On Saturday, Nigerians from all walks of life will mark the 28th Anniversary of June 12 elections won by late politician, Chief Moshood Abiola, which has now be converted to Democracy Day by the federal government with different activities. Is it worth celebrating?
Precisely 28 years ago, Nigeria had a presidential election, which was widely adjudged by political analysts and the then National Electoral Commission, NEC chairman, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu as the freest and fairest ever conducted on June 12, 1993 and won by late Chief Moshood Abiola.
As usual activists and other political analysts marked this year’s memorial with different activities ranging from lectures, symposia, rallies amongst others.
President Mohammed Buhari said
Former President Goodluck Jonathan described the day as a unique date in the history of the country. He said the struggle has affected the political landscape of the country and the trajectory of its conduct of the affairs of state.
He said: “June 12 is a unique day. It is a date that has changed the political history of this country in one way or the other. We appreciate what happened on this day. I think it is a unique date.”
In most parts of the western states where the late businessman turned politician hailed from, Lagos, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun and Ondo States, before it was declared Democracy Day by President Buhari, the day, June 12 was declared public holiday and celebrated with symposia and rallies annually.
Those who spoke harped on the need to strengthen the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria, which the struggle for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election results helped to achieve.
Despite the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, every year, speakers still converge at various centres to eulogize the late politician while some also expressed concern about the state of the nation, after the events of June 12, 1993 the rebirth of democracy in 1999.
They argued that the effort of late Abiola is being jeopardised by politicians who have failed to live up to their promises and billings, a course Abiola died for.
Recalled that former President Jonathan renamed the University of Lagos, UNILAG after the late Abiola, a decision many condemned. One of them is current minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola who claimed that the decision was designed “to mock his memories as the name of the institution was changed to MKO’s name without changing the law.”
National Coordinator, Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform, CODER, Chief Ayo Opadokun, although, lamented the state of the country’s democratic institutions, 22 years after transition from military regime but disclosed that the country has made progress.
He said: “We are here to assess our progress. Our 22 years of democratic rule coincide with 28 years of June 12. We have made progress, though it is very slow. When Abiola won the June 12, 1993 election, we thought we had put electoral fraud behind us; 28 years after, we are still grappling with it.
“INEC has not witnessed any serious structural change, but vast results of fraud that forced progressives to go to court. The court exposed the fraud and gave back the people their mandate, especially in the South-west. Elections in the 21st century are made to reflect the technology of today.”
Former Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, who incidental is from late Abiola’s hometown, noted that the current civil rule was a product of the sacrifice made by people like Abiola and urged Nigerians to work towards entrenching democratic norms in the country.
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka was one of those that advocated for June 12 to be celebrated as Democracy Day. According to him, “Democracy Day in Nigeria should be celebrated on 12 June of every year and not on 29 May as federal authorities want it to be.”
Meanwhile, ever since Democracy Day was moved from May 29, which was the day the military led by Abdulsalam Abubakar handed over power to a civilian government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to June 12, activities are being lined up.
From Christian and moslem prayers to armed forces parade amongst others to commemorate the day but the question is, is the day worth celebrating considering the fact that what MKO Abiola died for is yet to be actualized which is delivering democratic dividends to all Nigerians no matter their tribe, religion or descent.