President Muhammadu Buhari’s surprise replacement of May 29 with June 12 as Democracy Day celebration has spiralled commendations from across all activists and groups.
Activists and non-activists on Thursday commended President Buhari for the declaring June 12 which he said would henceforth be celebrated as Democracy Day beginning from next year.
The President also conferred a posthumous highest national honour on the presumed winner of June 12, 1993, Presidential election, MKO Abiola.
Abiola’s Vice Presidential candidate Babagana Kingibe and late human rights and fiery lawyer Gani Fawehinmi are also to be bestowed with National honours on June 12.
All the states in the West have always observed June 12 as democracy day.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, President of Women Arise for Change Initiative (WA), said: ”We accept these honors no matter how belated because we and other Nigerians have campaigned around these issues over the years.”
She said June 12 could not be forgotten so fast by Nigerians because it was the day Nigerians freely elected a President in the freest and fairest election.
The rights activist prayed that the spirit of June 12 would take firm root in Nigeria future elections.
“It is our wish that the essential spirit of June 12 takes firm root in our land with free and fair election and become a norm in our land.
”From the Ekiti elections scheduled for July 14 and the general elections in 2019. That is the moment the spirits of Abiola and all martyrs of June 12 will forgive Nigeria’’. She said.
Alhaji Balarabe Musa, National Chairman of Peoples Redemption Party and former governor of old Kaduna State, said Buhari’s action had given Nigerians renewed hope.
Musa who has never seen anything about Buhari said: “President Buhari’s action with regards to declaration of June 12 as democracy day and award of the highest honour to late Chief MKO Abiola are relevant, just, courageous and patriotic.
“The actions give hope that President Buhari can do the right thing and correct wrongs before it’s too late for him and for the nation,’’ Musa said.
Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, socio-cultural group in South West, considered the declaration as a reward for all progressives in the country.
Mr Akin Malaolu, Secretary-General of the forum, applauded the decision of Buhari and said the decision and recognition provoked emotions and tears of joy throughout the country, especially in the Western region.
He noted that Abiola was a political figure that was respected by all tribes in the country and across the world in his life time.
” We had this opportunity in 1999 when Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was president, but despite all appeals to him, he turned the teeming masses down.
“But GOD and Allah said that this day shall come and it came without rancour but happiness and warm smiles everywhere.
“Candidly, when the news broke, artisans, market women and workers were in jubilation, commercial drivers and passengers hugged one another with smiles.
“Every word that came out from the jubilant crowd can be interpreted as: do good and good will follow you,” Malaolu said.
He congratulated Nigerians and the victims of brutal killings during the struggle for the actualisation of June 12 in 1993.
He also thanked President Buhari, the Vice President and others, including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the decision.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State hailed the announcement and lauded the President, saying that the development was a historic and symbolic moment in the nation’s political trajectory.
“This is a welcome development. It is a historic moment in our nation, and I join other Nigerians to commend President Buhari on this announcement.
“By this move, he has done what previous administrations failed to do.
“This not only shows that the president is a man of history and character but also eloquently confirms that the heroes of democracy did not die in vain after all,” Ambode said in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Habib Aruna.
A chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, also commended President Buhari. He said Abiola, was the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election until his death on July 7, 1998.
Babatope, a former Minister of Transport and member PDP Board of Trustees, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on phone that the president’s motivation was right.
“Even though one may question the timing, the motivation is right.
“We should commend Buhari for the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the conferment of GCFR on the late MKO Abiola,” he said.
Also Mr Wasiu Eshinokun-Sanni, the Deputy Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, said that the truth had prevailed.
Eshinokun-Sanni, who noted that he received the news with a mixed feeling, commended the Lagos State Government to have recognised Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, a late human rights lawyer.
“The good part is that effort of Nigerians in forgetting religious and tribal sentiments as exhibited by the June 12 elections is not in vain. June 12 is Democracy Day is also symbolic.
“What Obasanjo (former President) failed to recognise all this while in spite being the greatest beneficiary of June 12, a Nigerian of northern extraction has brought it to the front burner,” he said.