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Presentation by Ronald Kayanja, United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Director

Abeokuta – July 19, 2018

My discussion today is premised on Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals which aims to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.’ The goal targets include to: promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all; substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms; develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels; ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels; ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. I will attempt to identify what role the Media will play to enable the country achieve this goal.

You will notice that this goal implicitly refers to a democratic society, but it must have been contentious to introduce the term during the formulation of Agenda 2030. Those used to diplomatic negotiations at international level know that including words like democracy in texts to be agreed upon by all member states can be complex. George Orwell argued in 1957: Not only is there no agreed-upon definition of democracy, but also the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. The defenders of any kind of regime claim that it is a democracy and fear they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning (Orwell 1957) .

Including targets on representative decision making, rule of law and a proper justice system, transparency and accountability and access to information all point to democratic governance. It is the argument that democratic governance will enable a peaceful environment within which development goals will be achieved. This is the context within which we situate the media.

Democratic governance is closely related to the main purposes of the United Nations. Respect for human rights enables society to promote durable peace, while it is also true that we can only guarantee human rights in peaceful situations. It is harder to guarantee human rights in violent conflict. In addition, the rule of law and strong justice institutions that do not allow impunity are enablers of peace. Indeed it is in peaceful situations that we can be sure of development outcomes. This is why the UN is enthusiastic about democratic governance.

There is a major international debate over what democracy comprises. The essence of this argument (Kaldor 2007) focuses on the extent to which democracy is procedural (what has also been referred to as minimalist), or substantive (what has also been termed substantial).

Procedural democracy comprises first and foremost the holding of free and fair elections, together with the existence of independent institutions, such as a judiciary, the separation of the legislature from the executive and the existence of some form of civil society. In this context, the existence of free media is also often cited, but generally conceptualized in minimalist terms of being reasonably free of overt government control. Procedural democracy is common in many parts of Africa where leaders reluctantly accept democratic governance out of pressure from external forces (and sometimes from within). They allow for elections to be conducted, but with many flaws. There are institutions like the Judiciary, but largely compromised. In most cases there is the strongman mentality – the overbearing induvial who commands the armed forces. Such democracy is minimalist.

Substantive democracy builds on this concept of democracy but focuses additionally and explicitly on the capacity of citizens to hold authorities to account between elections, and tends to emphasize an informed, engaged citizenry able to engage in public debate and create public opinion that governments feel bound to heed. Such a substantive notion of democracy inevitably presupposes a citizenry that is informed, is able to debate ideas in public and able to communicate those ideas in ways that shape public opinion and ultimately policy.

Such substantive notions of democracy place a strong emphasis on concepts of a healthy, vibrant public sphere. In this notion of democracy, the role of media goes beyond being “free,” and attention focuses additionally on the extent to which media inform publics of the issues that shape their lives, provide spaces for informed and inclusive public debate, and provide an outlet for the voices and perspectives of citizens, including marginalized ones. Issues of who the media are owned or controlled by, who they cater to in terms of audience (and particularly in the development context whether they cater to people living in poverty) and whose voices they choose to give legitimacy to, all become key questions in terms of the quality of democracy. It is clear to me that to achieve Goal 16 – and indeed all the SDGs we must focus on substantive democracy.

UNESCO has come up with some elements we need to look at. These are discussed both in the context of freedom of expression and substantive democracy.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is widely seen as underpinning democratic freedoms such as the right to form political parties, share political ideas, query the actions of public officials, and so on.

Media outlets are crucial to the exercise of freedom of expression because they provide the public platform through which the right is effectively exercised. The idea of media as a platform for democratic debate embraces a variety of overlapping functions. Media, in this context, refers to all those channels that carry news and public information.

