President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday night announced the cancellation of May 29 as Nigeria’s annual Democracy Day, declaring that the annual celebration will now hold on June 12.
June 12 before now has been a day celebrated to honor late MKO Abiola whose election as President on June 12, 1993 was annulled by the then Millitary head of state, Ibrahim Babangida in controversial circumstances. Election data showed Abiola won the polls upheld as the most credible in Nigeria’s history, he was never formally declared winner and was not sworn into office by the military junta of Ibrahim Babangida.
While the rest of the country has been celebrating Democracy Day on May 29th, Lagos and other part of the South-West have been marking June 12 as public holiday. There had been calls on successive governments to honour Abiola as winner of the election, and for the federal government to recognise June 12 as democracy day.
Aside declaring June 12 “as National Public Holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day”, Buhari, in a press release on Wednesday night, said Abiola will now be conferred with nation’s highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, a title exclusively conferred on presidents and former presidents.
Baba Gana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate has also been conferred the national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, usually reserved for vice presidents and highly prestigious personalities. Also to receive a GCON is the late Nigeria’s foremost pro-democracy activist, Gani Fawehinmi.
“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.
“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,” read a statement personally signed by the President.