In a surprise move, President Muhammadu Buhari Wednesday directed that effective from next year, Nigerian Democracy Day would be marked every June 12 in honor of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, late Chief Moshood Abiola.
Many have voiced this to mark the day in 1993, when Nigerians voted in a free and fair election to elect Chief MKO Abiola, who eventually died in prison in 1998.
Ever since Abiola became the symbol of present day democracy.
Nigeria returned to democratic rule on May 29, 1999, when the military government of Gen Abdulsalami Abdullahi handed over to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as elected President and the day has been recognised as National Day by successive governments in the country.
However, a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Garba Shehu, late Wednesday, reads: “To honor an illustrious son of Nigeria, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, who won a presidential election but was prevented from taking office when the results were annulled.
“The late Abiola died while struggling to actualise the mandate.
“Consequently, the late M.K.O Abiola will be conferred with nation’s highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, (GCFR) exclusively conferred on the holders of the highest office in the country, the President.
“In the same vein, Chief Abiola’s running mate in that election, Amb. Babagana Kingibe, is to be conferred with the second highest honor of the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
Also to receive a GCON is the foremost pro-democracy activist, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
“In a statement signed he personally signed on Wednesday evening, President Buhari said:
“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 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 election 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, Amb. Baba Gana 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.”