Erstwhile Senate President, Adolphus Wabara, and former Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, have hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for his official recognition of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
Wabara and Ndoma-Egba in separate interviews opined that June 12 is of greater significance to Nigeria’s polity than May 29 which has been observed as Democracy Day after the country’s return to democracy in 1999.
The ex-Senate President said June 12 was an eye-opener in Nigeria’s democratic history. He noted that there was a need for the country to learn from past mistakes made with regards to June 12 to enhance democratic governance in Nigeria.
In the words of Wabara, “The initial Democracy Day May 29 was subjective. It had no historical significance. It is personal to whoever created it. I’m indeed one of those who believe June 12 is very relevant when we are talking about Nigeria’s democracy because everybody even the children unborn would ask, why June 12? What happened on June 12? What are the stories behind June 12 that even led to the death of the winner of the June 12 election? So, there is a lot to write about June 12. You can even do a PhD dissertation on June 12 whereas there is nothing to write on May 29. Somebody just wanted to create his own niche and his own day and date without any historical background or significance.”
The country’s former number-one legislator extolled Buhari for his acknowledgement of June 12 as Democracy Day, insisting that it was the best decision to take by any government that “understands how we got to where we are today in our struggles for the enthronement of democracy.”
He said: “I’m a critic but a constructive critic. I don’t just criticize for the sake of criticism. No! That is a well-deserved decision that the government took. And they should be applauded for that and one or two of such other decision. It’s indeed a wise one. It’s not political. The government looked at the significance of the day and decided that there is nothing to write home about May 29 but there is a lot to write to remind us and even children yet unborn of June 12. On that day in 1993, Nigerians never cared that two Muslims were going to be President and Vice President of this then great nation.”
On his part, Ndoma-Egba described June 12 as a watershed, saying: “It was a missed turn, a missed opportunity for us and our country, because it provided us with an opportunity to relegate those primordial sentiments like tribe and religion. For once, Nigerians demonstrated that they could just vote for people they believed in irrespective of tribe or religion. But when it was annulled we missed that opportunity. What is the relevance of that today? The relevance for that today is that it is still possible for Nigeria and Nigerians to have a country where religion and tribe are totally irrelevant. It is a possibility that we can work for because it happened before. And once it has happened before it can happen again.”
Emphasizing the significance of June 12, the former Senate Leader posited: “That was the day that Nigerians actually proclaimed their democracy. That was the day of proclamation. That was the day of liberation from the clutches of our unpleasant past. The present government has acknowledged that that is the day with historical relevance when you relate to democracy. May 29 was just a whimsical date that anybody picked it. It has no significance as such. It was just made significant. But June 12 represents an ideal. And the present government has acknowledged that ideal and the possibility of realizing that ideal.”
In June 2018, Buhari declared June 12 as the country’s official Democracy Day and conferred MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election, with a posthumous award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). On June 10, 2019, the President signed into law a bill passed by the National Assembly to legalize June 12 as the new Democracy Day.