According to UNESCO, media may be seen as:

  • a channel of information and education through which citizens can communicate with each other;
  • a disseminator of stories, ideas and information;
  • a corrective to the “natural asymmetry of information” (Islam 2002:1) between governors and governed and between competing private agents;
  • a facilitator of informed debate between diverse social actors, encouraging the resolution of disputes by democratic means;
  • a means by which a society learns about itself and builds a sense of community, and which shapes the understanding of values, customs and tradition;
  • a vehicle for cultural expression and cultural cohesion within and between nations;
  • a watchdog of government in all its forms, promoting transparency in public life and public scrutiny of those with power through exposing corruption, maladministration and corporate wrongdoing; and
  • an essential facilitator of the democratic process and one of the guarantors of free and fair elections

However, media can sometimes reinforce the power of vested interests and could even promote conflicts as has been widely reported during the Genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. Thus, many commentators argue that independent journalism is a necessary but not sufficient means of strengthening democratic governance and promoting human development. They suggest that these goals are achieved most effectively under certain conditions, including: in societies where channels of mass communications are free and independent of established interests; and in addition, where there is widespread access to these media.

Under what conditions are media most likely to contribute to this democratic society or the substantive democracy we have described? UNESCO identifies five conditions:

1.Where there is a system of regulation conducive to freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity of the media: existence of a legal, policy and regulatory framework which protects and promotes freedom of expression and information, based on international best practice standards and developed in participation with civil society.

2.When a society has plurality and diversity of media, a level economic playing field and transparency of ownership: the state actively promotes the development of the media sector in a manner which prevents undue concentration and ensures plurality and transparency of ownership and content across public, private and community media.

  1. media operate as a platform for democratic discourse: the media, within a prevailing climate of self-regulation and respect for the journalistic profession, reflects and represents the diversity of views and interests in society, including those of marginalised groups. There is a high level of information and media literacy.

4.In a situation where journalists have adequate capacity and supporting institutions that underpins freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity: media workers have access to professional training and development, both vocational and academic, at all stages of their career, and the media sector as a whole is both monitored and supported by professional associations and civil society organisations.

 

5.Where the infrastructural capacity is sufficient to support independent and pluralistic media: the media sector is characterised by high or rising levels of public access, including among marginalised groups, and efficient use of technology to gather and distribute news and information, appropriate to the local context.

Other scholars have argued that these UNESCO standards are not adequate to guarantee media that will support substantive democracy, especially in this age of digital media and increased commercialisation of media. Indeed there are fears that traditional media as we know it may disappear in the near future. Even in Nigeria we know that newspaper circulation has greatly diminished, while millions of young people are spending more time on social media than traditional media. Studies have shown that in many countries there is increasing distrust of the media. The media in the US were largely seen to portray President Trump negatively, and indeed never gave him a chance, but he won elections. It showed a level of disconnect between the media and the people.

Herman and Chomsky (2002) have expounded on what they call a propaganda model. While their focus was mainly on the American media, they identify five forces that work to filter media content to suite the powerful people in society. This has been happening over the years, thus alienating the population from the mainstream media.

These five forces are:

The media owners: increasingly in a number of countries big media companies have concentrated ownership which can be traced to just few powerful individuals. These inevitably control the content which emanates from the string of their operations. One powerful group may own a number of TV stations, online newspapers, radio stations and print newspapers. While there is plurality in terms of the variety of media houses, when traced to the owners there is shrinking space. These owners are more interested in profit than in media as a platform for democratic discourse.

Advertising revenues: these provide another filter for the media. Media depend on big advertisers for their survival. This means where the issues affect the source of revenue, the media houses will tread softly. Advertisers are always keen to discriminate against what they consider unfriendly media organisations.

Media sources: a number of public and private enterprises have developed strong public information departments that flood media with their facts. This is another means of controlling news media. The big organisations and interest groups over time get their narrative to become the dominant paradigm in news and media. This does not always mean that society in general is in agreement with what the media churns out.

Another filter is what they call ‘flak’ or organised negative response to media output. Some of the flak can be threatening and in other cases just putting pressure on editors regarding what the powerful see as ‘acceptable behaviour.’ Some of this comes from ‘respected’ think tanks and individuals who try to ‘beat into line’ the media.

