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June 12 takes root as Democracy Day

Today is Democracy Day in commemoration of the historic June 12, 1993 Presidential election won by the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the late Chief Moshood Abiola.

Abiola defeated his National Republican Convention (NRC) challenger, Alhaji Othman Tofa, during the poll conducted by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) headed by Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, a political scientist.

However, the results were annulled by former military President Ibrahim Babangida, provoking widespread national protest and onslaught against the military with harsh consequence for the agitators.

Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged Abiola victory and conferred on him the pot-humous award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the nation’s highest national honour, and proclaimed ‘June 12’ as Democracy Day. It was declared a public holiday instead of May 29, which served the purpose since return to democratic rule in 1999.

But, Friday’s commemorative ceremonies will largely be virtual symposia organized by pro-democracy activists.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will host an online programme tittled: June 12: learning from the past, shaping the future. It will feauture Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cherie, Dele Momodu and artistes Timi Dakolo and TY Bello.

Others include former Lagos State Information Commissioner Mr. Dele Alake, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and Dr. Hafsat Abiola-Costello.

President Buhari will address the nation in a broadcast this morning, in commemoration of the Democracy Day.

Senate President Ahmad Lawan urged Nigerians to embrace a healthy democratic practice devoid of desperation and violence.

Lawan in a statement in Abuja, said having come this far, Nigerians have no reason to doubt the nation’s ability to govern itself and attain its great potential.

He added: “Our uninterrupted practice of democracy in the last 21 years attests that democratic civil rule is taking roots and becoming firmly entrenched in Nigeria,” Lawan said.

The statement reads: “I felicitate with fellow Nigerians on the occasion of this year’s Democracy Day, the second time it is being celebrated on June 12.

“June 12 has become a metaphor in our country for free, fair and credible elections and a memorial for the day in which Nigerians stoutly rose above ethnic and religious sentiments to deliver a pan-Nigerian mandate for the revival of hope in their country unity and attainment of its great potential.

“The heroic demonstration of patriotism by the Nigerian voters on June 12, 1993 will continue to inspire generations of their compatriots to promote national unity and defend democracy in Nigeria.”

House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila congratulated Nigerians for marking this year’s Democracy Day.

He said since 1999, Nigeria had come a long way in democratic practice, noting that the country’s system is growing by the day.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, the Speaker said Nigeria has learnt a lot in the last 21 years of uninterrupted democracy.

Gbajabiamila used the occasion to call on Nigerians to remain united in the face of daunting challenges facing the country.

He also called for fervent prayers for the country to overcome the myriad of security challenges.

Osun State Governor Adegboyega Oyetola in a statement described June 12 as Democracy Day as “symbolic of Nigerians’ collective resolve to set aside their differences and sentiments and speak as one people to achieve a collective vision even in the face of the stiffest of opposition.”

The All Progressives Congress (APC) enjoined Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of democracy and strive to make it a way of life..

The party, in a statement by it’s National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, congratulated Nigerians on the occasion of this year’s Democracy Day.

The statement reads: “Undoubtedly, the declaration of June 12 as the Nigeria’s Democracy Day by the APC-led Federal Government, has further cemented the credentials of President Muhammadu Buhari as a true and genuine democratic.

“President Buhari displayed political will in recognising and appreciating the sacrifices of many Nigerians in the enthronement of democracy in our nation and the ultimate prize paid by the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Abiola.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) charged President Muhammadu Buhari to initiate the process of electoral reforms without further delay.

The party called on the President to rethink his position on the Electoral Amendment Bill passed by the Eighth National Assembly, urging him to assent to it.

At a media briefing in Abuja, PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan, charged the President to return the Amendment Bill to the National Assembly within 14 days, with a strong commitment to sign it into law immediately it is passed by the federal legislature.

Ologbondiyan said, “Our party holds that it behooves on President Buhari to initiate an electoral reform process immediately, even if that will be the only legacy that posterity will record for him in his eight years in office.”

