Senate President David Mark, his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu and Senator Bukola Saraki, yesterday urged Nigerians not to lose hope despite the numerous challenges associated with democracy, saying the system remains the best and most acceptable form of government.
The trio in separate statements reflected on 15 years of democracy in Nigeria and urged all and sundry to explore the opportunity of democracy to lead the nation to the promised land. Mark, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Paul Mumeh, spoke during a special service in commemoration of this year's Democracy Day at St. Mulumba's Catholic Chaplaincy, Apo, in Abuja, where he insisted that there was no alternative to democracy because it is participatory and representative of all.
"Nigeria is still the hope of Africa. We must not despair. We must remain resolute because there will be light at the end of the tunnel," he stated.
While bemoaning the unabating security situation in the land, Mark asked all citizens to cooperate with government and security operatives in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in the land and prayed for quick, safe and unconditional release of over 200 girls abducted from Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State. He described the situation as embarrassing.
"This is most embarrassing. How can they justify the abduction of these innocent girls whose only offence is that they chose to be educated to better their lots and ultimately contribute to the economic and socio-political development of their fatherland? We pray that God touches the heart of their abductors to free them even as we do everything humanly possible to rescue our girls. However, swapping them for criminals is not an option," the statement added.
Mark also lamented the incessant industrial actions especially in the education sector, noting that a situation where over 50 per cent of the academic session is spent on strike action is unhealthy for national development.
He therefore called on both the federal government and the striking polytechnics and colleges of education lecturers to return to the negotiating table in order to resolve the face-off that has kept students at home for almost one year.
In his own statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Uche Anichukwu, Ekweremadu assured Nigerians that the ongoing electoral reform by the National Assembly would go a long way in improving the nation's electoral system.
Describing Nigeria's 15 years of unbroken democracy as "historic and unprecedented," Ekweremadu added that the reforms would consolidate the country's democracy and prepare the nation adequately for the 2015 general election.
"Fifteen years of unbroken democratic rule is something to be proud of, especially for a country with our kind of history. Only a few could have given Nigeria any such chance about two decades ago, but here we are waxing stronger as a democratic nation.
"We also have every reason to be proud of what we were able to achieve in the 2011general election following the widely applauded electoral reforms. Although we still have several electoral challenges, the important thing is that the 2011 experience was a great leap forward given where we were coming from as a nation. I want to reassure fellow Nigerians of the commitment of the Senate to addressing observed electoral lapses and this will happen very soon to set the stage for the 2015 general election," he said
Ekweremadu who identified unemployment and insecurity as the nation's greatest challenges today, also expressed hopes that with federal government's relentless efforts in addressing both challenges, Nigeria would surely overcome the threat of Boko Haram and other security challenges and called for social welfare for the unemployed. In the same vein, Saraki in a statement, said celebration of Democracy Day marked a turning point in Nigeria's history, saying the day reminded everyone of the period that citizens chose to defy all odds and resolved to rebuild the nation on the principles of sovereignty by exercising their right to choose through the ballot box.
He added: "Nigeria's democracy since 1999 has hurtled through numerous crossroads that have served to define our strength as a nation and have made many of our institutions stronger. On this day, I want us to recognise Nigerians from all walks of life for their tireless and heroic sacrifices that have kept us together as a nation in spite of the difficult challenges that have confronted us.
"I want us to take a moment to pause, reflect and appreciate the millions of our fellow countrymen and women and those in every corner of the globe who have joined Nigerians to campaign tirelessly against the challenges facing the nation - particularly the attacks that emanate from terrorists.
"We must bear in mind that our organised strength lies in the common experiences we share with our fellow Nigerians, and our everyday successes as a nation are rooted in the foundations of our citizen-centered democracy."