The Ideologists: these are mainly think tank organisations that tend to define the world for all of us. They define for us who are our enemies and the basic tenets of society. They do this effectively through media seminars; media development initiatives and in the developing world they train journalists; provide them with grants and directions on what and how to report.

These filters narrow the range of news that passes through the gates into the newspaper pages and airwaves. Even in so-called democratic societies, journalists gate keepers do not feel threatened by the State but are constrained by these levels of filters and what eventually gets published is what the big and powerful want to see. The journalists may not even be aware because these filters work over time to create a media reality. This over time has alienated the masses who have largely lost trust in the media. It therefore comes as no surprise that in an era of the mobilising power of social media the mainstream media could not predict the victory of Donald Trump and Brexit.

Richard Sambrook a Professor of Journalism, Cardiff University, the UK, wrote an article on why the media got it so wrong on Trump and Brexit. He identifies five reasons:

First, big media has too easily become part of the political/celebrity bubble and tends to forget that journalism is meant to be an “outsider” activity – outside the halls of power, but not outside the communities it serves.

Secondly, too much of the media spends too much time talking to itself and not to the communities it serves. It’s true of columnists competing with each other for contrariness and impact and true of broadcasting where presenters interview correspondents about politicians’ tactical views of an event far away.

Thirdly, the news media, as we know, is going through a torrid economic change. Advertising rates are tumbling and digital revenues are not growing fast enough to make up the shortfall. As a consequence we have seen deep newsroom cuts and the collapse of local news both in the US and, to a large extent, in the UK.

Fourth, most reporting is done from the desktop and less and less on the ground. This has meant the antennae picking up and understanding social change are no longer there. Easy talk has been too often prioritised over newsgathering because it’s cheaper – but not necessarily well informed. And in elections, it has exacerbated an over-reliance on telephone and online polls – now proven unreliable.

Fifth, the internet has allowed anyone to take part in public debate. There is much to be celebrated about a more democratic media environment – but is has also led to deliberate misinformation (sometimes for commercial reasons, often for political reasons) – which has become toxic – what is now called ‘Fake News.’

A recent study conducted by Westergaard and Jogenson attempts to identify solutions to the current challenges for media. In what they called ‘54 newsrooms, 9 countries, and 9 core ideas’ two researchers have published a report on a yearlong research journey, undertaken in 2017, through nine European countries and the United States, visiting and studying 54 media companies pioneering new ways to connect with their audiences and communities.

They wanted to identify how media in the contemporary times can be successful at creating and maintaining ties with their readers, users, listeners and viewers so as to continue playing their role in a democratic society. Their findings show that journalism as we knew it will have to fundamentally change. We have known the basic principles of journalism to include truth and accuracy; objectivity; fairness; impartiality or neutrality; and to act as an independent and arms-length monitor of power. But they say that all this will change in these nine ways:

By Bolu-Olu Esho

It is commonplace during election period in any society to see streets littered with posters and billboards of different shapes and sizes awashed with images and effigies of contestants from various political parties.

Towns, villages and huts in Ekiti State are currently aglow by these seasonal unsolicited decorations meant to tempt, persuade and convince the residents on who to cast their votes for in the July 14, 2018 governorship election in the state.

Familiar are these people, both educated and those who could only figure out what the messages are all about by studying the images thereof. Some, with the help of their little children in elementary schools, they understand the messages which are usually written in foreign language, English.

The air is rendered with blare of music that come in different genres composed by jingle producers to draw the attention of these people who are seasonal brides owing to a plastic card in their possession that has been legalised as the only means of determining who represents the people in terms of managing the affairs of their society.

Unlike the Yuletide that comes once a year, this fun only comes once in four years. The people catch their fun while the period lasts, but the eclipse of the euphoria makes them see the reality of the choice they make when they cast their votes.

