THE NEWSGHOST, NIGERIA – For years, Nigerians have called for June 12 to be recognised as Democracy Day and a national holiday in honour of late Chief MKO Abiola, the winner of the 1993 presidential election. But successive governments have ignored this call.
So Nigerians expressed great excitement as President Buhari declared June 12 a national public holiday.
President Buhari has directed that effective from 2019, Nigeria’s Democracy Day celebrated every May 29 for the past 18 years will be shifted to June 12 in honour of Abiola.
Data from the 1993 presidential election polls showed that Abiola won the election. But the military government of Ibrahim Babangida refused to swear him into office.
Abiola was later imprisoned by Sani Abacha’s military government in his struggle to actualise his electoral mandate and he died in prison in 1998.
In addition to declaring June 12 Democracy Day, President Buhari conferred Abiola with the highest national award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR), an award that is exclusively conferred on incumbent and former presidents.
According to report, a statement by the presidency on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 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 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 Junes 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.’
Babgana Kingibe, the running mate of Abiola in the 1993 election, was also awarded with the second highest national award the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
While Gani Fawehinmi, Nigeria’s foremost pro-democracy activist is also to receive the GCON award.
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