Institutionalization of June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria

It was a day in 1993 that Nigerians trouped out in their millions, putting religious, ethnic and regional differences aside, to vote for the common goal of ending military dictatorship by entrenching democracy.

On that June 12, a Yoruba business magnate, from the Southwest, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, popularly called MKO, and a diplomat, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe of Kanuri stock from the Northeast sought the mandate of Nigerians for the offices of the President and Vice-President on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, SDP.

It was an election that was adjudged free, fair and orderly, with high turnout of voters.

Nigeria and, indeed, the international community stood still in expectation of the release of the result, until June 23 when a press statement by the Ibrahim Babangida administration broke the palpable suspense by annulling the election.

With the annulment of the election, June 12 became a springboard for a long crippling socio-political crisis.

The June 12 gave birth to uprisings championed by human rights groups like Civil Liberty Organisation, CLO, National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, and labour unions for the actualisation of the mandate of Chief M.K.O Abiola.

Many who staked their lives by confronting the military war machine on the street paid dearly for it through arrests, detention, self-exile, imprisonments and even death.

June 12 has passed through a historical evolution that produced heroes, heroines and martyrs, including Chief M.K.O Abiola who died in detention while attempting to claim his mandate.

In a dramatic turn of events, the institutionalisation of June 12 as democracy day by the Buhari administration in June last year, backed by the National Assembly, has changed the status of the day.

Twenty-five years after the annulled election, the principal hero, Chief M.K.O Abiola, was given a posthumous highest honour in the country the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR.

Chief M.K.O Abiola, thus, received the status of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the first to be so given such a posthumous honour.

June 12 became a metaphor of antithesis from what some people termed the Southwest affair.

The regional holiday on June 12 by some Southwest states has become a National holiday as an honour to democracy.

June 12 has moved from a perceived sectional agitation to National celebration for a united and resilient Nigeria.

June 12 has moved from a national travail to the triumph of Nigeria’s democracy.

The institutionalisation of June 12 as Democracy Day has transformed the symbolism of the drumbeat of war to a symphony of peace.

It brings Nigerians from divergence to convergence which the life and the personality of M.K.O Abiola stood for.

The administration of Muhammadu Buhari has given June 12 a National meaning worth the attention of the international community.

The institutionalisation of June 12 proves a Yoruba proverb, that if a lie embarks on a journey for 20 years, truth will overtake it someday.

Today is that day, when Nigeria rolls out the drums to celebrate her own dream, encapsulated in the national anthem that the labour of the heroes past shall never be in vain.

Today, the labour of the dead and the hope of the living unite for a nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.

Today June 12 becomes a nexus that binds Nigerians across regional, religious, ethnic and political affiliations for a new beginning, a new chapter that opens opportunities for a greater tomorrow.

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