He also canvassed strict adherence to the principles of rule of law, separation of powers, sovereignty of parliament, independence of the judiciary, and freedom of the press, adding that “our constitutional institutions must be preserved and protected”.
“As we celebrate democracy today, I congratulate our people and express my conviction that this system of government is the best so far invented. However, it goes beyond the conduct of elections to put leaders in office. Democracy involves strict adherence to rule of law as against the rule of men. It is about respect for due process and following laid down procedures. It is about respect for and building of institutions.
“That is why we cannot be celebrating Democracy Day without canvassing for caution on some recent negative developments in our polity, particularly as we prepare for next year’s general elections. These include abuse of office in a manner that suggests persecution and oppression of perceived enemies, stifling of free expression, undermining of democratic institutions, and impunity on the part of certain persons who behave as though they are above the laws of the land.
“These developments should be of concern to all democrats. Other political and opinion leaders who decided to veil their sight as if they are not seeing these infractions on democracy and choose to keep quiet, should know that they equally pose danger to the survival of our country.
“History will not be fair to us if we allow our complacency to jeopardize democracy. We all must be able to speak out with strong voice on issues that constitute a danger to democracy. Eternal vigilance, they say, is the price of liberty.
“At this point, let us remember and salute our heroes of democracy, those who toiled and paid different prices for us to have elected government, particularly, those who paid the ultimate price with their lives. Their labour shall definitely not be in vain.
“Also, it is important for us to quickly tackle all issues that can undermine our democracy, particularly insecurity and lack of good governance. We must immediately find solution to the security issues and ensure that we return the regime of peace, safety of lives and property in all parts of our country. In the same way, we must do all that is necessary to deliver good governance to our people and fight corruption at all levels. These challenges must be confronted by all political leaders devoid of party loyalty, ethnicity, religion and personal preferences. We must all set aside our personal interests and work as a collective on these aforementioned issues.
“It is equally necessary to warn that with the 2015 polls, we have set a very high standard in Africa. We cannot afford to perform less in 2019. The next general elections must be freer, fairer and more peaceful than the last one. Those responsible for conducting the polls must raise the bar and work to take Nigeria to a higher level of electoral process.
“It is important for all of us to note that Nigeria will continue to exist after the 2019 polls. Just as the country is still here after the 2015 polls. We must therefore not do anything that will threaten the existence of the country or its peace, unity and tranquility.
“Let me use this occasion to urge our all our people to avoid making and circulating hate speech which can further accentuate our fault lines and set one section of the country against the other. Rather, we should all embrace tolerance and the need to be our brother’s keeper. We all have a lot to gain from a united and stronger Nigeria than having a nation embedded in conflict.
“As we celebrate Democracy Day, it is my wish that Nigerians will continue to enjoy good governance, provided by freely elected government and sustained by strong and impartial institutions, all of which will lead to the creation of a developed society with the citizens freely enjoying a high standard of living,” Saraki stated.