President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday directed that effective from next year, Nigerian Democracy Day, marked every May 29 for the past 18 years be now shifted to June 12.
The idea, according to the president is to honour an illustrious son of Nigeria, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, who won a presidential election, conducted on the said date in 1993, but was prevented from taking office when the results were annulled.
The late MKO Abiola who died while struggling to actualise his mandate will also be conferred with nation's highest honor, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), exclusively conferred on the holders of the highest office in the country, the president.
In a statement he personally signed, Buhari also noted that Abiola's running mate in the 1993 election, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, is to be conferred with the second highest honor of the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
Also to receive a GCON is the late Nigeria's foremost pro-democracy activist, Gani Fawehinmi. President Buhari said, "For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th, as Democracy Day. That was the date when for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government.
"The first time this happened was on October 21st, 1979. But in the view of Nigerians, as shared by this Administration, June 12th, 1993, was far more symbolic of Democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29th or even the October 1st.
"June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our Independence. The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military Government does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process".
Conferring the highest award in the land on the late MKO Abiola, Buhari said, "Accordingly, after due consultations, the Federal government has decided that henceforth, June 12th will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore, Government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993 cancelled elections.
"His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded the GCON.
"The investiture will take place on Tuesday June 12th, 2018, a date which in future years will replace May 29th as a National Public Holiday in celebration of Nigeria Democracy Day."