President Muhammadu Buhari has on Wednesday named “June 12” as Nigeria’s Democracy Day and ordered immediate cancellation of “May 29” usually celebrated as democracy day.
Buhari further invested the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, posthumously with the nation’s highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
The election, Nigeria’s freest and fairest ever, was annulled by then Military President Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who gave no cogent reason for his action, which led to a long-drawn crisis, including the prolonged and draconian military rule under the late Gen. Sani Abacha between November 1993 and June 1998 when he suddenly died in office.
Abiola’s wife, Kudirat, was shot dead in Lagos while pursuing the restoration of her husband’s mandate. Abiola himself died in detention.
In a statement he personally signed on Wednesday, the President also honoured the late Abiola’s running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, with the second highest national honour, the Grand Comander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
Also honoured with GCON is the late human rights activist, Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi (SAN), a key crusader for Abiola’s immortalisation.
These honours are the first set of national awards to be given out by the three-year old Buhari administration.
Effective from next year, June 12 will henceforth be marked as Democracy Day, the President sad. Democracy Day is marked on May 29, the anniversary of the return to democracy in 1999, when Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who became military Head of State after Gen. Abacha’s death on June 8, 1998, ceded power to a civilian government.
Buhari said in the statement: ”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. 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,” a statement by the Presidency said yesterday.
“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 actualisation 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.”