Nigeria is not yet a “full-blown” democracy but a work in progress, All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has said.
He said everyone must work towards moving Nigeria from being a “civilian dispensation” to a true democracy.
The former Lagos State governor spoke in Lagos at the weekend when he received the National Icon of Democracy award at the Tell Awards for Excellence 2016.
It was held at the Civic Centre on Victoria Island on Saturday night.
Tinubu, represented by former Lagos Commissioner for Information and Strategy Mr. Dele Alake, said some of the tenets of democracy were still lacking, adding that such heights could be attained.
“This civilian dispensation that we have – we don’t call it full blown democracy. What we have today is a civilian dispensation. So, our democracy is a work in progress, and we believe by the grace of God that we’ll achieve full blown democracy in our time.
“So, every one of us must work towards full blown democracy in Nigeria. We all know the tenets and principles of full blown democracy. And we hope we shall achieve them in our own time in Nigeria,” he said.
Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade and his Borno counterpart Kashim Shettima jointly won the Governor of the Year Award. Ayade was represented by Deputy Governor Prof. Ivara Esu.
First Lady Mrs. Aisha Buhari was named the Woman of the Year. She was represented by her Chief of Staff Dr. Hajo Sani.
Man of the Year awards went to the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi and Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II.
Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Prof. Umar Danbatta got the Chief Executive Officer of the Year award; the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) received the Public Organisation of the Year award; while Dangote Cement was named the Private Sector Organisation of the Year.
Chairman of Zinox Group Leo Stan Ekeh was got the Lifetime Pioneering Entrepreneur of the Year award; Air Peace won the Domestic Airline of the Year, while the Comptroller-General of Immigration Muhammad Babandede got the Outstanding Public Servant of the Year award.
Post-humous awards were given to the pioneer Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine, the late Dele Giwa, and the human rights crusader, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).
Giwa got the All-Time Award of National Icon of Freedom of Speech; Fawehinmi got the All-Time National Hero Award for Rule of Law and Human Rights Advocacy.
Tinubu praised Tell for its commitment to democracy through advocacy journalism, and urged other media outfits to emulate it.
“People of my own generation have nothing but nostalgia for the type of journalism that Tell represented in those heady days of militarism. Tell was at the forefront of advocacy journalism, with an array of prolific writers dishing out deep and thought provoking analysis on the state of Nigeria with the attendant risk to their own lives.
“Nigerian journalism today must return to that era of deep investigative journalism, of probing facts, incisive analysis, insightful opinions, and cogent editorials, so that the level of enlightenment of Nigerians can be enhanced towards enthronement of democracy,” he said.
Some of the awardees spoke of the need to sustain Nigeria’s unity.
Shettima, who condemned the quit notice issued the Igbo by Northern youth groups, said the country’s strength lies in its diversity.
“No one has the mandate to give anyone a quit notice. We are very proud of the Igbo. Nobody can drive them out of the North,” he said.
He urged the elite and elders to be united in their condemnation of all forms of “extremism”, adding that everything must be done to keep Nigeria united.
“The hope of the black man lies in the people of Nigeria,” Shettima said.
Giving the reasons why Ayade was picked, Igiebor said: ”Ayade’s leadership style has shown that with the right kind of leaders, Nigeria can indeed be a great country we all dream of.”
He added: “When the committee decided that we threw the selection process open to Nigerians to decide who their Governor of the Year was, Ayade’s name was a recurrent decimal because of his outstanding performance in Cross River State.
“We wanted to celebrate heroes of service in Nigeria. Ayade was less than two years in office and he had already shown the way as well as become a role model in the country.”
He noted that the organisers of the award were impressed with the governor’s performs in such a short time despite the challenges of the economy.
Ayade, who was represented by Deputy Governor Ivara Esu, said it was a great challenge to deliver democratic dividends to the citizenry, given the parlous state of the economy and the harsh realities of the current economic recession.
The late Fawehimni’s son, Mohammed, faulted agitations for secession by various groups, and reiterated that Nigeria’s strength lies in its diversity.
Tell’s President Nosa Igiebor said the awards recognised credibility and worthiness of the “distinguished Nigerians.”
He paid tribute to the late Moshood Abiola, whose election as President was annulled.
Igiebor said it was an irony that the Southwest resisted moves to immortalise Abiola by renaming the University of Lagos after him.
But, Alake disagreed, saying the Southwest’s seeming rejection of the honour was because Abiola deserved a national honour and recognition, such as having the National Stadium in Abuja named after him.
Also at the event were former Information Minister Prince Tony Momoh, Vanguard Publisher Sam Amuka, former Lagos Deputy Governor Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, The Nation Editorial Board Chairman Sam Omatseye, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), among others.