By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that effective from 2019, Nigerian Democracy Day, marked every May 29 for the past 18 years should now be shifted to June 12.
The President in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Wednesday, said this directive was to honuor “an illustrious son of Nigeria, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola”.
Late Abiola won a presidential election but was prevented from taking office when the results were annulled and later died while struggling to actualise the mandate.
He said Abiola would be conferred with the nation’s highest honuor of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) exclusively conferred on the holders of the highest office in the country, the President.
Shehu stated that in the same vein, Chief Abiola’s running mate in that election, Amb. Babagana Kingibe, would also be conferred with the second highest honuor of the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
He added that the late Nigeria’s foremost pro-democracy activist, Gani Fawehinmi, would receive the title of a GCON.
The presidential aide quoted Buhari as saying: “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 Oct. 1, 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 Oct. 1.
“June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputed 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, 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,’’ Buhari said.