Kinsmen of the late MKO Abiola yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to put in place necessary constitutional provisions that would make June 12 the official inauguration and swearing in date of Nigerian president.
Since May 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic governance, with the swearing-in of the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, May 29 has been observed as the day to inaugurate a new administration after a general election, following a four-year tenure.
Although the Senate had last week agreed with President Muhammadu Buhari that June 12 every year will now be celebrated as Democracy Day, it insisted however that May 29 should retain its status as the inauguration date for president and state governors.
But speaking on behalf of Abiola kinsmen at a press conference, the traditional ruler of Gbagura in Ogun State, Halidu Laloko, said even though inauguration day in Nigeria had been May 29 since 1999, the recent proclamation by President Buhari will not be accepted by the generality of Nigerians if the government retains May 29 as the handover date.
According to them, it has become necessary to shift the handover date forward by two weeks "to properly actualise the June 12, 1993 annulment date and immortalise MKO Abiola who sacrificed his life because of Nigerian Democracy."
The Gbagura monarch represented at the briefing by Adio Baiyewun, the Balogun of Ojoo-Gbagura, commended Buhari and the National Assembly for their decision, saying his people are happy that truth has triumphed over injustice in the protracted June 12 saga.
The monarch said, "We see this as victory of truth over injustice, and as people of Gbagura and Ogun State at large, we are extremely glad that Mr President has finally done what is just and fair with the posthumous award of GCFR on late Abiola and the declaration of June 12 as proper Democracy Day and a Public Holiday in Nigeria.
"We equally applaud the National Assembly led by the Senate for directing the Independent National Electoral Commission to formally declare Chief MKO Abiola winner and as an Ex-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with all his entitlements fully paid.
"We also passionately request the National Assembly to take a second look at President Muhammadu Buhari's proposal on June 12 and demand that, for proper actualisation and immortalisation of the date and Abiola, there is need to support Mr President on the need to replace the hitherto Public Holiday of May 29 and celebration as well as Handover Day with June 12, since the date marks a watershed in the Nigerian political history."
Also speaking, Bode Mustapha, a High Chief in the community enjoined President Muhammadu Buhari to send an executive bill to the National Assembly for constitutional backing of an amendment to the President's Handover Day and Democracy Day Celebration.
He said, "Because of the separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislature, we appeal to the President to forward an Executive Bill to the National Assembly, taking into cognizance the circumstances that led to the annulment of the June 12 election and the importance of that day and date as the watershed of the democracy of this nation.
"He should send the Bill to the National Assembly changing the Democracy Day. Once it has been sent to the National Assembly and it becomes law, it extends the tenure of the present government and the National Assembly only by a couple of days. And there will be no disparity again in the Democracy Day and Handover Date".
June 12 Turning Point In Nigeria's Democratic Journey - Prof Nwosu
Meanwhile, chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, yesterday described June 12, 1993 as a turning point in Nigeria's democratic history.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for recognising June 12 as Nigeria's Democracy Day and for honouring the memory of Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 election.
In a letter to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Nwosu who presided over the polls later annulled by the military junta said the conferment of national honours on Chief Abiola and his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe "will rekindle the national consciousness of all Nigerians for a better nation."
The letter reads: "I thank His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria for recognizing June 12 as Democracy Day and also honouring the winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
"Indeed, June 12, 1993 marked a turning point in Nigeria's tortuous journey towards a democratic polity. It is an honour to the very hard-working men and women of the defunct National Electoral Commission under my leadership at this long awaited recognition. I humbly commend this action by the President.
"Undoubtedly, the democratic system of governance is the best especially for the multi ethnic nation like ours. I thank you for building on the foundation, which my team and I labored strenuously to establish and actualize on June 12, 1993. It is our hope that expanding the frontiers of democracy for all the people of Nigeria, regardless of ethnic group, will provide economic, social and developmental benefits that will certainly make Nigeria a great nation not only in Africa but across the world.
"Certainly, the scheduled event on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 will rekindle the national consciousness of all Nigerians for a better Nation. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control I will not be present at the investiture ceremony as I am outside the country".
Abiola, Others' Struggles Must Not Be In Vain - NLC
Meanwhile, as Nigeria marks the 25th anniversary of the annulment of the June 12,1993 election today, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has said there is more to the date than the symbolic commemorations.
It urged the federal government to identify fully with the ideals and lessons of June 12 by removing all obstacles to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
The Congress, in a statement signed by its president, Ayuba Wabba, restated its appeal that a June 12 Cenotaph be erected in honour of heroes, heroines and icons of the June 12 struggles.
He said this will go a long way in institutionalizing the lessons of June 12. He stated that Chief MKO Abiola did not give up on the mandate freely given to him by Nigerians.
The NLC president said, "He (Abiola) dared. Today, he has truly won. We can say the same of other Nigerians such as the legendary Senior Advocate of the Masses, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, who was mercurial in his fight for democratic rights.
"There is also the slain wife of Chief Abiola, Alhaji Kudirat Abiola, who soldiered on like a true amazon behind her persuasion on the sanctity of June 12, and amidst very horrifying odds."
Wabba urged the government to also enforce relevant provisions in the Electoral Act that place a ceiling on political campaign financing and criminalise violence, vote buying and sundry fraudulent acts.
He said to honour the memory of June 12, the government must evolve the needed political will for the deepening of popular democracy and fully implementing the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Report.