More often than not, their mistakes happen whenever they place premium on what they could collect as individuals from a candidate before the election rather than what such candidate could do for the collective betterment of the society.

Some politicians, who are usually out to milk the system, always exploit this weakness of these people by rubbing their palms with some crispy N200 notes accompanied with two cups of rice sealed in a sachet in exchange for their votes.

Besides, these evil politicians hide under this same umbrella to doctor results of this poll to their favour, hijacking the mandate of the people.

As the election day is drawing fast closer, most of the candidates are moving from one town to another to sell themselves to the electorate. Some of them are just introducing themselves to the people because they are green horns in the politics at least before the people.

Some are known to the people, but their pedigree and parties they belong require high profile marketer to push them down the throat of the people.

Another category of candidates are those who are only visiting these people four years after they came for the same purpose and they obliged them but failed their own part of the two-way deal.

Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) is currently enjoying what could be described as a payback time for a promise fulfilled among the people.

A good observer at every campaign gathering addressed by Fayemi would surely notice the eagerness on the part of the people to see him return to office as the governor of the state.

For instance, in each of towns, villages and settlements visited by the APC governorship candidate, a community leader would reel out projects and programmes executed by the Dr. Fayemi-led administration in the community during his first term in office. The community leader reeled out these projects and programmes in form of questions and the people would answer in unison confirming claims of their leader.

As expected, political party leaders would step forward to ask the people what project the present administration in the state has done in their community to warrant them to cast their vote for the candidate being sponsored by the governor.

Unfortunately, the Peoples Democratic Party-led government had abandoned more than 75 percent of the over 300 towns and communities in the state since its inauguration almost four years ago. In most of these communities, development came to a halt since Fayemi's administration was arm twisted by the PDP-led Federal Government in 2014 by falsifying the results of the governorship election.

At Ikogosi, the people were crying that the Ikogosi Warm Spring Tourists Centre has been shut down by Governor Ayodele Fayose, forcing operators of the bottled water factory that bottles the spring water to shut down. Workers at the factory and tourists centre joined other residents of the community to urge on Dr. Fayemi, promising him their votes.

By Bolu-Olu Esho

As the governorship election in Ekiti State draws nearer, all political parties in the state that have presented standard bearers for the election are reeling out different programmes to woo electorates to their side.

No fewer than 35 parties are jostling to hold the reins of power of the state four the next four years.

Among the political parties that are working to record victory at the poll include; Dr Kayode Fayemi(APC), Prof Kolapo Olusola(PDP), Chief Adebisi Omoyeni of Mega Party of Nigeria, MPN, Amb Dare Bejide of Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, Dr Sikiru Lawal of Labour Party, LP and Rev Tunde Afe of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, ANRP.

Others include Chief Abiodun Aluko(Accord Party), Akinloye Ayegbusi(SDP), Senator Bode Olowoporoku (Advanced Congress of Democrats), Lucas Orubuloye(All Grassroot Alliance), Otunba Segun Adewale(Action Democratic Party), Hon Stephen Oribamise(All Grand Alliance Party), Malam Jimoh Saheed(African Peoples Alliance), and Barr Tope Adebayo(Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance).

On the list are Amb Ayodeji Ayodele(All Progressives Grand Alliance), Prince Adegboye Ajayi(Better Nigeria Peoples Party), Ayodele Adesua(Democratic Alternative), Olalekan Olanrewaju(Democratic Peoples Congress), Yinka Akerele(Democratic Peoples Party), Sule Ganiyu(Freedom and Justice Party), Adewale Akinyele(Green Party of Nigeria),Tosin Ajibare(Independent Democrats), Tope Amuda(Kowa Party), Labour Party, LP (Temitope Amuda); Masses Movement of Nigeria, MMN (Olabode Jegede); National Democratic Liberty Party, NDLP (Babatunde Alegbeleye); Nigeria Peoples Congress, NPC (Dr Oladosu Olaniyi); Peoples for Democratic Change, PDC (Dada Olayinka); and Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA (Goke Animasahun).

