As Nigerians mark this year’s Democracy Day, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has enjoined them to be vigilant and hold their elected leaders more accountable as a means of halting the seeming indifference to good governance issues.
According a statement by his Media Office in Abuja, marking the 14th anniversary of Democracy Day in Nigeria, he identified high level of poverty and unemployment in the country as the greatest challenge facing our young democracy and noted that tackling them should be the focus of elected officials.
He contended that the time had come for elected leaders to stop giving excuses and instead focus their efforts on transforming the lives of the people for the better in line with their mandates.
According to the former Vice President, the worsening state of poverty and unemployment and uncertain future are factors that feed the cauldron of pervasive insecurity in the country.
Atiku Abubakar admitted that as a former elected political office holder, he felt embarrassed every time he was confronted by the pathetic level of poverty, unemployment, hunger and disease in Nigeria, despite the huge resources available to leaders to improve the living standards of its people.
The former Vice President who did not make any excuses for the government in which he served said no serious and committed leaders would spend 14 years giving excuses for their failures to deliver and that blaming past military rule was no longer tenable.
“The success of democracy cannot be measured in terms of how well the leaders live, but how well the voters are doing economically, socially and materially,” Atiku said.
According to the Turaki Adamawa, “there is a limit to which leaders could convince the people to remain patient, especially at a time the lifestyles of leaders creates an island of opulence surrounded by a sea of alarming poverty.”
He said when the electorate entrusted the leaders with the mandate; they did so with the hope that democracy would become a veritable vehicle to change their living conditions.
He argued that there was no justification why political leaders pay themselves fat salaries and allowances while the people who put them into office barely live from hand to mouth.
The former Vice President aligned himself with the opinion of the late Prof. Chinua Achebe who said that “Nigeria is what it is because the leaders are not what they should be.”
He, however, noted that voter apathy to governance issues could seriously undermine the quality of democratic rule.
He said unless voters insist on service delivery by elected leaders, elected officials may behave like lords rather than servants of the people.
He reminded elected leaders at all levels that democratic rule is a sacred trust between the voters and the leaders and that once the leaders fail to perform, the bond of such trust weakens.
Turakin Adamawa congratulated ordinary Nigerians for wholeheartedly embracing the essential principles of democracy with passion and courage.
While commending the recent efforts of the Federal Government to dislodge terror groups from their operational bases, the former Vice President advised the government to keep reviewing its security strategies and tactics to respond robustly to any new challenges presented by insurgents.