By Abimbola Ogunnaike
President Bola Tinubu in his maiden Democracy Day address to the nation on Monday, 12 June, 2023, has admitted that the recent removal of fuel subsidy has imposed hardship on the general public.
Tinubu said though he feels the pain on the masses, there is a need for them to sacrifice more for the betterment of the entire nation.
According to the President, the temporal discomfort occasioned by the subsidy removal was necessary to save the country from going under.
“I feel your pain. This is one decision we must bear to save our country from going under and take our resources away from the stranglehold of a few unpatriotic elements.
“I admit that the decision will impose an extra burden on the masses of our people. Painfully, I have asked you, my compatriots, to sacrifice a little more for the survival of our country”.
President Tinubu stated that subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources. Therefore, it had to go.
Recall that the aftermath of Tinubu’s announcement was the increase in petrol pump price from N195 to N537 nationwide, alongside an ancillary price increase.
Addressing the aftermath of the move, he said, “It is for this reason that, in my inauguration address on May 29, I gave effect to the decision taken by my predecessor-in-office to remove the fuel subsidy albatross and free up for collective use the much-needed resources, which had hitherto been pocketed by a few rich.
“I admit that the decision will impose an extra burden on the masses of our people. Painfully, I have asked you, my compatriots, to sacrifice a little more for the survival of our country.
“For your trust and belief in us, I assure you that your sacrifice shall not be in vain. The government I lead will repay you through massive investment in transportation infrastructure, education, regular power supply, healthcare, and other public utilities that will improve the quality of lives.”
Speaking of the Rule of Law, the President said his administration will not condone conflicting and illegal orders that undermine Nigeria’s democracy.
He also described the bill he signed into law on June 8 for the harmonisation of the retirement age for judicial officers as one of many policy reforms to come.
“For Chief MKO Abiola, the symbol of this day, in whose memory June 12 became a national holiday, democracy is eternal.
“It is about the rule of law and vibrant judiciary that can be trusted to deliver justice and strengthen institutions. It has become imperative to state here that the unnecessary illegal orders used to truncate or abridge democracy will no longer be tolerated,” he said.
President Tinubu described the February and March elections as a true testament of Nigeria’s democratic journey, adding that the current legal contestations of the results are the “beauty of democracy.”
He said “This year, we held the seventh in the cycle of elections that have become sacred rituals of our democratic practice in this dispensation since 1999.
“That the polls were intensely contested is in itself positive evidence that democracy is well and alive in our land. It is only natural that even as those who won and experienced victory in the various elections are elated and fulfilled, those who lost are disenchanted and disappointed.
“But the beauty of democracy is that those who win today can lose tomorrow and those who lose today will have an opportunity to compete and win in the next round of elections.
“Those who cannot endure and accept the pain of defeat in elections do not deserve the joy of victory when it is their turn to triumph.
“Above all, those who disagree with the outcome of the elections are taking full advantage of the constitutional provisions to seek redress in court and that is one of the reasons why democracy is still the best form of government invented by man”.
Reminiscing on the 1993 struggles that ushered in a civilian government in 1999, the President venerated the Chief MKO Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane and Maj-Gen Shehu Yar’Adua who were silenced by the military junta saying “They gave their yesterday for the liberty that is ours today.
“We can easily recall the sacrifice and martyrdom of Chief MKO Abiola, the custodian of the sacred mandate that was so cruelly annulled.
“He sacrificed his life in unyielding, patriotic defense of the ideals of democracy as symbolized in his choice, by his fellow countrymen and women, as their duly-elected President.
“There was an easier choice for him. It was to forgo the justice of his cause and opt for the path of ease and capitulation in the face of the tyranny of power. To his eternal credit and immortal glory, Abiola said no. He demonstrated the time-tested eternal truth that there are certain ideals and principles that are far more valuable than life itself”.
Therefore, he urged Nigerians not to take the liberty they now enjoy for granted as it was obtained through great sacrifice.