Buhari declares June 12 Democracy Day,
honours Abiola with GCFR Response From Nigerians.
Olalekan Adetayo, Eniola Akinkuotu, Adelani Adepegba and Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday directed that
the nation’s Democracy Day will, henceforth,
hold on June 12 of every year as against the
current arrangement where the ceremony holds on May 29.
Buhari also resolved to honour the winner of the annulled
June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola,
with the highest national honour, the Grand Commander of
the Federal Republic.
The President disclosed these in a statement he personally
signed and made available to journalists.
He said he reached the decisions after due consultations.
Apart from Abiola, Buhari said he would also honour his running mate,
Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, and the late human rights activist,
Chief Gani Fawehinmi, with the second highest national honour,
the Grand Commander of the Niger.
He said their investiture would take place on June 12.
The statement read, “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
The first time this happened was on October 21, 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 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 12
will be celebrated as Democracy Day.
“Therefore, the government has decided to award posthumously
the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to the late
Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993
“His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador
Babagana 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’s Democracy Day.”
The late Abiola died in detention while struggling to actualise
his mandate as contained in the annulled election.
Afenifere hails decision
The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, hailed the
declaration of June 12 as a national Democracy Day,
noting that this was what it had been clamouring for
over the years.
The group urged the Federal Government to go a step
further by recognising the late Abiola as a former
elected President of Nigeria.
Afenifere’s spokesperson, Yinka Odumakin, stated
that the government should demonstrate that its
decision was not a political gimmick by ensuring that
“the spirit of June 12 prevails” in the forthcoming elections.
He added, “Though the GCON is the highest honour
in the land, we want Abiola to be formally recognised
as a former elected President of Nigeria.
“It is true that this decision is coming on the heels
of another election in February 2019, the true test
to demonstrate this is not a gimmick is to allow the
spirit of June 12 to prevail in February in terms of
free and fair elections where people can freely elect
their leaders like it happened on June 12.”
Asked if he believed the decision was meant to buy
popular political support, Odumakin noted,
“That’s why I said another election season is here
and promises and decisions made in an election year
are subject to different interpretations, but,
like I said, we accept it.”
Buhari’s move commendable – Okurounmu
In his reaction, Senator Femi Okurounmu, a former
Secretary-General of the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group,
Afenifere, said the move by the President was
Okurounmu, who represented Ogun-Central Senatorial
District from 1999 to 2003, said the move had also
put former President Olusegun Obasanjo to shame.
The Afenifere chieftain said all pleas to Obasanjo
to honour MKO Abiola and declare June 12 a public
holiday during his eight-year tenure were ignored.
He, however, said the Yoruba people should not be
carried away by Buhari’s announcement given its timing,
which is barely eight months to the Presidential election.
Okurounmu said, “It is a commendable act, and we
appreciate him for that. Recognising the late MKO
as the real winner of that election is long overdue.
For us, June 12 had always been the authentic Democracy Day.
May 29 was an insult to the Yoruba people.
It was a mockery of the Yoruba.
“We appreciate him for honouring Abiola but we must not
fall into any trap. Buhari is desperate for Yoruba votes.
He knows he has lost the South-West and that is why he is doing this.
This was how he lured us in 2015 with the help of Bola Tinubu.
We must not fall a second time.
We are grateful to President Buhari – Ogun
In a statement signed on Wednesday night by the
Secretary to the Ogun State Government,
Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa, the state said,
“We are grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari
for this recognition of an illustrious son of Ogun State
and an icon of our democratic struggle, Chief MKO Abiola.
“President Buhari has shown with this action that
he is a man that believes in justice and giving to
every person his or her dues.
“Although this posthumous award may appear to some
people to have come late, we thank the President.
We urge all lovers of democracy and goodwill to
continue to support the ideals for which
Chief MKO Abiola lived and died for.”
Action smacks of desperation, hypocrisy –PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party, however,
said the national honour to be conferred on Abiola
by Buhari smacked of hypocrisy and political
desperation ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
PDP said that President Buhari’s action merely
sought to use the name and person of Abiola to
gain a political capital and was not out of genuine
reverence and recognition for him.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday and
signed by its National Publicity Secretary,
Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party recalled that
President Buhari, who was serving in the military
administration of General Sani Abacha during the
travails of Abiola, did not associate either by words
or actions with the late winner of June 12 election.
Ologbondiyan further stated 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.
He said, “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 12 months
to an election where he (President Buhari) is seeking
a second term.
“It is also shocking that the respectable grave of Abiola
can be dishonoured by granting a posthumous award
on him along with someone who denounced the June 12
mandate and preferred the company of his (Abiola’s) traducers.
“Even those who now masquerade as change agents were
opposed to the naming of the University of Lagos after Chief Abiola.
“If President Buhari genuinely wants to honour Chief Abiola,
he should do so by ending all anti-democratic proclivities of
his administration and allow for the rule of law and
respect for our constitution.”
“The PDP, therefore, urges President Buhari to shed his
desperate actions in his quest to win the
2019 presidential election as Nigerians can no longer
be deceived by such antics.”
Honour long overdue – Akerele
The late MKO’s former personal assistant, Lisa Olu Akerele,
has described the honour done the late politician as
“a welcome development long overdue.”
He stated, “Mr Kola Abiola, myself and other
well-meaning individuals have been campaigning
underground for years for this honour to be done.
“The good thing is that it has taken a former soldier
like President Muhammadu Buhari to right the wrong
done by a misguided soldier like Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.”
Presidency Press Release Earlier