👤 By Danjuma Aliyu
President Muhammadu Buhari, 75, has declared June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day in honour of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 cancelled elections.
The late business man, who died in a government prison twenty years ago will also be conferred with the highest honour of the land.
The plan will mean Democracy Day will no longer be celebrated on May 29, instead on June 12, Nigerians will be given a public holiday.
A letter from the President states that “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 12 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 posthumously a GCON.”
But the Government plan is seen as fresh plot to curry support from leaders in the South West.
“Buhari appealed to the South West in 2015 by giving them the VP slot. He is appealing to the region again by declaring June 12 a national holiday and a better democracy day than May 29th. The South West should not fall for this cheap antics. Buhari is unfit to run Nigeria,” @tksilicon posted online.
The spokesman for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said: “We are not unaware that we are now in the election season and every attempt will be made to woo voters with issues that are popular
“But be that as it may, we have canvassed for the honour of Chief Moshood Abiola since the annulment of June 12 and for June 12 to be declared democracy day for over two decades now. Therefore we accept the declarations and commend them.
“If we are able to hold free and fair elections, if we allow Nigerians to elect their leaders without hindrance, if the will of voters is acknowledged, if the ballot is allowed to reign supreme in the next Nigerian elections, then this would have celebrated our true belief in the spirit of June 12 and the proper honour of Abiola, who died on principle, insisting that the rights of Nigerians and their votes must be respected.”
The spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP also sees the honour as a sign of the desperation by President Buhari’s government.
In a statement, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it “smacks of hypocrisy and political desperation ahead of 2019 presidential election.
“President Buhari’s action merely sought to use the name and person of Chief Abiola to gain a political capital and not out of genuine reverence and recognition for him.
“The party recalls that President Buhari, who was serving in the military administration of General Sani Abacha during the travails of Chief MKO Abiola, did not associate either by words or actions with the late winner of June 12 election.”
The opposition spokesperson added that “History did not record President Buhari as sympathetic to the Abiola’s family when his wife, Kudirat, was gruesomely murdered by the agents of a government which president Buhari served.
“It is therefore a sign of political desperation for President Buhari to seek to use Chief Abiola’s name as a tool to sway Nigerians in less than twelve months to an election where he is seeking a second term.”
President Buhari who announced plans to seek re-election has lost a lot of the goodwill that brought him into power in 2015, made the announcement of the new democracy day on June 6, 2018.
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Many of the individuals that worked to campaign for President Buhari’s victory at the poll, especially those in the South West are said to be unhappy that they were sidelined by his government.
The disgruntled leaders, some who belong to the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, are delighted about the decision to honour of MKO, but sources in government say it is not enough to get support for the President’s second term agenda.