Finally, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday directed that Democracy Day will be marked every year on June 12, rather than May 29, which had been observed as Democracy Day since 1999 when the current democratic dispensation began. Democrats have insisted that celebrating May 29 as Democracy Day in Nigeria remains a skewed history by the military oligarchy that destroyed Nigeria with successive military coups, which of course Buhari is a strong member.
The shift in the date of Democracy Day is in honour of the Late Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12 Presidential election. The June 12 presidential election, described as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history, was annulled by former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, who at the time over threw the regime of Buhari. Though the results of the election were not fully announced before it was annulled by Babangida, Abiola was believed to have won the election based on collations from all the states. Abiola later died in government detention in pursuit of his mandate.
A statement released by the Presidency and signed by Buhari said Abiola would also be conferred with the highest national honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic. The honour reserved for President, would be conferred on the late politician posthumously on June 12, which is the 25th anniversary of the election. Also to be honoured are Abiola’s running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, and late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN. Both would receive the second highest national honour, Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON), which is reserved for Vice President.
The statement read, “For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29, 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 21, 1979. But in the view of Nigerians, as shared by this administration, June 12, 1993 was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even the October 1. June 12, 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 12 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 12, 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualisation of the June 12 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 12, 2018, a date which in future years will replace May 29 as a National Public Holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day.”