The Federal Government has declared June 12 as the new date for the celebration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
The government announced this yesterday, saying it is to honour late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
The government also awarded Abiola with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) honour.
A statement signed by President Muhammadu Buhari said Baba Gana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate during the election, and Gani Fawehinmi, one of Nigeria’s foremost rights activist, now late, are also to be conferred with Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
The statement read: “For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th, as Democracy Day. That was the date when for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government. The first time this happened was on October 21st, 1979.
“But 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.”
The statement added that the commemoration and investiture of the honours will take place on Tuesday June 12th, 2018 — “a date which in future years will replace May 29th as a national public holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day.”
… award conferment illegal- Ex-CJN, Alfa Belgore
A former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Alfa Belgore, has described as illegal, the conferment of Nigeria’s highest national honour on Chief Moshood Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election.
In an interview with online medium, Premium Times, the retired judge said the national honours cannot be awarded posthumously, “much less the GCFR”, which is the highest honour in the land.
Belgore was quoted as saying: “It is not done… it is for people living.”
“The only thing they could do is to name a place after him, but national honours award, no.”
Belgore, chairman of the 2016 national honours committee, was also quoted to have said he was not consulted by the Buhari administration before the decision was taken.
He said under the 1963 National Honours Act, only soldiers or other servicemen could be awarded posthumous medals for their bravery.
Belgore was chief judge between 2006 and 2007.
Buhari’s action has been received with mixed feelings. While some commended him over it, others believe it has a political undertone.
…President using MKO’s name to gain ‘political capital’ – PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said President Muhammadu Buhari is using the name of late Moshood Abiola, the acclaimed winner of 1993 presidential election, to gain “political capital”.
On Wednesday, Buhari conferred on Abiola posthumously, the award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) — 20 years after his death. The president also declared June 12, the day on which the election held in 1993, as the new Democracy Day.
Reacting in a statement, spokesman of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said Buhari’s action showed “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 statement read.
“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.”
In a veiled reference to Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate in the election who later abandoned his principal, PDP said: “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 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 opposition party said Buhari should shelve his desperate actions in his quest to win the 2019 presidential election as Nigerians would no longer be deceived by “such antics”.