Sustenance of democracy
Being the speech broadcast by His Excellency, President Olusegun
Obasanjo on August 24, 2002
I will like to start by thanking all Nigerians who have borne patiently, in
anguish and uncertainty, certain developments in the polity over the last
I will also like to thank those who by prayer, by writing, by petition, by
press conferences and interviews and by telephone calls have shown that they
are soldiers for the nurturing and sustenance of democracy. As a result of
these outpouring of patriotic sentiments and emotions, these past few weeks,
I have chosen this evening to talk with you, fellow compatriots.
I have had occasion to say that Nigerians did not choose democracy as our
preferred system of government because of its intrinsic value alone. We
chose it because it is imperative for us, as a result of what we went
through under the military, so we chose to go for a form of government that
allows for dialogue without any arm government or individual functionary or
citizen being overawed.
Fellow Nigerians, what we have witnessed in the last two weeks that our
choice of democracy has gone through a litmus test and emerged virile and
dynamic. It has also shown that our democracy is firmly established as a
government of the people, established by the people, which will be sustained
and defended by the people for the benefit of all the people. One great
advantage of democracy that it has rugged shock absorbing capacity, the
people are its shock absorbers.
Events of the last fortnight have proved that democracy, although not always
the tidiest form of government remains the best form of government. The
support shown for the survival and sustenance of our hard-won democracy cuts
across ethnic, regional, religious and political barriers. Here, I must
single out for special mention and commendation the women and the youth of
our fatherland. Their role is worthy of commendation and emulation. This is
how it should be. For their future, especially the future of the youth,
depends on what happens to democracy in our country today.
The last two weeks have also shown that no arm of government can run
roughshod over any of the others, especially as far as the constitution and
the will of the people are concerned. It has also shown that no matter how
any individual or group of individuals or any arm of government may attempt
to hoodwink the people, truth will always prevail.
Our democracy is being tried and tested and so far it has emerged from the
crucible firmer, stronger and more resilient. Although we have a long way to
go, we are on the way. Therefore, I am buoyed by the commitment of Nigerians
to democracy, financial discipline transparency, accountability and probity,
which are some of the main pillars on which this administration stands. We
will remain faithful to all the policies and ideals enunciated at the
inception of this administration and nothing will divert us from the
It must be of interest for fellow Nigerians to know that during the period
of our national anguish mixed with uncertainty, many brother African leaders
expressed their concern for the situation in Nigeria, saying that whatever
happens in Nigeria had implications beyond its borders, for the rest of
Africa. Of course, knowing the remote, undeclared and declared causes of
what was happening, I assured them that our country was a land that was full
of surprises and that things would fizzle out in due course. Some leaders
from outside Africa also called to express their concern.
Fellow countrymen and women, although I had described the events of the last
two weeks as a joke, maybe I need to add that it was a joke taken a little
bit too far. The joke, if not for the maturity exercised in certain
quarters, could have overstretched the existing bonds and fabric of our
society which took many years to foster. Here again, I thank God Almighty
and I thank those our fellow citizens who allowed maturity, suppressed and
dignified anger restraint, composure and balance, patience and firmness for
what is right in support of democracy and unity of Nigeria, to prevail.
Let me at this juncture assure you fellow compatriots, that with the spirit
of service and sacrifice on the part of those who have been given the
opportunity by providence to serve our fatherland at this point in time,
Nigeria and Nigerians should have nothing to fear politically, economically
and socially. What has become evident in the last two weeks is that where
that spirit of sacrifice absent, it must be created. Fellow Nigerians, I say
to you without any equivocation whatsoever and with all commitment that I
will continue with that spirit of service and sacrifice.
I have faith in God and in the good people of Nigeria that my dream of
making Nigeria the leading nation of Africa, politically, economically and
socially, by the first decade of the 21st century, will be achieved. We are
firmly on course, but we must remain dedicated, committed and focused. No
matter how good, far-reaching and laudable our vision may be, we must work
together for the realisation of vision and our dream.
Leadership is not and cannot be a one-man show. For leadership to be
effective in a democratic dispensation such as ours, it must involve all
leaders who are either elected or appointed to lead. By way of an analogy,
you can imagine what disaster will follow if, in the cockpit of an aircraft,
the captain is pressing the throttle for the plane to take off with full
power, the co-pilot is pressing the break and the engineer is switching off
the engine. Leadership, therefore, must be collectively imbued with a common
mission and a common vision. Leadership that has sight without vision is, at
best, myopic if not afflicted with occult illusion and delusion.
Our goal will be accomplished when the vision is cast clearly creatively,
popularly and consistently. I learned very early in my life that a leader
must endeavour to go beyond being a people-pleaser to being a God-pleaser.
You cannot please God without pleasing majority of the people.
The situation from where we started was unacceptable, deplorable demeaning
and destructive. Change, we have to bring about, but change does not come
easy. The enemies of change are the beneficiaries from the status quo. We
need hard work, consistency and unwavering prayer to effect the change which
must be brought about for Nigeria to fulfil the purpose for which it was so
well-endowed. We must keep hope very much alive. We have put our hands on
the plough and there is no looking back.
Let me also assure you fellow countrymen and women that we have taken steps
to ensure that the security of Nigeria is not impaired in any way.
Unfortunately, of course, we might have inadvertently sent a wrong signal
both to friends of Nigeria and those investors looking favourably in the
direction of our country. But as quickly as we emerge from the unnecessary
distraction and over-heating of the polity, we will be stronger, we will be
more focused, our vision will be sharper, and our environment will surely be
more conducive to welcome friends, visitors and investors in our midst.
There should be no room for resentment and bitterness in our hearts, but
room for forgiveness, love, righteousness, harmony and solidarity. That is
the spirit that can uplift and edify.
Once again, let me assure you that Nigeria is on course and has a clean bill
of health. Government is on top of all aspects of the affairs of this
country. We thank you all for your confidence and support. May the Almighty
God be with you and your families and bless Nigeria our country.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!