Last year’s declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari has created some confusion over what May 29 which used to be known as Democracy Day now represents in the presence of June 12.
Many had thought that by President Buhari’s declaration, the May 29 date which used to be the day a new president and some governors are inaugurated, had been scrapped for June 12.
But the Federal Government has come out to explain that both days remains at least for now.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told State House Correspondents on Monday that although the president would be inaugurated for his second term in office on May 29, 2019 the ceremonies commemorating it would hold on June 12, 2019.
Mohammed said the May 29 inauguration will be a low-key event as world leaders who normally grace the inauguration events would be received on June 12 to celebrate Democracy Day.
Difference between May 29 and June 12
- Following Nigeria’s return to Democratic civilian rule in 1999, many Nigerians demanded that June 12 be made the official Democracy Day in commemoration of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Chief MKO Abiola but annulled by military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
- While the administrations of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan ignored the calls, President Buhari finally declared June 12 as Democracy Day on June 6, 2018 but retained May 29 as inauguration day. The president promised that June 12 would replace May 29 in future.
- There is need to make constitutional ammendments to scrap May 29 and make the June 12 the official date to celebrate Democracy every year and to inaugurate new democratic administrations every four years.
- The Federal Government is expected to declare a national public holiday for June 12 for the first time this year. Before now, southwest states of Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Lagos declared state public holidays on June 12. They also organised programmes to celebrate Abiola and talk about the sustainance of democracy in the country. Those programmes effectively replaced street protests that used to happen on that day especially against the annulment of the 1993 election and Abiola’s subsequent arrest and detention by the Abacha government.
- May 29 was instituted in 1998 by the military administration of Abdulsalam Abubakar who led the transition from military to civilian rule in 1999, following the sudden death of former military ruler, Gen Sani Abacha. Abacha died on June 8, 1998 paving the way for Abubakar to take over and lead the country back to democracy.
- Abdulsalami’s initial promise was a three months transition period to install a democratic administration on October 1, 1998 to coincide with the country’s Independence Day. But he later extended the period and fixed May 29. Abiola died mysteriously on July 7, 1998, the same day he was due to be released by the Abdulsalami government.
- President Obasanjo who won the presidential election in 1999 was sworn in on May 29 that year, and the celebration of Nigeria’s return to democracy (Democracy Day) was May 29 up until Buhari’s latest declaration.
- The bill to effectively scrap May 29 and make June 12 the official Inauguration and Democracy Day is still under consideration in the National Assembly
May 29 and June 12 events for 2019
In his chat with newsmen on Monday, Minister Mohammed gave the following explanations:
- President Buhari’s inauguration for a second term on May 29, 2019, will be a low-key affair, as a number of the events slated for the inauguration will now be held during the first observance of June 12 as the National Democracy Day.
- Invitations have been sent to all world leaders to attend the ceremonies marking the observance of the Democracy Day on June 12.
- Since the first observance of June 12 as Democracy Day falls into an election year, and as a measure to sustain June 12 as Democracy Day, the celebration of the inauguration and the advancement of democracy in the country will now take place on June 12.
The country can ill-afford two major celebrations within a two-week interval. Details of the events slated for the two ceremonies will be unveiled at a world press conference slated for May 20 in Abuja,” Mohammed added.
Newspeakonline recalls that on June 6, 2018, Buhari awarded Abiola a posthumous GCFR award, Nigeria’s highest national award usually reserved for a Nigerian president. Abiola’s running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, also got a GCON award, the second highest national award in the land. Late foremost human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who was at the forefront of the battle for the actualisation of June 12, was also posthumously honoured with GCON.