The first democratically elected government in Nigeria was inaugurated on 1st October 1960 and re-elected in 1964, but was toppled by a military coup on 15th January 1966. Likewise, on October 21st, 1979, another democracy was revived, but was toppled by the military on 31st December 1983, just few months after a democratic election. Again, in 1993, another democratic election took place on June 12, but was halted by the military. The most sustained democracy in Nigeria is the one that was ushered in on May 29th 1999, and it is the current democratic era in the country.
In choosing a democracy day among these dates, one may be indecisive. Would you consider a date in the past democratic era or a date in the current democratic era? Would you use a date that marks a success to the democracy or a date that marks a failure to the democracy? Whichever one you choose, you will still have to choose among options. If you go for a date to commemorate a failure to the democracy, you would then have to choose between 15th January 1966, 31st December 1983, and 12th June 1993. All these dates were days when democracy was ruined or crucified in Nigeria. So, what criteria would you use to choose among these options?
Unlike other individual’s decisions, when you are a president, every decision you make impact on people and the nation, and people will react to it, but you still have to make one at all costs. President Buhari’s recent decision to change the democracy day from May 29 to June 12 is a choice among many options, and this enticed reactions, hence the writing of this article. Changing the democracy day from the date in which the democracy was revived and achieved success seemingly forever (May 29) to the date in which a democratic election was negated 25 years ago (June 12) is a big call. Which of these two dates is more deserving to be a democracy day? Many would have chosen differently.
The question people ask is why President Buhari did not decide on changing the democracy day (to June 12) until a year to the end of his first term? When it is just eight months to the election. One would ask, is this decision is political or based on informed justification? June 12 was the day in which one of the freest and fairest elections was conducted in Nigeria, but the outcome of the election was annulled by the military regime then. If the choice of a democracy day is based on sad events, why June 12 was a better date to commemorate a democracy? Why not 15th January 1996, which is another sad day in democracy, when democratically elected leaders were killed in numbers and put an end of the first democratic era in Nigeria? Why not 31st December 1983, another sad day in democracy, when another democratically elected government was toppled and the civilian leaders were jailed without a due cause?
The presumed winner of the June 12 election, MKO Abiola is no doubt a great symbol of democracy in Nigeria, and it is fair to dedicate a special day to remember his struggle and sacrifice, and June 12 is a perfect date to do that. MKO Abiola day is a day in which the country will reflect on and renew our hope for a true democratic principles and the contributions we can make to sustaining democratic values. So, June 12 should be an MKO Abiola Day.
For Democracy Day, it should remain May 29, the day in which democracy was revived to stay forever, and a day in which every newly elected government is inaugurated. In Nigeria, we have tried democracy four times, but we all failed except for the fourth time (May 29, 1999). So, May 29 is a perfect date to celebrate our democracy. It was in this democracy that was ushered on May 29, 1999 that we had four consecutive elected president. It is worth celebrating.
May 29th should not be isolated, it is a date we really achieved sustained success in democracy, and it is still the date we mark the beginning of every new democratic dispensation. Therefore, we should have both Democracy Day on May 29 and MKO Abiola Day on June 12. This will be more sustainable, otherwise, a different regime in the future may also wish to change the democracy day to either 15th January or 31st December. 15th January has already been marked and commemorated every year as an armed forces day, and that is ok because it was not made a democracy day as it is a day to remember a sad event. Dates for sad events may not be fit to celebrate a democracy, but can be renamed to remember the victims and the struggles made in those times. Finally, the government should reconsider its decision on June 12 and make it an MKO Abiola Day instead of Democracy Day.
Dr. Ahmed Adamu,
Leadership and Development Expert,
First-Ever Global President of Commonwealth Youth Council,
University Lecturer (Economics),
08034458189, 08188949144, email@example.com