With the prevailing political current in the country, different industry stakeholders are pushing for recognition and better stakes. It is this desire that necessitated the statement made last week by some groups in the maritime industry to come under the umbrella of Army of Democracy to speak with one voice at a press conference in Lagos .
Army of Democracy (AoD) is a Civil Society group founded with explicit belief in the values of democracy, hence its pair –off: Defending the values of democracy. It has professionals in different sectors of the economy as members and works in collaboration with different professional groups and stakeholders across different sectors of the economy, irrespective of their political and religious divides. The driving philosophy in AoD is commitment to make democracy add values to the people and polity.
Other aims and objectives are: To protect Nigerian democracy from being hijacked by bounty-hunters, to produce leaders not influenced by godfatherism but men and women desirous of adding values and see the people as the reason for being elected, to educate the populace on the need to guide and protect their votes during elections.
Some group members of AoD are: National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF); Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO); Youth Vanguard for Progressive Change (YVFPC) composed of all youth in military barracks across Lagos State; Imo All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos; PDP E Women, Lagos chapter; Igbo Professionals; Igbos in PDP Lagos.
We have watched the drift of democracy and its practitioners in Nigeria with bathed breath since 1999 and have come to a conclusion that a STATE of EMERGENCY is unavoidably needed to whip the nation to the path of redemption, democratically. Democracy is not a vice but a virtue. The sixteen years of the nation’s democratic practice is at best a fettered and a fatal journey, casting democracy in the mould of a curse like the nation’s discovery of oil in the 50’s.
It is with pain we observe that Nigeria’s present crop of politicians, with exception of few, are a threat to democracy. They are ‘Divorcees’ of delightful democracy, which is a convenient and purposeful contract between the people and the leaders. The cost of servicing democracy far outweighs the values it has added to Nigeria and Nigerians in sixteen years. Most of the flagship infrastructure across the country, both at the states and federal level as well as workable policies are the vestiges of the military era. This includes the present APC, PDP, APGA, etc. controlled states. We challenge them to a debate on this, with facts to prove us wrong.
This explains the reason we seek to support individuals with unquestionable pedigrees and vision to take up positions of leadership and help turn the fortunes of this country around for good. There is nothing really wrong with the political parties as a name but the individuals driving them. There are men and women who should not occupy any position of leadership in this country under democracy, legally and morally, who are still found wielding power and distributing indecency and profligacy. They constitute a threat to democracy and the future of this country and very soon they will be swept away by the peoples’ revolt, which is underway.
We cherish opposition in democracy because it makes democracy healthier and makes the return on democracy investment value- oriented. However, we condemn the desperation to take over power at all cost, as being demonstrated by APC in its campaign utterances already causing panic nationwide, necessitating the call for a peace accord recently signed by all parties’ presidential standard bearers.
We make bold to observe that the oversight in the Abuja Accord has not been addressed: There is no clause spelling out punishment for a defaulting party in event of infringement. Recall that the immediate cause of Nigeria’s civil war was the failure of Aburi Accord.
Ladies and gentlemen, another civil war is imminent and the unity of this country is under a big danger. We pray not to play into the alleged prediction of the United States National Intelligence Council (NIC) that Nigeria would break up in 2015 as released in 2005. With the prevailing developments in the country, it has become glaring that the “Democrats” cannot guarantee the common unity of the country because the politicians have become Lords unto themselves. However, the News here is that the military is waiting and ready to keep NIGERIA as one indivisible entity. As AoD, therefore, we call on the politicians, especially the leadership of all the parties to tread with caution. There may be no democratic structures any more soon to trade tackles with.
We have listened to the campaign speeches of President Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) and General Mohammed Buhari (APC),the major opposition party in the presidential race, and observed that they have not lived above board. The speeches are at best unpresidential and lacking in ideas and conviction. While GMB’s is punctuated by vituperations and “I wills” without “Hows”; GEJ’s is smeared with noticeable anger to respond to orchestrated mischief and misinformation bandied about by the opposition. Ideas, policies and other issues of national interest that could stimulate quality debates have taken flight in a presidential campaign of 21st century. We therefore call for a Presidential Debate for the candidates.
We believe in CONTINUITY in governance not CHANGE, however a continuity not represented by an individual or party but a good governance structure that would ensure consistency in policies and their implementation using top- to- bottom approach. Consequently, we call for a continuity legislation that will institute enduring governance structure where any individual or party irrespective of tribe or religion maintains the good policies with development plans over a given period of decades. Singapore has a success story today because of 40years of unbroken focused leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. The lessons in that democracy are: Transformational policies, political will for their enforcement and consistency laced with plans and benchmarks.
We detest any call for the post-ponement of the general elections billed for February as well as that of an interim government arrangement as a forerunner to credible elections. This is tantamount to truncating the run of democracy.
AoD urge Nigerians to cast their votes wisely for credible candidates not party, and do still firmly believe that Nigeria is still in search of a MESSIAH, who certainly has not been discovered. Both Jonathan and Buhari have been tested as President and the results are clear: They are dancers dancing to the drums of some political bounty-hunters and vampires. What we have in our hands is a case of two evils, which is preferable? Nigeria’s democracy needs a benevolent dictator to whip us to the path of redemption.
However, so much fuss has clogged our ears about Buhari’s certificate scandal. Certificates or qualifications do not guarantee good leadership nor do they put food on tables of Nigerians; but Buhari is clutching a moral burden if he fails to clear the air. This is a moral baggage!
We commend the Federal Government for the reduction in the fuel pump price, while appealing for the harmonization and reduction in multiple taxes killing small businesses across the country. The government’s proposed 10 percent VAT is inimical to business growth, especially for the SMEs that are engine of growth.
The tax philosophy leads us to Lagos State, the most taxed state in the country, where the level of development is not commensurate with level of income of about N36billion monthly with a hanging one Trillion naira debt yet to be paid. The SMEs are the prey here, yet they constitute the highest employers of labour in the state. It is unfortunate to note that there is corruption in Lagos State Government as much as being fingered at the federal level. Fact and figures abound.
Subsequently, we applaud the working document of the APC gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode . It is an all-pleasing and all-encompassing literature tinged with desperate scavenge for vote and contradictions, suggesting some hidden agenda, one of which is over taxation, implying that more businesses will close shop under the burden of taxation. He promised to boost the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) where multiple taxation is the order of the day and establish small business loan guarantee scheme, at the same breath pledging reduction in multiple tax.
We cannot afford to leave Lagos in the hands of a ‘Zacchious’, a tax master who ascended to this position with a pedigree of aiding the alleged looting of Lagos treasury as Accountant –General of the state.
Therefore, for a secure and safe Lagos of everybody’s dream, the Army of Democracy is hereby endorsing Mr. Jimi Agbaje as a candidate for the gubernatorial election in Lagos State.
Thank you all for listening.
Mr. John Obi, National Coordinator, Army of Democracy.