The rest are Action Alliance, AA (Shola Omolola); United Democratic Party, UDP (Dr Olusegun Adeleye); Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN (Gboyega Jacob); Young Democratic Party, YDP (Fakorede Ayodeji); and Young Progressive Party, YPP (Temitope Omotayo).

However, it is pertinent to give the agenda presented by the All Progressives Congress' candidate, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi a critical look to see how beneficial they are to people of the state. This is so because he's the only former governor staging a comeback to the seat of power in the state, having lost in the last election to what has been described as "grand rigging and the worst in the history of elections in Nigeria," and must be a watershed for the people of the state.

Picking inclusive governance as a priority in his agenda tagged: COLLECTIVE RESCUE MiSSION 2, one may begin to think what this would translate to in the life of ordinary people in the street. In his analysis, Dr.Fayemi declared that this approach to governance helped him during his first term in office to make tremendous impact in the life of the people.

During the period, it would be recalled that Town Hall meetings were held in all the 16 local governments in the state, during which each community in each of the local governments would present their desired projects to the governor. These desired projects would form the bedrock of the state government annual Budget for each of the local governments. This concept allows government to plan with the people rather planning for the people.

The state, no doubt, needs massive infrastructural development to better the life of the people. But Dr. Fayemi is adopting the same system of operation he used during his first term in office when he mandated chairmen of all local governments to ensure 5km of township roads are constructed within the council areas.

Requests of farmers living in the farm steads were put into consideration as all roads leading to farm settlements were graded to allow smooth passage of vehicles for easy transportation of farm produce to towns and the urban centers. Consequently, farmers were better off economically as the usual wastage they recorded due to inability to convey their farm produce to markets became a thing of the past.

Social amenities, particularly water supply, are included in the action plan of the APC standard bearer having been familiar with the yearnings of the people.

As Modernising Agriculture is part of what form the fulcrum of the agenda, this, according to Fayemi, would serve as the launchpad for job creation, as youths would be encouraged to key into various mechanised agric-business programmes already mapped out.

By Bolu-Olu Esho

As the governorship election in Ekiti State draws nearer, all political parties in the state that have presented standard bearers for the election are reeling out different programmes to woo electorates to their side.

No fewer than 35 parties are jostling to hold the reins of power of the state four the next four years.

Among the political parties that are working to record victory at the poll include; Dr Kayode Fayemi(APC), Prof Kolapo Olusola(PDP), Chief Adebisi Omoyeni of Mega Party of Nigeria, MPN, Amb Dare Bejide of Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN, Dr Sikiru Lawal of Labour Party, LP and Rev Tunde Afe of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party, ANRP.

Others include Chief Abiodun Aluko(Accord Party), Akinloye Ayegbusi(SDP), Senator Bode Olowoporoku (Advanced Congress of Democrats), Lucas Orubuloye(All Grassroot Alliance), Otunba Segun Adewale(Action Democratic Party), Hon Stephen Oribamise(All Grand Alliance Party), Malam Jimoh Saheed(African Peoples Alliance), and Barr Tope Adebayo(Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance).

On the list are Amb Ayodeji Ayodele(All Progressives Grand Alliance), Prince Adegboye Ajayi(Better Nigeria Peoples Party), Ayodele Adesua(Democratic Alternative), Olalekan Olanrewaju(Democratic Peoples Congress), Yinka Akerele(Democratic Peoples Party), Sule Ganiyu(Freedom and Justice Party), Adewale Akinyele(Green Party of Nigeria),Tosin Ajibare(Independent Democrats), Tope Amuda(Kowa Party), Labour Party, LP (Temitope Amuda); Masses Movement of Nigeria, MMN (Olabode Jegede); National Democratic Liberty Party, NDLP (Babatunde Alegbeleye); Nigeria Peoples Congress, NPC (Dr Oladosu Olaniyi); Peoples for Democratic Change, PDC (Dada Olayinka); and Progressive Peoples Alliance, PPA (Goke Animasahun).

