June 12 as Democracy Day excites activists

Pro-democracy forces, statesmen, politicians and other stakeholders yesterday eulogised President Muhammadu Buhari for recognising June 12 as ‘Democracy Day,’ instead of May 29, which is Inauguration Day.

Second Republic Senator Ayo Fasanmi said the President’s action showed that he is sensitive to public opinion.

He said: “The recognition was done in recognition of the fact that the June 12, 1993 presidential election was the most credible election, whereby a Muslim/Muslim ticket was endorsed by Nigerians.”

Fasanmi recalled that the symbol of the struggle, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, and his running mate on the platform of the proscribed Social Democratic Party (SDP), Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, won the poll because they were popular.

He added: “It was the most democratic election in Nigeria. The result was symbolic and it must be acknowledged. Rigging did not happen at that time. I am in support of the recognition of the idea that votes must count. There was no bribery and vote buying on June 12, 1993. They won on merit. There was no tribal sentiment.

“I did not know why Babangida annulled the election. Abiola is dead, but he deserves the honour. He was not sworn in. But, God has sworn him in as president of Nigeria.”

Former Secretary to Military Government and prominent member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) Chief Olu Falae applauded the decision, saying that it was a right step in the right direction.

He said: “It is a welcome development. We thank God that the president has finally seen the light and acknowledged what some of us fought for many years ago.”

Falae, Olu of Ilu-Aabo, Akure, spoke on the cost and consequence of the epic struggle, lamenting that it led to harassment, humiliation, repression, detention of pro-democracy elements and exile.

He stressed: “I hope the real heroes of democracy will be acknowledged as time goes on. The heroes are Gen. Alani Akinrinade, who had to leave the country, Bola Tinubu, Chief Anthony Enahoro, John Odigie-Oyegun who went on exile, Senator Abraham Adesanya, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and myself, who was sent to NADECO abroad to settle quarrels among our members. I was arrested and detained. My friend, Fredrick Fasehun, was detained, and his hands were chained in detention.”

Second Republic Governor Balarabe Musa of Kaduna State said the decision has met the expectation of progressive forces, particularly those who fought for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 election result.

Alluding to the significance of the historic poll, he said not only was the exercise unifying, but it also erases the feeling of religious differences among Nigerians.

Musa added: “This is a welcome development. All progressives agree with that and commend Buhari for making June 12 Democracy Day. It was the day Nigerians put aside all superficial differences to vote for a candidate of their choice. It is unlike May 29 when they gave power to Obasanjo. June 12 is the people’s day. We will all celebrate it on June 12. We expect the president to make a great statement on that day.”

Former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Abubakar Tsav, said it is a good development that would help to unite all Nigerians. He said: “It is a very good development in recognition of the sacrifice of the late Moshood Abiola who won the June 12, 1993, presidential election, when Nigerians spoke with one voice. With this declaration, President Buhari wants to unite Nigerians; he wants to assuage the feelings of those who feel cheated by the annulment of that election. This is good.”

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Socio-political activist and the President of Core Caucus, a socio-political group, Prof Dele Fapohunda, also sees it as a welcome development.  His words: “It is a welcome development and a recognition of the fact that there was a day in this country when everybody agreed that an election that was free and fair was held.

“It was a day everybody agreed that the issue of division along ethnic and religious lines was nullified. There was nothing like division during that election and even during the electioneering campaign. Everybody appeared to be on the same page when it comes to acceptance, recognition and respect for that day. So, I am not surprised.”

Fapounda, who is also the Dean, School of Science and Technology, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State, said the declaration of June 12 as ‘Democracy Day’ could help to inspire young Nigerians. He said: “I want Nigerians to keep on respecting that day so that it will serve as a form of inspiration to younger ones to embrace civil rule and civil conduct in every form of association and aspiration in life.”

A former Vice President of the African Development Bank (ADB), Chief Bisi Ogunjobi, said if the declaration would help to institutionalise democracy and good governance, then it would have served a purpose.

Ogunjobi said the declaration is an indication that Nigerians have accepted that democracy is the way to go. His words: “I think for the first time, all those who fought for or against June 12 now have a common understanding. It is an acceptance by almost everybody now that democracy is the way to go.”

The former ADB stalwart said the declaration is also significant in the sense that June 12 would now be a national public holiday. He said: “In the past, it is not in every state that it was accepted as a public holiday. Now it has become a national public holiday. So, irrespective of your leaning, the day is now an official public holiday for all Nigerians. I think this is very significant.”

The Southeast Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), a non-governmental organisation, Dr Jerry Chukwuokolo, said President Buhari is playing to the gallery and trying to legitimise his hold on power.

Chukwuokolo said: “I sincerely do not see anything spectacular about that. First of all, Mr President was part of those who annulled that election. He used the issue of June 12 as a strategy to win the recent election, which is normal. But, at the same time, I don’t think there is anything special about that declaration, because the man is not an avowed democrat – he is not even a democrat at all, let alone being an avowed democrat. What is that whitewashing that he is trying to do?

“As far as I am concerned, he is just trying to hold on to power by all means. The election may have been won and lost, but the processes that led to the winning or losing of the contest are extremely important. What thing that is definite is that the country will never be the same again. As far as I am concerned, this issue is beyond winning and losing the election. The issues are that somebody has acted out a script and an unimaginable level of deceit.”

