Mixed Reactions Trail PMB’s Pronouncement Of June 12 As New Democracy Day

In Breaking News, National News, Politics

By Jonathan Ugbal

Mixed reactions are trailing the decision of Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to move the a national holiday, the ‘Democracy Day’ from May 29 to June 12 annually.

May 29 was selected as Democracy Day in recognition of the return to civilian rule as well as the advent of the fourth republic and has been celebrated for almost two decades.

And, President Buhari on Wednesday evening announced June 12 as the new Democracy Day in honor of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections which are said to be the freest and fairest in the country’s history.

He also announced the posthumous conferment of the highest honor in the country; Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) to the acclaimed winner of that election, Chief Moshood Abiola who is popularly referred to as “MKO Abiola” as well as the second highest honor of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) to Mr. Abiola’s running mate, Baba Gana Kingibe.

And, Cross Riverians who spoke to CrossRiverWatch reacted differently to the pronouncement.

“It is not making sense,” said Jemimah Atsu, a student of the University of Calabar.

She added: “Does this mean we will have two democracy day celebrations this year? I can’t understand how this really affects the nation right now.”

For Mr. Linus Obogo, a veteran journalist and spokesperson to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State, he said he saw it as: “A gesture born out of desperation and secondly it is like pressing the panic button.

“If you call it a gesture, it is a desperate one aimed at clawing back its already bad image and the goodwill it has already squandered particularly from the signs emanating from the South West.

“If you talk about June 12 today, yes, it is in the annals of our history. But again, I don’t know how many people remember June 12 even from the Southwest though it wasn’t a Southwest affair.

“That a government can after three years of celebration of May 29th, and then in the last lap of its first term in office suddenly woke up and remembers June 12, for me it is a gesture that shows more of a panic button than being altruistic.

“I don’t think that gesture is aimed at honoring MKO Abiola’s memory or even the posthumous award.”

He wondered why Mr. Abiola will be awarded the highest honor posthumously and steps not being taken to swear in his vice.

“Why not bring back his former running mate and swear him in?” He queried, and added that: “For me, that will be applauded generally.”

Also, he added that: “If the administration had done this; May 29, 2015 and pleaded with President Jonathan then to swear them in on June 12, 2015 that would have been more significant that what they have done today.”

“For me June 12 is more significant than May 29 which is a day of handing over.

A member of the All Progressives Congress and social media critic based in Abuja, Mr. Ifere Paul said that: “I think it is a welcome development. It was a day that Nigerians all over the world expressed their franchise by electing Chief MKO Abiola.

“These two people were duly elected even though they were not sworn in. And even though Chief Abiola died and I think Kingibe wherever he is will be happy.

“I think they should be recognised as past President and Vice President and they should be given whatever both past Presidents and Vice get.

He said it is sad Mr. Abiola did not rule Nigeria and maintained that Mr. Abiola remains a hero of democracy since his election was the freest and fairest in the country’s history.

For Mrs. Rose Ushugwu, a civil servant, the idea was as welcoming as it was unwelcoming.

“I can understand why the honor of GCFR and GCON is been awarded to Chief Abiola and Kingibe respectively.

“What I don’t understand is why June 12 is the new Democracy day and for Mr. President to say it is even more important than October 1? I don’t know what he means by that,” she said.

In a series of tweets on Wednesday evening, Mr. Buhari wrote: “Dear Nigerians, I am delighted to announce that, after due consultations, the Federal Govt has decided that henceforth, June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day.
We have also decided to award posthumously the highest Honour in the land, GCFR, to the late Chief MKO Abiola.

Chief Abiola’s running mate, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be awarded a GCON.

Furthermore, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, tireless fighter for human rights & democracy, & for the actualization of the June 12, 1993 elections,will be posthumously awarded a GCON.

In the view of Nigerians, as shared by this Administration, June 12, 1993 was and is far more symbolic of Democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29, or even October 1.

June 12, 1993 was the day millions of Nigerians expressed their Democratic will in the freest, fairest & most peaceful elections since our Independence. That the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military Govt does not detract from its democratic credentials.”

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