Olalekan Adetayo, Olufemi Atoyebi, Mudiaga Affe, Ihuoma Chiedozie, Etim Ekpimah, Armstrong Bakam, Enyioha Opara, and Gibson Achonu
President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors have ruled out elaborate celebrations to mark this year’s Democracy Day and their one year in office.
Findings by Saturday PUNCH showed that this decision was not unconnected with the current downturn in the nation’s economic fortunes.
Before now, past administrations usually marked May 29, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, with fanfare. This year’s event is particularly special as it is also doubling as the first year in office of President Buhari and many state governors.
But it was learnt that tomorrow’s event would be without any fanfare.
Buhari was inaugurated on May 29, 2015 to succeed former President Goodluck Jonathan, having won the March 28, 2015 presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
Since the return of democracy on May 29, 1999 with the inauguration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, May 29 of every year has been observed as the nation’s Democracy Day.
One week-long activities are usually lined up every year to commemorate the day.
One of our correspondents however learnt on Thursday that such programmes would not hold this year due to the economic crisis facing the country.
President Buhari had recently explained the shabby economic situation in the country at the second National Executive meeting of the All Progressives Congress in Abuja.
Buhari had said that the fall of oil price was a disaster and as a result, 27 of the 36 states of the federation were finding it difficult to pay salaries.
It was further learnt that to commemorate the day, the President would only make a nationwide anniversary broadcast on Sunday.
The President is expected to use the opportunity of the broadcast to list the achievements of his administration in the last one year and solicit further support from Nigerians.
He had earlier promised to disclose the amount so far recovered by his administration from looters in the speech.
The second programme for the day, it was further learnt, would be an interdenominational anniversary church service that is slated for the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo is expected to lead top government officials and friends of the nation to the service being organised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
“It is a low-key celebration. The major item on the agenda is the President’s broadcast to the nation,” a Presidency source said.
The government had on Wednesday declared Monday, May 30, a public holiday to commemorate the Democracy Day, which falls on Sunday.
Also, many governors have said there will be no elaborate celebrations to mar their one year in office.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that the governors shunned elaborate celebrations because of the huge amount of money required to fund the activities that might be lined up for the anniversary.
It was learnt that logistics, which is key to the celebrations, would likely gulp about 40 per cent of the money if the governors chose to make the celebrations elaborate.
According to findings, the governors’ decision came as a result of the decline in the federal allocations to the states following the fall in the international price of crude oil.
The Special Adviser on Media and Communication to the Bauchi State Governor, Alhaji Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, told one of our correspondents that the state government would only do what is needful.
Mohammed said, “Anything showy and extravagant will not be part of the one year anniversary. Activities lined up for the anniversary have been planned with the dictates of the austere moment.”
Also, the Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, said the state would not engage in any elaborate celebration.
Bello, who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Jide Orintunsin, said, “We are all aware of the economic hardship the country is facing; we have to be mindful of that before we do anything.”
According to him, anything that will not yield positive result to the people of the state will be avoided.
Imo State, which used to celebrate Democracy Day with fanfare when the economy was stable, had said that it would not pop champagne or any other wine like it used to.
The state Commissioner for Information, Youth and Sports, Chidi Ibe, told one of our correspondents that the current economic reality in the country had forced the state to opt for a low-key celebration.
He said, “When the economy used to be stable, we celebrated Democracy Day with a lot of money and fanfare. We decorated everywhere, placed adverts on the pages of the newspapers. It was either that the state government congratulated the President or the ministries felicitated with the governor.
“But this time around, it won’t be like that. All the fanfare associated with the celebration in the past cannot take place this time around.”
Cross River was among the states which got the lowest allocation from the Federal Government in the last two months. Its Internally Generated Revenue is about N500m per month.
Because of the paucity of fund, the state has decided to organise a town hall meeting to answer people’s questions, instead of throwing a big party to mark Governor Ben Ayade’s first year in office.
The Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Mr. Christian Ita, said rather than throwing a big party, Governor Ayade had concluded plans to have a “city hall meeting” to answer questions from the public.
He said, “No real celebration. For us, the employment that we have been able to create is worth more than any celebration. There will only be a city hall meeting where members of the public will interact with the governor.”
For the Oyo State Government, this is the time for reflection.
Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication, Mr. Yomi Layinka, told one of our correspondents in Ibadan on Friday that there was no basis for elaborate celebration because of the financial status of the state.
Layinka said, “We have several reasons to celebrate, but it will be low-key. The governor will hold meeting with stakeholders on the journey so far and the challenges facing the state while also rallying support for his government.
“We are all aware of the financial situation in the state and the general economy of the nation. This is the time for reflection, instead of elaborate celebration.”
Meanwhile, the Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, and his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Udom Emmanuel, were specific on how to mark their first one year in office.
The two governors said they planned to mark the anniversary with thanksgivings in the church. The Chief Press Secretary to the Enugu State Governor, Mr. Uwakwe Abugu, told one of our correspondents that the thanksgiving would hold at the Michael Okpara Square, after which the governor would address the people.
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umana, said whether thanksgiving would be loud or low-key was insignificant as praises to God could not be quantified.
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