The rest are Action Alliance, AA (Shola Omolola); United Democratic Party, UDP (Dr Olusegun Adeleye); Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN (Gboyega Jacob); Young Democratic Party, YDP (Fakorede Ayodeji); and Young Progressive Party, YPP (Temitope Omotayo).

However, it is pertinent to give the agenda presented by the All Progressives Congress' candidate, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi a critical look to see how beneficial they are to people of the state. This is so because he's the only former governor staging a comeback to the seat of power in the state, having lost in the last election to what has been described as "grand rigging and the worst in the history of elections in Nigeria," and must be a watershed for the people of the state.

Picking inclusive governance as a priority in his agenda tagged: COLLECTIVE RESCUE MiSSION 2, one may begin to think what this would translate to in the life of ordinary people in the street. In his analysis, Dr.Fayemi declared that this approach to governance helped him during his first term in office to make tremendous impact in the life of the people.

During the period, it would be recalled that Town Hall meetings were held in all the 16 local governments in the state, during which each community in each of the local governments would present their desired projects to the governor. These desired projects would form the bedrock of the state government annual Budget for each of the local governments. This concept allows government to plan with the people rather planning for the people.

The state, no doubt, needs massive infrastructural development to better the life of the people. But Dr. Fayemi is adopting the same system of operation he used during his first term in office when he mandated chairmen of all local governments to ensure 5km of township roads are constructed within the council areas.

Requests of farmers living in the farm steads were put into consideration as all roads leading to farm settlements were graded to allow smooth passage of vehicles for easy transportation of farm produce to towns and the urban centers. Consequently, farmers were better off economically as the usual wastage they recorded due to inability to convey their farm produce to markets became a thing of the past.

Social amenities, particularly water supply, are included in the action plan of the APC standard bearer having been familiar with the yearnings of the people.

As Modernising Agriculture is part of what form the fulcrum of the agenda, this, according to Fayemi, would serve as the launchpad for job creation, as youths would be encouraged to key into various mechanised agric-business programmes already mapped out.

PROTOCOL.

I want to welcome all my colleagues and other participants, mostly importantly our sponsor, Terre Des homes (Tdh) as well as co -partner Child Protection Network (CPN)to this training, which is coming at the appropriate time in view of the worrisome development on child migration within and outside the country.

It has been observed that, we do not give enough attention to reporting and how best to report child protection issues as journalists, rather we focus more on politics and other sectors, neglecting the importance of the children who if better treated and guided are the future leaders to turn around not just the country but the world.

In view of the above, Penpushing approached the well-known International Non-Government Organisation, Terre des hommes as well as Child Protection Network on how best to upgrade our knowledge as journalists to pave way for our positive contributions in addressing the menace of child protection generally and particularly migration and trafficking among other vices surrounding the development of the child.

Last Wednesday, there was a twist to the usual story of June 12, 1993 annulled election.

President Muhammadu Buhari did the unthinkable by honouring the martyr of democracy, the late Basorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (M.K.O.) Abiola, with the most prestigious national honour in the country the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

The president also pronounced that June 12 be declared as Democracy Day, replacing May 29 which the military decreed in 1999 to usher in this Republic.

The following day, the story, like a surging bird, fled with both wings across all major media platforms.

Though, not unexpected, the pronouncements triggered various arguments,and reactions from eminent Nigerians, both within and outside the government circle.

While some people see President Buhari's posthumous honours to the late Abiola and human rights activist, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), as a Greek gift to the Yoruba ahead of the 2019 elections, a fewothers said it was long overdue, describing it as the best gift ever for the memories of the late Abiola and several other heroes and heroines that eventually died and paid the supreme price for democracy to stand.