Senator Okunrounmu, a former Secretary of Afenifere, the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, said: “I understand that the President will be sworn in on May 29, the governors will be sworn in on the same day. So, there is nothing that is left out of the previous activities.

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“The only thing left is the holy day which most of the Southwest states have been observing in the past. There is nothing left to be done on June 12 apart from observing the holiday which we have always been doing. So, nothing has really happened apart from merely not observing the holiday on May 29.”

Afenifere chieftain Chief Ayo Adebanjo said: “I have no misgiving about June 12 as democracy day that is the way to go. That is to slow down the agitations. If the government is serious, the President should do what is needful to make federalism work. I don’t believe he has done right by some of his actions and I am not interested in the comment about whether he did well by recognizing June 12 as democracy day.

“There are germane issues that need to address which he has not done. What about people who are put behind bars without trial. What about not obeying court orders? These are not part of what M.K.O Abiola stood for and I am talking about reality. Abiola stood for the rule of law and transparency.

“He should do what is expected for the people, he should give the people what they want. We supported him in 2007 because he wanted our votes and we have been supporting him but let him go into action and give the people what they really want by ensuring true federalism.

“Let him go into action if he is serious about federalism. Let him implement the 2014 National Conference reports. I don’t believe in this 1999 Constitution that is the constitution, we say we don’t recognise, that is the constitution we say is not our own. Yet, that is the constitution being used in making of his pronouncement. How can we use the constitution to right what is wrong? He should send the constitution for a referendum that is what we recommended. It is not a matter of constitutional amendment by the National Assembly because the National Assembly is part of the problem we have. Let the people decide what they want and that is where I stand not all the petty and cut corners methods government had adopted in doing what he wants to do.”

A lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, Professor Ayo Olukotun, said the President’s decision to make June 12 Democracy Day is in order. He said the decision was a response to public opinion. He said “Nigerians, particularly civil right activists have over the years been clamouring for the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day as against May 29. There is nothing significant about May 29 “.

Olukotun said making June 12 Democracy Day is a response to history because, without June 12, there will be on May 29. It was June 12 that gave birth to May 29. It was June 12 activists that put pressure on the military to hand over power to the democratically elected government on May 29, 1999.

He hailed President Buhari for taking the right decision on a sensitive national issue which his predecessors had failed to address for over two decades. Though belated, I think the President should be commended for doing the right thing, he added.

A chieftain of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Professor Tunde Adeniran, said June 12 is the real democracy day. It should go down in history as real democracy day because it was the day Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion came out to vote for a president of their choice. But unfortunately, the result of the election which was declared the most credible election in Nigeria was annulled.

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Adeniran, professor emeritus of Political Science, said: “Without June 12, there would be no democracy in Nigeria; it is very symbolic in the annals of Nigerian political history; it is tied to the soul of the Nigerian nation. We of the SDP are grateful that God has used President Muhammadu Buhari to do the right thing. We are happy that the president had taken that bold decision to heal the wounds of June 12.”

June 12

Lawyer and human right activist Monday Ubani said the declaration of June 12 as democracy day is a right decision and that President Buhari must be commended for it. He said official recognition of June 12 will serve as consolation for the family of the late M.K.O. Abiola and those who sacrificed their lives for the revalidation of the annulled June 12 presidential election results.

Ubani said there is nothing important about May 29. He said the Federal Government should declare June 12 public holiday because it was a monumental event in the history of Nigeria

He advised the president to go a step further by declaring Abiola president and accord him all the rights attached to the office of the president. President Buhari should complete the process and declare Abiola as the winner of June 12 presidential election; doing that will heal all the wounds, he added.

Applauding the President, APC stalwart Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu called for a constitutional amendment to institutionalise June 12 as Democracy Day.

He said: “By this wise yet visionary decision, the President has scored double: first he has accorded respect to the Constitution, which recognises May 29 as the date to inaugurate new terms of office while at the same time ensuring the country moves on the rightful path to formalising June 12 as new Democracy Day. This decision soundly balances current legal requirements with the quest for political justice.

“For this feat in moving the country in the right direction, President Buhari and the Federal Government deserve commendation.

“June 12 represents an important milestone in the annals of Nigeria’s democratic journey. It was the day Nigerians shunned ethnicity and religion to vote for that leader of their choice in an election adjudged clearly free and fair.

“To complete this process that the President has started via Executive Order, we hope that the National Assembly act with reasonable dispatch in cooperation with the Presidency to assure that the requisite constitutional amendments are enacted to fully establish June 12 as Democracy Day.

“As Nigerians, we have a role to play: rededicate ourselves to democracy, peaceful co-existence, togetherness and the hope for a greater future, all of which June 12 represented.”

The process to accord June 12 recognition began last year when President Buhari officially named June 12 as Democracy Day by Executive Order.

The President also recognised the winner of the June 12 election, the late Bahorun MKO Abiola, as a past president and awarded the highest honour – the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).

The late Abiola’s running mate in the June 12, 1993 election, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, was recognised as a former vice president and bestowed with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) award.



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