In what has been interpreted as a political masterstroke, President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday declared June 12 as ‘Democracy day’in Nigeria, effectively annulling May 29 which had hitherto been so observed since 1999.
June 12, 1993 was the date of the presidential election popularly adjudged to be the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s political history.
Also the presumed winner of the election which was annulled by military president Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Moshood Abiola is to be conferred posthumously with the award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), which is the highest honour given to Heads of State.
In a statement released in Abuja, Nigeria Wednesday, Buhari described June 12 as “ far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even October 1”.
Excerpts of the statement signed by President Buhari read:
“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 October 1st.
“June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what were undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our independence. The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the 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 the 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 posthumously a GCON.
“The Commemoration and investiture will take place on Tuesday June 12th, 2018, a date which in future years will replace May 29th as the National Public Holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day.”