Democracy day is a National Public Holiday in Nigeria and for one, we know how Nigerians love public holidays. It is the day we can rest, spend time with our families and loved ones and also do that thing that has been on our minds for a long time.
So, what is this democracy day about some would ask? Up until June 6, 2018, Democracy Day had always been held on May 29. Democracy day is the day the military handed over power to an elected civilian government. This happened in the year 1999 and has marked the beginning of the longest civilian rule in the country since Nigeria’s independence from the colonial rule in 1960. This celebration has continued over the years starting from the year 2000. June 12 was formerly known as Abiola day and was majorly celebrated in Lagos and some southwestern states in Nigeria.
May 29 was the first official democracy day because it was when Olusegun Obasanjo took office as Nigeria’s president in 1999. Although in 1993, June 12 there was a democratic election that led to Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola declaring himself as Nigeria’s president. This was an unofficial result not declared by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) though it indicated a victory for MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC). The winner of the election was never declared because it was cancelled. After all, there were electoral irregularities. Despite all these, it was said to be the freest and fairest of all elections. MKO Abiola was later detained after he declared himself President of Nigeria. He was eventually charged with treason in 1994. The annulment of the election led to political unrest and protests which led to the resignation of Ibrahim Babangida and a takeover for another military rule, Sani Abacha through a bloodless coup.
Aside from the national protests and political unrest, there was international condemnation by the Commonwealth of Nations, the United Kingdom, United States of America and the European Union suspended aid to Nigeria due to this annulment. The military government accused foreign governments of interfering in the country’s affairs, therefore, causing tension and destabilizing the country.
Eventually, in the aftermath of the election, media houses were shut down with journalists been arrested. The government issued decrees which prevented court cases on the annulled election and NEC’s activities were terminated. Despite his travelling to the United States to get support, nothing changed and he died in detention on July 7, 1998.
Key Things You Should Know About Democracy Day in Nigeria.
So in summary, these are the key things you should know about Democracy Day in Nigeria.
- Initially, democracy day was previously celebrated on May 29.
- It is a national public holiday
- June 6 2018, the Buhari-led administration declared the new democracy day as of June 12.
- Democracy day is celebrated to honour the transition from military to civilian rule in Nigeria
- If MKO Abiola had been declared the winner of the election, he would have been the first southerner to be elected the president of Nigeria thereby breaking tribal rivalry because every part of the country voted for him.
- This has been the longest uninterrupted civilian rule in Nigeria.
- The 1993 presidential election was the first in the Nigerian Third Republic.
So today, let us be patriotic citizens and support the continuity of civilian rule in Nigeria. And let us applaud the works of our founding fathers as, without them, we wouldn’t be here today.
In this vain, Happy Democracy Day!