, 2014 – Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, Thursday called for massive participation of all eligible voters in the country in the coming general elections saying it is the only way to keep the spirit of June 12 alive.
Speaking at the June 12 anniversary lecture, Fashola said it is when voters turn out en-masse to vote that the message is the loudest and the mandate can be easily defended.
The Governor, who noted that the elections are already at hand, advised all eligible Nigerians who have either not registered or have lost their cards to go and register or begin to look for their voter’s cards pointing out that the only way to be qualified to vote on election day was to have the voter’s card.
“I tell you, elections are not coming, elections are here. Elections start from voter registration. Have you registered? If you have not registered, elections have started, so go and do so. When the continuous voter registration starts, do you have voters’ card, do you know where it is? If you don’t know where it is, go and start looking for it”.
“What has not happened is balloting; so on ballot day, you must be ready but you cannot be ready unless you register. When they publish the voters register go and check and if your name is not there that is when you should start pointing this out. We must make the time to do some of these little but very significant things so that the spirit and purpose of June 12 endures”, he said.
Fashola expressed dismay at the voter apathy that attended the 2011 elections during which, he said, average turnout was not more than 35-40 percent of registered voters as compared to South African elections and the Indian elections recently where at least 70 percent of the registered voters turned out to vote adding, “This must change”.
Advancing some reasons why people must get involved in the election processes, the Governor noted, “If you leave that decision to some people; you’ll not vote, you will not register, you must know it is the politicians that make decisions whether you will live or die because they manage security; they make the laws and the policies“.
“They decide how much it costs to bury you because they make the laws that regulate cemeteries. They make decisions in which hospital you are born because the laws are made in the Houses of Assembly and the National Assembly. They decide what kind of life your children will get. They decide who you can marry because there is marriage law. They take every decision that affects your life”, he pointed out.
The Governor debunked the excuse of politics being “dirty” often given by many people for not getting involved. While acknowledging that he also made such statements in the past, he declared: “I am wiser now. But I still hear people make that statement. I can only appeal to you that it was a statement made in error”.
“There is politics everywhere including your own home. It is management of people, interests and demands. Amongst your children there is politics. If you have four children and people begin to call you by the name of one, the politics has started. Your wife wants things, your children want, your mother in law wants, your father-in-law wants. Those are the competing interests and that’s what happens in the larger space”, he said.
Fashola also advocated the entrenchment of the culture of debates into the nation’s political system saying it is only through debates that the citizenry would identify the capable candidate among those who have presented themselves to be voted for by the electorates.
According to the Governor, “We must not have elections without testing the capacity of the candidates, without having debates. We cannot go to an election without putting the candidates to the test. And the debates on Television across sectors must become part of our democratic culture as it enables us to make that informed choice about governance”.
Citing the 1993 Presidential Elections in which MKO Abiola was generally acclaimed to have won, the Governor declared, “How many people would have voted for Abiola if there were no national debate? Many people had assumed during that election that there was a certain number of votes in a particular part of the country and that indeed it was impossible for Abiola to win in some parts of the country.
“But peoples’ minds were made up because the topical issue of the day was the increase in the pump price of petrol; and that was the issue that affected our lives most, it was the most important economic issue of the day and it was the debate that showed that Abiola was the candidate who was best prepared to deal with those economic issues. And, therefore, it was no surprise that in all the wards and all the places it was thought he would not win, he won convincingly”, he said.
Fashola said the significance of June 12 lay in the linkage between the right to choose and the right for the choice of the majority to be respected with the expectation of the promise of a better life thereafter adding, however, that democracy does not guarantee good governance.
The Governor explained this further: “But let me say, as I have said repeatedly, that Democracy is not concerned about good governance. All that democracy has concerned itself with is whether the candidate who was declared the winner was elected by popular votes. Democracy does not ask whether the candidate knows the job. It does not ask the faith of the candidate. It does not ask you whether he is compassionate. It is democratic institutions that prepare citizens for that choice.”
The Governor thanked the Civil Society organizations and all who have kept faith with the spirit of June 12 since 1993 adding that while it is easy to identify with an idea when it is popular, it is even more challenging to remain resolute and committed to that idea when its popularity is no longer front page news.
“Some of you here have shown resoluteness, you have shown commitment, you have shown dedication to the idea of June 12”, Fashola said recalling that some people made desperate effort in the past to kill the idea and spirit of June 12.
He declared, “It is important to remind you that for some people June 12 would never be celebrated. We must never forget that. It was a major controversy when my predecessor and his team made the distinction then between a public holiday and a work-free day. For them, June 12 was a word never to be uttered again”.
“Those people are going to come to you in a matter of weeks and months to seek your votes. So as you go out to vote, also remember their stand on this day. And also remember the political group and the political party that has continued to surrender to this day when you make the choice”, the Governor said.
Thanking the Speakers, “especially those who have been extremely generous in their kind words about our government”, Fashola declared: “Every good thing must come to an end; so, obviously my tenure will come to an end in a little over 300 days from now. At this time next year hopefully I will be with you but somebody else will stand here to address you as your Governor”.
Speaking on the theme of this year’s anniversary, “June 12 And 4th Republic Challenges, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN) lamented that although Nigeria is a well endowed nation, her citizens are suffering as a result of the mismanagement of the resources by the authorities at the Federal level.
“If only we can enjoy a period of dedicated, selfless and committed leadership at the Federal level as we are presently experiencing in Lagos, Ekiti, Osun and the other APC states and in Rivers state, Nigeria will once again be the beautiful bride of the international community”, he said.
Other Speakers at the occasion, Chief Ayo Opadokun and Mrs. Funke Adekoya (SAN) eulogized the Lagos State Governor and his team for the transformational leadership they have demonstrated in the State in the last seven years saying they have shown that with dedication and commitment, Nigeria could be rescued from the present state of decadence.
Also present at the occasion were pro-democracy activist and former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Rear-Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, widow of late Alao Aka-Bashorun, Mrs. Kudirat Aka-Bashorun, Civil Society groups and Human Rights Activists as well as members of the State’s Executive Council including Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba and his Establishment, Training and Pension as well as Commerce and Industry counterparts, Mrs. Florence Oguntuase and Mrs. Sola Oworu respectively, Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa and his Physical Planning and Urban Development counterpart, TPL Olutoyin Ayinde, Special Adviser Political and Legislative Powers Bureau, Hon. Muslim Folami and his Works and Infrastructure counterpart, Engnr. Ganiyu Johnson as well as other stakeholders.