Families of the late Abiola and Fawehinmi had accepted the posthumous honours in good faith, thanking the president for deeming it fit to honour their patriarchs, even in death.

Whether the Federal Government' s decision was more political than legal, as argued by some people, for me, it is crystal clear that the journey to make June 12 our Democracy Day started several years back.

It was a journey that was morphed into series of struggle and activities.

We started the journey together. Even when I was detained in 2006, the annual commemoration of the June 12 annulled election was held in my absence at this venue.

Thanks to the courage and steadfastness of the leadership of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) for sustaining the ideals of the June 12 struggle for the past 25 years.

Today, having made the sacrifices, I feel relieved to witness this day being recognised as our Democracy Day.

The glory of this day is not for me alone, it is the glory of all members of OPC, and a few other civil society groups that share the same ideology with us. It is the triumph of victory over defeat.

Today, we have defeated the evil voices that killed the dream of the late MKO Abiola.Today, we have silenced the voices of the evil doers. Also, we have made history as the only group in the country that echoes the sanctity of this day to the people.

The voice of the people, they say, is the voice of God. Celebrating today annually as our Democracy Day for the past two decades come with a lot of sacrifices, but we thank God that the reward came in due time.

On this note, I will also like to express my appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for taking the bold initiative of honouring the late Abiola, and the late Gani Fawehinmi. I am sure posterity will always be kind to him for putting Nigeria's democratic history in the right perspective.

The truth is, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Beyond that, on this special occasion today, we shall be honouring 21 prominent people with special awards, for their roles during the June 12 struggle, and after the death of MKO Abiola.

These are people that have, in the last two decades, distinguished themselves by honouring us with their presence annually on this programme. They give lectures and have remained vocal to the June 12 struggle. They deserve nothing less for keeping faith with us till this present moment.

I think it is also important to look back a bit to the event of the June 12 annulled election.The gory story of June 12 could best be told by those of us that have the grace to be alive today. And for the younger generations, the June 12 episode was one event that actually shaped the destiny of this nation. But today, it is a new beginning.

On June 23, 1993, that historic election was annulled by the then Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, in conjunction with some enemies of our great nation. Before the June 12,1993election, hopes were high that Nigerians would heave a sigh of relief, after long years of misrule by the military.

Nigerians wanted democracy at all costs. We wanted democracy badly. We were tired of the maradona machinations and gimmicks. We went to the polls and we elected our leader. From all indications, the late Basorun M.K.O. Abiola, a philanthropist and business mogul, won the election with a landslide victory.

That was the situation of our hope until the 'evil genius' struck and the widely celebrated election was annulled. Our hopes were dashed and Nigerians took to the streets to protest the dastardly act.

In the course of the struggle, lives were lost. Businesses collapsed. Both adults and children were killed in their prime. Some notable Yoruba leaders and pro-democracy activists were killed and jailed over the June 12 crisis.

They include the late Basorun M.K.O. Abiola and wife, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane, Vice-AdmiralMuftau Adegoke Babatunde Elegbede,Dr. Sola Omatsola and Alhaja Suliat Adedeji. The list is endless.

Even Prof. Wole Soyinka, Balarabe Musa, General Alani Akinrinade, the late Gani Fawehinmi and several others were traumatised over the June 12 annulled election.The late Abiola and others gave their lives so that Nigeria might have democracy.Don't forget that the late Abiola was the 14th Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland. All his life, he demonstrated an unwavering commitment to justice and good government.

Today, as his successor to the prestigious position and the 15th Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, I, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams, resolve to unite the Yoruba race and preach the gospel of peace to all Nigerians.

I remember during my seclusion in Oyo in the build-up to my installation as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo in January this year, my prayer was that good things would start happening in Yorubaland and Nigeria. During the installation, the general prayer by elders was: 'Igba yin a tu wa lara o.'

I thank Almighty God today that in less than five months of my installation, we have started seeing the hand of God in our land. Even in the Bible, Psalms 34:19 says: 'Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all'.

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