By Bolaji Buhari
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Friday said President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated uncommon courage by declaring June 12 as Democracy Day.
The minister said this while speaking with newsmen after a condolence visit to the office of Punch Newspapers over the death of its Chairman, Mr Gbadebowale Aboderin.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)reports that the minister was accompanied on the visit by senior officials of government media organisations.
The minister added that the president has shown that he is a democrat and a listening leader with the declaration to immortalise late MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12,1993 election.
He also said Buhari has strengthened his human rights credentials by conferring the GCON award on late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).
“President Buhari has actually demonstrated uncommon courage and shown that he is a listening president by the decision to make June 12 Democracy Day as against May 29.
“Simply put, the president has immortalised MKO Abiola and that is no mean feat. All lovers of democracy must stand with the president on the decision.
“By hearkening to the yearnings of Nigerians, President Buhari has shown he is indeed a consummate democrat.
“With the decision, he has shown he is a better democrat and more courageous leader than those who, despite the significance of June 12, opted to celebrate May 29 for many years,” he said.
The minister faulted the claims by critics, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), that the president was playing politics with the declaration.
The minister questioned the moral authority of the PDP to make the claim as they refused to honour Abiola throughout their 16 years in power.
Mohammed said successive presidents “merely danced on Abiola’s grave for 16 years as they bluntly refused to listen to the voices of Nigerians.”
He said the PDP did not recognise the date because members of the party lacked the sincerity and courage to do so.
The minister reiterated that President Buhari never made the declaration out of expediency, but because that was the right thing to do.
” We are fortified and glad that both the families of Abiola and Fawehinmi have lauded the president for the declaration,’’ he added.
Mohammed also described the death of the late Punch Chairman as a painful loss, adding that Aboderin’s demise was shocking.
The minister described Aboderin as an enterprising young man who did a lot to lift the media industry as well as impact on many with his philanthropic activities.
He said the Federal Government shared in the loss of Punch Newspapers.
“It is quite sad when the life of a young man like Aboderin is cut short.
“He was a wonderful person, a dynamic and enterprising young man who did a lot to take Punch to a new level both as a business and as a newspaper,’’ he said.
Mohammed disclosed that President Buhari was personally touched by Aboderin’s demise, hence his condolence statement.
Reacting, the Managing Director of Punch Newspapers, Mr Ademola Osinubi, thanked the minister for the visit.
He said the newspaper was grateful as the minister made the visit out of his tight schedule.
The managing director also thanked the president for his condolences, saying the organisation was moved by his concern.
NAN reports that Mr Austeen Elewodalu, a Director of News at Voice of Nigeria; Mr Ibrahim Mamanga, the Head of Lagos operations for NAN; Mr Pius Ojeh, Deputy Director Marketing, Nigeria Television Authority were in the minister’s delegation.
Also in the delegation was Adeyinka Amosun, Executive Director of Lagos operations for Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria.