President Muhammadu Buhari in a surprise move Wednesday declared June 12 Nigeria’s Democracy Day and also awarded Nigeria’s highest honor, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, to the late businessman Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, winner of the election held on the same date in 1993.
The election, adjudged to be the freest and fairest up till that year, in Nigeria’s history was annulled by the military junta headed by Ibrahim Babangida, plunging Nigeria into a five-year political crisis. Abiola died in 1998 and General Sani Abacha, who was one of the beneficiaries of the annulment, died some weeks before him.
President Buhari said Abiola’s running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe will also be honored with Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, the second highest honor. And so will Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the indefatigable lawyer and senior advocate who campaigned for the actualization of June 12 up till Abiola’s death in 1998. The event will hold on June 12.
From 2019, June 12 will now replace 29 May, the day the military handed over to civilians in 1999 as Nigeria’s democracy day. And it means that the rest of Nigeria will join states in the South West to celebrate the day.
South West Nigeria since 1999 has been observing June 12 as Democracy Day but failed to convince their son, former President Olusegun Obasanjo to accord the date national recognition, when he ruled from 1999-2007
President Buhari said he decided to honor Abiola and the immortal date after consultations with Nigerians.
Therefore, the government has decided to award posthumously the highest honor of the land, GCFR, too late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th, 1993 canceled elections.