The federal government has declared June 12 as the new date for the celebration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
The government announced this on Wednesday, saying it is to honour late 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.”