President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that effective 2019 Nigeria’s Democracy Day, marked every May 29 for the past 18 years, be shifted to June 12 to honor Moshood Abiola, the winner of the 1993 presidential election.
Election data showed Mr Abiola won the polls but he was never formally declared winner and was not sworn into office by the military government of Ibrahim Babangida.
Mr Abiola was later imprisoned by the Sani Abacha’s military regime as he struggled to actualize his mandate. He died in prison in 1998.
Successive governments have brushed aside calls for Mr Abiola to be honoured and for the federal government to recognize June 12 as democracy day.
The Buhari government said Mr Abiola will now be conferred with nation’s highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR. The honour is exclusively conferred only on presidents and former presidents.
The government also said Mr Abiola’s running mate in that election, Babagana Kingibe, is to be conferred with the second highest honour of the Grand Commander of the Niger, GCON.
Also to receive a GCON is the late Nigeria’s foremost pro-democracy activist, Gani Fawehinmi.
“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,” a statement by the presidency said Wednesday.