25 Years After, Nigerians Celebrate Historic June 12
June 12 is here again, and it is celebrated this year, across the country in a more significant way.
June 12 is significant in Nigeria’s history as the June 12, 1993 election is widely believed as the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s democratic history.
Late MKO Abiola was presumed to have won the poll – the first presidential election held in the country since 1983 when the military took over power in a coup.
Abiola, who contested on the platform of the then Social Democratic Party (SDP), defeated Bashir Tofa of the defunct National Republican Convention (NCP) to win the poll.
But the election was annulled by the then military junta headed by Retired General Ibrahim Babangida.
Abiola was later arrested and detained for years, after which he died on July 7, 1998, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Twenty-five years down the memory lane, the lessons of the historic election still ring loud on the nation’s democratic experience.
In April 2018, General Babangida told Channels Television that despite explaining why the June 12 election was cancelled, nobody has given him credit for conducting the freest poll in the country.
He said, “Nobody has ever sat down to say the two persons (IBB and Abiola) are friends, what went wrong?
“He (Abiola) knew my feeling; I knew his feeling about the country generally because I do talk about Nigeria with the presumed winner of the truly democratically freest election. We even talked about it during the crisis itself.”
Two months later, Nigerians woke up to the news of President Muhammadu Buhari declaring June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
President Buhari, who made the announcement on June 6, 2018, in honour of Abiola, had also conferred a Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) – the highest national award in the land, on him.
The development triggered a hot debate in the nation’s political space, including reactions from the National Assembly and some of the government critics.
While the Senate welcomed Abiola’s recognition, the asked President Buhari to take further steps by declaring the late businessman President and ensure the entitlements due to him are paid to his family.
In the House of Representatives, the matter led to a rowdy session, after which the lawmakers asked the President to honour the then chairman of the electoral umpire that conducted the election, Professor Humphrey Nwosu.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed that the President was using the declaration to score political points.
They also asked him to respect the constitution if he truly wants to honour Abiola.
On the other hand, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said while they welcome the development, they urged President Buhari to honour late Kudirat Abiola – wife of the presumed winner of the 1993 election, as a heroine of democracy.
Some of the supposed critics of the government who stunned Nigerians to commend the President’s decision are Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, and co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG), Dr Oby Ezekwesili.
On Friday last week, the Presidency informed Nigerians that the National Holiday of June 12 will come into effect from 2019. However, a special national Honour Investiture will be held today, June 12, 2018, in Abuja in honour of the heroes of Democracy, Moshood Abiola, Gani Fawehinmi and Baba Gana Kingibe.
Today is a public holiday in states in the south-west region of the country, including Lagos, Ogun, and Osun in commemoration of the historic June 12.