By Fausat Bello & Adebayo Fajinmi
Democracy Day, celebrated on June 12 in Nigeria is a National Public Holiday set aside to commemorate the restoration of democracy in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
It marks the day the military handed over power to an elected government in 1999, which betokens the beginning of unbroken civilian rule since Nigeria gained independence from colonial rule in 1960. Formerly, it was annually held on May 29.
May 29 which was the initial date for marking the day came as a result of the elected President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was duly sworn in on 29 May, 1999.
On June 6, 2018, eight days after May 29, had been celebrated as Democracy Day, the Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria declared June 12 as the new Democracy Day. The new date was to commemorate the democratic election of MKO Abiola on June 12, 1993. Although the election was hindered by the then military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, who decided to annul the result of the election which has been pronounced as the freest, fairest and most peaceful democratic process ever held in Nigeria.
June 12 carries huge significance for Nigerians as it was on this date in 1993 that presidential elections were held for the first time since the 1983 military coup. It was an event many observers have described as the most significant in Nigeria’s post-independence political history.
However, the celebration has come with a mixed feelings for citizens as they have expressed and are still expressing their positions on the nation’s democracy.
Speaking with TOS News on Friday, Pioneer Secretary and Head of Service to Osun State government, Chief Moses Aboaba, said “Democracy Day is unique as it is to commemorate the day Nigerians were denied their choice of M K O Abiola as president in a free and popular election in 1993 with dire consequences plaguing the nation till now.
“Its symbolism still speaks in form of quest by many Nigerians for a thorough restructuring of governmental structure with due devolution of powers for our country to enjoy peaceful and progressive governance, where our abundant resources will be tapped for the benefit of all our people.”
In his opinion, June 12 advocate and human rights activist, Comrade Waheed Saka, disclosed that, the current situation of the country is not appealing to say we are practising democracy.
“Buhari must be commended for declaring June 12 a democracy day. However, the current situation is not what concerned Nigerians appreciate and we will not stop to quest for the core issue around June 12 which is abundant life for citizens. Because democracy may be endangered the way Nigerian is being governed and that’s the truth Buhari needs to hear, not what his aides are telling him. So it’s high time Nigerians rise up and say no to the system,” he said.
Responding to what can be done to improve democratic rule, Comrade Saka said, “we can not run a fearful government. Nigeria must run a government that allows citizens engagement.”
Former Assistant Editor at Newswatch, Fola Adekeye, in an interview with TOS News also lambasted the much touted democracy day named in Abiola’s memory.
He said “When we talk about June 12,1993 what we had in mind was what MKO Abiola called hope 93. And hope 93 was to free us from poverty; it was to give us a nation that is governed by law;it was to give us a nation that is fair and just; it was meant to give us a nation we can be proud of; it was meant to fix our universities because he loved university. Unfortunately, today we virtually have those who said they are standing with June 12 but stood against it by what they do. The people propagating it are the real enemy of Nigeria. Hope 93 is a baby we are still praying to give birth to.
“As you can see, under Buhari’s administration, Twitter has been suspended; freedom of speech has been hindered. MKO had Concord Newspaper and would not have promoted anything against freedom of speech.”
The June 12 election and subsequent annulment marked the beginning of a decade’s long struggle to see the election result restored and democracy rehabilitated in the country. Nevertheless, President Buhari, in his speech on Saturday declared that, “As with all democracies we will always be going through improvement processes in our desire to reach the goal of a mature democracy, a strong, evolved and integrated nation-state to be reckoned with globally.”