Today, June 12, 2019, will replace May 29 as Nigeria’s democracy day following its recognition as such by President Muhammadu Buhari who also followed the declaration up by recently signing the bill into law thus making June 12 a public holiday.
The recognition and declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’s democracy day has continued to earn plaudits for President Buhari from people of the South-West in particular and all lovers of democracy across the country in general.
In recognizing June 12 as Nigeria’s democracy day, President Buhari demonstrated a rare political will unmatched by previous civilian presidents that have ruled the country since the inception of democracy in 1999, namely: Olusegun Obasanjo –who is ironically a kinsman to the personae of June 12, Chief M.K.O. Abiola -, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan’s attempt to preserve Abiola’s memory and assuage the South-West by naming the University of Lagos after the late winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election was rebuffed and criticized by the management of the university and Yorubas alike who felt that the move intended to project Abiola as a regional hero when he should be treated as a national hero, having presumably won a national presidential election.
Their argument was strong and the Jonathan-led federal government had no immediate response. The move thus died a natural death.
Pro-democracy advocates believe that by recognizing June 12 as Nigeria’s democracy day, the Buhari-led federal government has not only permanently preserved the memory of Abiola but has technically accepted that the annulment of the June 12 presidential election was a rape of democracy and an error by then military government of Nigeria.
But beyond that, this epochal development will also go a long way in reassuring the immediate and remote victims of the June 12 presidential election annulment that their tears of sorrow were not in vain and that the federal government is remorseful for its action. In other words, this recognition of June 12 as democracy day will act as a psychological palliative to the Abiola family that not only lost their patriarch and generous breadwinner but also ended up losing the matriarch, Kudirat –then Abiola’s second and most senior wife – to the fight for democracy.
With June 12 becoming Nigeria’s official democracy day, what remains is for the federal government to officially honour Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (M.K.O.) Abiola, the Aare Ona Kankafo of the Yoruba Land, as a post-humous 3rd Republic president of Nigeria.
However, for this to be done, the umpire that organized the 3rd Republic general elections –the National Electoral Commission (NEC) – headed by Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, has to announce the remaining results of the 1993 presidential polls.
Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, a professor of Political Science at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, who was appointed as chairman of NEC in 1989 by then head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, had already started announcing the results of the June 12 presidential election which showed Chief M.K.O. Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) leading his opponent, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Congress (NRC) before an injunction from an Abuja High Court, obtained by the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) led by Chief Arthur Nzeribe, ordered him to suspend the results, declaring the election annulled.
Although no cogent reason was given by either the Court or the ABN for the sudden annulment, there were feelers that Nda Arthur’s action was not unconnected with Abiola’s alleged proud statement that he could do without a handshake across the Niger, imputing that he did not need the support of Ibos to win the election.
Another school of thought claims that the annulment of the June 12 election was a product of the vehement insistence by the Northern oligarchy that Abiola must not become president as well as alleged concerns by a few top military officers then such as the late Sani Abacha and some western powers like the United States of America over Abiola’s sincerity to lead Nigeria, hence the pressure on Babangida to find a way to stop the billionaire businessman who, ironically, was a very good friend of his. If this rumour is true, it then remains unfathomable why Nda Arthur and his ABN should allow himself to be used as an agent by Babangida and his cohorts to thwart the will of the Nigerian people.
Although none of these rumours is yet to be confirmed, the fact remains that from the results so far announced by Prof. Nwosu before the annulment, it was crystal clear that Abiola won the June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was deemed by both local and international observers as the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria, underscoring Prof Nwosu’s famous declaration that there would be “No Wuruwuru, No Magomago” during the polls, having adopted the popular option A4 that gave birth to the strange but very effective and transparent open Secret Ballot System of voting. The rest is history.
But the history of the remedying of the June 12 democratic crucifixion will not be complete until the remaining results of the election are announced by Prof. Humphrey Nwosu to pave way for the proper recognition of Chief MKO Abiola as a post-humous president of Nigeria and granting of all the rites attached to the office to his immediate family.
The fact that Prof. Nwosu himself has acknowledged that Abiola won the June 12, 1993 election makes it imperative for him to announce the remaining results.
Nwosu had, in a letter last year, thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for recognizing June 12 as democracy day and for honouring Abiola as the winner of the presidential election of 1993, although he could not attend the post-humous investiture of Abiola as Grand Commander of the Federal Republic.
Nwosu’s letter, made available to the media on June 10, 2018, reads:
“I thank His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria for recognising June 12 as Democracy Day and also (for) honouring the winner of June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
“Indeed, June 12, 1993, marked a turning point in Nigeria’s tortuous journey towards a democratic polity.
“It is an honour to the very hard-working men and women of the defunct National Electoral Commission under my leadership at this long-awaited recognition. I humbly commend this action by the President.
“Undoubtedly, the democratic system of governance is the best, especially for the multi-ethnic nation like ours. I thank you for building on the foundation which my team and I laboured strenuously to establish and actualise on June 12, 1993.
“It is our hope that expanding the frontiers of democracy, of which all the people of Nigeria, regardless of ethnic group, will provide economic, social and developmental benefits that will certainly make Nigeria a great nation not only in Africa but across the world.
“Certainly, the scheduled event on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, will rekindle the national consciousness of all Nigerians for a better nation.
“Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I will not be present at the investiture ceremony as I am outside the country. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!”