On the campaign trail Charter of stability and progress*

THIS first principle is this: Man is the sole creative and purposive dynamic in nature: everything else by comparison is inert. In all the spheres of production, distribution, exchange, and consumption, he is the only active agent: all else is passive. He is the initiator and accelerator of every form of human progress: he is the generator of every initial impulse in human evolution. Any so-called plan for progress which, therefore, places man in a secondary place is basically in error, antithetic to the natural order of human endeavours, and is bound to fail, as well as be a bane rather than a blessing to the people. The so-called” green revolution” of the NPN, as I see it, could only benefit a few educated and already-well-to-do people unless it goes hand in hand with the education, health-care, and full development and employment of the entire mass of our people.

One of the causes of the- disastrous collapse of the First Republic was the failure to recognize the ultimate purpose of the State and the unique and prime status of man within the State. And one of the disturbing aspects of the present dispensation is that the NPN has no ideological direction, and Alhaji Shagari, for his part, and from his recent utterances, appears to have chosen to tread that accursed path which in yesteryear led to a calamitous end.

The fourth characteristic feature is tolerance. Tolerance has been defined as conceding to others the right which you claim for yourself. If you claim the right to criticize others or abuse or insult them, you must concede to them the right to criticize, abuse, or insult you in return. If you claim the right to administer the affairs of the people as their chosen representative, you must concede to them or to others of their representatives the right to question the propriety ot your conduct, if for any reason they think that you have acted improperly or dishonorably. Indeed tolerance can be described as “the Law and the Prophets” of the democratic way of life.

The fifth and sixth characteristic features are respectively the readiness of the party-in-power to surrender power at the end of its term of office, and the willingness of the contending political parties to accept the verdict of the electorate whenever it is freely given.

One of the banes of the First Republic was tenacity of office. The then Ministers and Legislators, and some of them are now in the leadership of the NPN, were not ready to surrender power when their time was up. In the result, they resorted to rigging of elections to keep themselves in power. As a consequence, and because the affected people had, for good reasons, lost confidence in the Judges who” were assigned to adjudicate on election petitions, the electorate rejected the rigged results, and embarked on a violent process of self-redress. It follows that willingness to accept the verdict of the electorate must be shored up by free and fair elections, and by the fearlessness and impartiality of the Judiciary to do justice, and be manifestly seen to do it, in all cases of disputed freeness and fairness in the election.

It is the hope and prayer of all right ‘thinking Nigerians that the next elections will not be rigged, and that the Judiciary will, before then, restore itself to its traditional and sacred position of being the trusted bulwark of the citizens’ protection against any kind of injustice from whatever quarter it emanates.

The seventh and last characteristic feature is investment in democracy through financial subvention to political parties. It is now generally accepted by the Democracies of Western Europe and the United States that since political parties are essential to democracy, and since these parties, except those heavily backed by big business, cannot financially fend for themselves, the Government should give adequate aid to them for organization and electioneering. This feature is not as young as it would appear at first sight. Because, at all material times, financial aid, in various but disguised forms, had always been given to political parties in the past.I have already dealt with this matter earlier in this address.

It is my considered view that every Government of the day should invest heavily in democracy. Apart from anything else, such investment will help to promote free and fair elections in Nigeria.

You will notice that thus far in this address, I have dealt with various aspects of democracy. I have done so because, at this juncture in the annals of our country, it is imperative and in the best interest of stability and progress that democracy should succeed.

But the portents are bad. And I do really tremble to contemplate any alternative to democracy. If we fail to make a success of this second experiment, the consequences will be most dreadful, and those of you who are much younger than myself, however long you may live, will never know democracy again. In the circumstances, I invite all well-meaning and patriotic Nigerians, to whatever political camp they may belong, to give an objective study to what I have had to say so that together we may evolve arrangements for making future elections free and fair and so save Nigeria permanently for democracy, stability, and progress. To these same ends, between now and the next elections, and thereafter for all time, we need, the following:

A tolerant and dedicated Executive;

A vigilant, constructive, and responsible Legislature;

An absolutely detached, fearless, impartial, and incorruptible Judiciary; and

A fearless, powerful and independent Press that will not be cloyed by government patronage or subverted by bribery, and threats of personal privations.

Since the First of October this year, a good number of occurrences have taken place: some eventful; others eventless. The historic inauguration of all our Governors throughout the country has come and gone, but it is only in a few States, including in particular the five UPN-controlled States, that this event brought cheer into the hearts of our people. The simple reason is that in those five States, the inauguration of the Governors did not just mean the elevation of five persons to a position of power and privilege. It means the advent of a new era – visible enough for everyone with eyes to see, and tangible enough for even the blind to feel. It means a new era of unprecedented dedicated service to the people, and of deep and abiding concern for their welfare and happiness.