12 June 2019

Nigeria: Commendation for Declaration On June 12 As Democracy Day... but

Photo: Jeff Attaway/Wikimedia
Abuja stadium.
opinion

Last year President Muhammadu Buhari revisited the June 12, 1993 election and posthumously declared Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as the winner of the election and went further to honour him with GCFR, also posthumously. In addition, he declared June 12 as Democracy Day.

To achieve his intention of making June 12 truly the Democracy Day, he announced on May 29, 2019 that he will deliver his inauguration speech today, June 12, 2019.

My immediate reaction then was that the declaration was not only proper and appropriate, but highly commendable.

When the Court of Appeal presided over by Hon. Justice Abubakar Bashir Wali of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division, was to hear Chief MKO Abiola's appeal on the legality or otherwise of the annulment of the Presidential Election which was won by him, Chief Philip Umeadi, SAN, on behalf of the Federal Government, tendered a gazette to back up the annulment.

The court had no alternative but to rule that on the basis of the gazette, the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election had been annulled. In my submission, I made the following statement which in large measure has become prophetic today. "Your Lordships, this is a sad day for the judiciary in this country. We are at the beginning of a journey, the end of which nobody knows".

Even with the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, we are not yet at the end of the journey. The pronouncement of President Buhari in 2018 (26 years after) declaring Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as the winner of the election, June 12 as Democracy Day and honouring him with GCFR are no doubt good steps in the right direction but the declaration does not ipso facto amount to return of true democracy which we need in Nigeria for which M.K.O Abiola and others made huge sacrifices. I see those actions by President Buhari only as important milestones in our march to attain true democracy.

To attain true democracy which is our hope, the government should now go further and make June 12 the day for the inauguration of all future Presidents and Governors. Secondly, the government is advised to follow up the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day with positive directives to restructure the country. The 1999 constitution, which was bequeathed to us by the military should be replaced with a true federal constitution similar to the 1960 Independence Constitution and the 1963 Republican Constitution.

I make bold to say that events in the country today which include insecurity, kidnapping, unemployment, unpaid salaries and allowances, transactional leadership in the Legislative Houses, ineffective Local Governments and poor infrastructure point to the fact that my statement that "We are at the beginning of a journey, the end of which nobody knows" has come to pass. We lost the rare opportunity of installing Chief MKO Abiola, a transformational leader as the President.

Indeed Chief MKO Abiola possessed all the qualities best suited to unify Nigeria as a nation from a country of hundreds of nations.

- Are Afe Babalola, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D (Lond.), D. Lit, FNSE, FCI.Arb,Founder and Chancellor

Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti

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