By Sadiq Umar – President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that, effective from 2019, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, would no longer be marked every May 29 but instead on June 12 in commemoration of the 1993 general elections adjudged as the freest and fairest in the country.
Mr. Buhari announced a post-humous highest national honour award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) to late Moshood Abiola, the winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election. “after due consultations.”
While his then running mate, Babagana Kingibe would be awarded the next prestigious national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON). The late Abiola was a business mogul and philanthropy politician was the presidential flag-bearer of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) that won the election.
Attempts by Mr. Abiola to reclaim the mandate given him by electorates was met with resistance from General Sani Abacha who clamped him in prison where he died 8-years later in a controversial circumstance.
Some South-West States, the zone where Mr. Abiola hailed from have since been marking the Day as Democracy Day.
But successive governments at the Central have neither acceded call to recognize June 12 as Democracy Day nor accepted suggestions to grant Mr. Abiola a post-humous award.
President Olusegun Obasanjo ignored a motion passed by the 4th House of Representatives naming the National Stadium, Abuja after the late winner of the annulled election.
However, during the last administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, the University of Lagos was re-named after for Mr Abiola but the move was resisted by stakeholders of the university who faulted the move.
Also to receive a GCON national honour is the late Gani Fawehinmi, considered as Nigeria’s foremost prodemocracy activists.
“For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th, as Democracy Day. That was the date when for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government. The first time this happened was on October 21st, 1979,” Mr. Buhari noted in a statement Wednesday.
“But in the view of Nigerians, as shared by this Administration, June 12th, 1993, was far more symbolic of Democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29th or even the October 1st,” the presidency stated.
Adding that, “June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our Independence. The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military Government does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process.
“Accordingly, after due consultations, the Federal government has decided that henceforth, June 12th will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore, Government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded the GCON.
“The investiture will take place on Tuesday June 12th, 2018, a date which in future years will replace May 29th as a National Public Holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day.”