The PDP further noted that it is saddening that the nation is currently presided over by persons whose actions showed that they do not believe in, or have any regard for democracy.

Such persons, the party said, have emasculated democratic principles and desecrated all that the late MKO Abiola stood for, fought for, and eventually died for.

Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege said Nigerians must learn from the lessons of the annulled election.

He also commended President Buhari for declaring June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day instead of May 29.

Omo-Agege said June 12 has deep historical significance for Nigeria’s democracy.

He also applauded the President for recognizing the winner of the election, MKO Abiola, by awarding him the highest honour, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), usually reserved for presidents.

Omo-Agege paid tributes to great heroes of the country’s democratic evolution.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubabar lauded the sacrifices made by Abiola, describing him as a symbol of the June 12 struggle.

Atiku also called for honour and recognition for the late Chief Alfred Rewane, Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua, Mrs Kudirat Abiola and many others who lost their lives in the struggle to enthrone democracy in the country.

Senator Oluremi Tinubu, (Lagos Central) felicitated with Nigerians on the commemoration of Democracy Day.

She said: “A little over twenty-one (21) years ago, on May 29th 1999, a democratically elected government was inaugurated, ushering in the fourth republic and commencing the longest stretch of democratic rule in Nigerian history.

“In addition, this celebration is the first anniversary of the commemoration of June 12 as Democracy Day, having been so designated by President Muhammadu Buhari,.

“It is a reminder of our collective will and decision to be governed by democratic ideals. For students of governance, history and democrats, the significance of June 12, 1993 and the ensuing struggle is not lost.

“Regardless, it has not been a smooth sailing journey. The result however has been increased determination to do right by Nigerians and leave a Country that generations unborn can be proud of. The President Muhammadu Buhari led administration is on the right path, given its antecedents in the last few years, and in particular its response to the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic.

“This Democracy Day celebration calls for even greater commitment to guarding our democracy, while working together to realize the vision of our founding fathers – ‘one Nation bound in freedom, peace and unity’. “

Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige urged Nigerians to see June 12, as a day for sober reflection.

In a statement by his media aide, Emmanuel Nzomiwu, said: “It is a thing of joy for me that democracy continues to thrive in Nigeria despite all odds and inspite of the socio-economic and political challenges facing us as a country.

“However, we should appreciate the fact that democracy, which has been globally adjudged the best system of government, is not an end in itself. It is a means to reach our destination, vis-a-vis our development as a nation. Twenty-one years ago, Nigeria embarked on this journey as a nation and I am delighted, we are not looking back.”

Former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi reminded Nigerians that democracy remained the bedrock on which the country was built, while urging all to hold on to every democratic ideal that would push the country forward in spite of so many challenges facing the nation.

Obi, who made this known through a release made available to the Press, encouraged Nigerians to strive towards achieving better democratic ideals so that the country will reap greater dividends of democracy. Obi explained that the democracy Nigeria enjoys today did not come on a platter of gold, but regretted that not much have been achieved in the country due to accumulated years of leadership failure. He said the major challenge was leaders sacrificing and focusing on the future, especially those things that made other countries to progress.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic presented Nigeria with another opportunity to look inwards.

Telecommunication giant Globacom called for peace and unity the country.

It urged Nigerians to use the occasion to dwell more on things that will entrench peaceful co-existence and unity.

In a goodwill message issued to mark the nation’s Democracy Day, Globacom also gave kudos to Nigerian compatriots for keeping the faith as the nation’s democracy continues to evolve, adding that irrespective of differences in tribe, Nigerians should bear in mind that there is power in diversity.

It also called for support for the various levels of government in their bid to advance lasting policies which will impact citizens’ quality of life and advance the country’s development.

“June 12 is a watershed. It stands for a series of events which gave us new heroes of democracy in the 90s. We must remember that some of our fellow compatriots laid down their lives, paying the ultimate sacrifice before the country’s democracy stabilised,” Globacom noted in its message.

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