Abiola, Gani, Kingibe get highest national honours

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. Buhari Declare June 12 Democracy Day

By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
06 June 2018

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari personally signed a press statement Thursday evening that proclaimed June 12 as Democracy Day to commemorate the election that MKO Abiola presumably won on that day 23 years ago. The decision would change the Democracy Day that had been celebrated on 29 May, since 1999, to mark the end of military to June 12.

The President said the 12 June 1993 election was the day Nigerians participated in the fairest, freest election, but it was annulled.

Abiola, the President said, would be invested with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, an honour that is for Presidents of Nigeria.

Ambassador-Babagana-Kingibe

In addition to naming June 12 the Democracy Day, Baba Gana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate in the 1993 election, and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who the President remarked was a dogged fighter for democracy, are to be rewarded with the national honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, reserved usually for Vice Presidents.

Chief Fawehinmi on his sick bed rejected the national honour, Officer of the Order of the Nigeria, OON, saying that the democracy that was in operation fell short of his expectations of the return to civil rule.

Gani Fawehinmi

The move is seen as a political masterstroke by the President to shore up his flagging popularity. It is also a move that he expects to shut up all former administrations that failed to recognise the watershed that June 12 represented.

How the recognition of June 12 would impact on the politics of 2019 would be seen in he next few days. The President’s party, All Progressives Congress, APPC, has been in turmoil after its primaries, factions are sprouting, and a central control is still lacking.

With a human rights record that is at best vacuous, a clampdown on the National Assembly leadership, an administration that has consistently operated the Constitution in abeyance, is set to steer public attention away from the criticisms that it faces.

The 2018 June 12 celebration would the last before the 2019 election. The President is banking on reaping the dividends of the decision, especially in the South West, where the President got the alliance that aided his victory in 2015. His advisers think the elevation of June 12 to a national memorial for Abiola, would be the road he needs to drive into the South West.

It would also be an offer to the human rights community, which is riled, to silence with mounting cases of violation of personal freedoms by the security agencies. The human rights community provided strong leadership for the recognition of the June 12, as a national holiday.

June 12 traditionalists have thinned over the years, to the point that when then President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to re-name the University of Lagos for MKO Abiola, critics raised a national storm that killed the idea. Most June 12 supporters have deeper demands from Buhari, principally, the re-structuring of the country.

Commendable as the recognition of Abiola, Kingibe, and Fawehinmi is, it serves no political purpose in the South East, where the agitations for regional autonomy is growing, or in the South South, whose interests are in the control of their oil and gas resources, and it would not answer to the endless killings and arsons by Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt.

The President with the decision on June 12 has shown that he can get things done, where he thinks they affect his political survival. The bigger issue is that he still shows preferences for platforms that are so narrow, that they leave critical questions that would benefit more parts of Nigeria.

Thanks very much Mr. President for recognising June 12. How about moving with speed to stop the rampaging Fulani herdsmen, or re-structuring of Nigeria?


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