By: Owoyokun Dolapo
“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”
On Wednesday, June 6th 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari released a press statement that supposedly repealed the May 29th Democracy Day celebration commemorating the second republic (a transition from military regime to civilian rule) as the first occurred on 1st October, 1979, and replacing it with June 12th.
The above excerpt is the first paragraph of the presidential statement. It is however worrisome that with the pool of aides and press secretaries, the simplest of historical account in our democracy commonly known by even primary school students can be missed by the Presidency. Contrary to what is stated in that paragraph, nothing significant happened on the 21st of October, 1979 but on the 1st of October, 1979 when power changed hands from military to civilian rule.
Now, an additional worry is why did the Presidency make such a huge declaration? The President in the second paragraph of his statement stated that his administration views June 12th, 1993 to be far more symbolic of Democracy in Nigeria than May 29th. However, the records reflect on the contrary that President Muhammadu Buhari has never shared his views on a June 12 in any of his speeches including in his three Independence Day speeches and his four May 29th Democracy day speeches since his assumption of office. So my questions are What’s the motive of the President? and Why has June 12 suddenly become symbolically significant to him months before a critical election in 2019?
Surely, June 12 is much symbolic in a deeper sense than as portrayed by this hypocritical and mischievously worded statement of the Presidency. It was a day that commemorates a period where despotism was fought to a standstill. It was the day when Nigerians trooped in their millions to express their democratic will at the poll in what was described undisputedly as the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since the country’s independence. Though the election was annulled by the then military head of state General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
Since the annulment of the June 12 mandate of the murdered Chief MKO Abiola in 1993, many politicians especially those from the South Western Part of Nigeria have been clamouring for this symbolic day to be recognised as the actual democracy day far above all days including October 1st Independence Day. Now, one cannot deny the fact that the embattled administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is starved of accolades, and riddled in bungled policies that have destroyed all the gains of democracy since 1999.
Thus, recognising the need to find something substantial as political collateral in achievement, the President, in his desperation, has made a declaration that borders around the sentiment of the deal breakers in the South West. He even went ahead to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th, 1993 cancelled election and also awarded his running mate as Vice President then, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe the honour of GCON. To me, this is all a political manoeuvre and a desperate Greek gift to win the heart of the Yorubas in the South Western Region of Nigeria. All these desperations in a bid to boost his chances at the upcoming 2019 elections. All the Best for him.