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June 12 Declaration: An Act of Approbriation or Desperation?

June 12 Declaration: An Act of Approbriation or Desperation?
Barely two weeks after the conventional commemoration of the nation's Democracy Day on the 29th of May, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari announced another historic day as Democracy Day. This has however generated a whole lots of commendations as well as knocks on Mr. President. This is not disconnected from the fact that not many saw the announcement coming. As the road to the future always starts from the past, it is pertinent we acquaint ourselves very succinctly with the rationale behind this celestial decision.

After the successful coup led by Gen. Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida which overthrew the military government of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was), the government of the day took it upon itself to ensure the transfer of power back to a civilian government. This culminated into the 1993 general elections. The military government made for two-party system. With *Chief MKO Abiola* being the flag bearer of the *Social Democratic Party (SDP)* and *Alhaji Bashir Tofa* being that of the defunct *National Republican Convention (NRC)*,  the presidential election was conducted on the 12th of June, 1993 by the then National Electoral Commission (NEC) under the chairmanship of Prof. Humphrey Nwosu. Some declassified information had it that the then military government believed that Tofa would win the election and that it would be easier to handle Tofa if the election had to be annulled. However, the election which saw Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as the acclaimed winner with an unreported total votes of *8,341,309 (58.36%)* was eventually annulled by IBB. Irrespective of this, in a bid to protect and deliver this mandate given to him, history had it that Chief MKO Abiola kept on parading himself as the acclaimed President without a formal and official announcement of the election result which eventually led to his incarceration. History also has it that the subsequent government of *Sani Abacha* promised to acquit MKO Abiola provided the latter let go of his mandate, but Abiola declined. It was however while at the prison that MKO had his last breath. Since then, many Nigerian, particularly from the South West has had the notion that June 12 should be celebrated as Democracy Day. The spirit of nationalism shared reflected also in the way some Nigerians named their children after "Abiola". *Alhassan Ado-Dogura* (Chief Whip, NA) even went ahead to name her daughter after Abiola's wife, "Kudirat". After 25 years of this agitation, on the *6th of June 2018* specifically, President Buhari officially endorse and declared June 12 as the nation's Democracy Day.

Several groups, both regional and national, including the Nigerian Senate has praised Mr. President on this development, as this day (June 12) is even more significant as far as Nigeria's democracy is concern. In the words of *Senator Ahmad Lawan* (the Majority Leader), _" There is not history that could link May 29 to the actual democratic evolution of Nigeria that is greater than June 12"_.
This declaration on the other hand has been greeted with several knocks.  Notable among this criticisms is that of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, *Alfa Belgore* who questioned the legality and constitutionality of the declaration. *Dino Melaye* though admitted that Buhari's intention is right, he is of the opinion that his action is illegal. Citing _*Chapter 43(2) of the National Honours Act 1963*, he said, _"I am a democrat, I believe very sincerely that Chief MKO Abiola deserves even more than the president has pronounced because he was a true patriot, philanthropist and should be so decorated. But, we are governed in the country by the constitution and extant laws. No matter how beautiful a situation is, the law of the land remains the law of the the land. We should not be emotional about this. The law remains the law"_.

The declaration nonetheless is not without certain implications. The declaration, coming just about 9 months to another general election has been conceived by many, even in the South West as a mere political cake to please the Yorubas. *Ayo Adebanjo*, a leader of the Afenifere said, "Buhari shouldn't think Yorubas are fools". The question now is, if Mr. President really had the intention of this declaration in mind, why must he have to wait till few months to another general election, in which he himself is seeking re-election? Another implication is that of the declaration going against the *National Honours Act 1963* which frowns at national awards given to dead persons, save soldiers or other servicemen for their bravery. It should be noted that Buhari is to confer on Abiola, the highest title in the land, _Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR)_, with his acclaimed Vice-President, *Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe* and *Gani Fawehinmi* _Grand Commander of Order of the Niger (GCON)._ The last but not the least is the alteration of the *Public Holidays Act* which provides for May 29th as the country's Democracy Day.

Conclusively, I am of the opinion that efforts should be geared by our leaders to ensure the fortification of our hard-earned democracy for the betterment of the citizens and not as a mere machinery. *Richard Brookhiser* once said, _*"The most important form of honesty, especially in a leader, is discerning the great course of action and forthrightly pursuing it"*_. Much more than declaring June 12 as the nation's Democracy Day, our public and private institutions, parastals and agencies should be more strengthened, free from all unhealthy rivalry and political masturbations, in order to ensure their efficiency. Government at all levels should seek first the comfortability of the citizenry, and all other things can be added.
The labor of our heroes past shall never be in vain. God bless Nigeria!
Adesanya Abiodun Samuel is a student of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University

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