President Muhammadu Buhari has received praise from governors for legalising June 12 as the country’s official Democracy Day in honour of the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola.
Buhari on Monday signed into law the Public Holiday (Amendment) Bill, making June 12 a public holiday in the country.
It also becomes the country’s official Democracy Day, replacing May 29, which hitherto was a public holiday.
Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Samuel Ortom ( Benue), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Emeka Ihedioha (Imo), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) and Babagana Umara (Borno), who joined the nationwide celebration of the maiden Democracy Day on Wednesday, urged Nigerians to defend democracy.
Delivering a lecture at the International Culture and Event Centre in Akure, Akeredolu said Buhari had expressed his belief that democracy should be sustained in the country by setting aside June 12 as a day to celebrate democracy.
The governor, who was represented on the occasion by his deputy, Agboola Ajayi, said, “The recognition given to June 12 as Democracy Day is commendable and for this we have to express our gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for the recognition.
“I will implore all Nigerians to do everything possible to sustain this democracy.”
Delivering a lecture at Aurora Event Centre in Osogbo, after hundreds of people marched through the streets of the state capital to commemorate Democracy Day, Oyetola, who was represented by his deputy Benedict Alabi, called for unity in the country.
He said, “Our President has done us proud. He has set a new agenda for socioeconomic transformation of the country.
“The declaration of June 12 is an affirmation of the fact that the present administration believes so much in things that can promote unity and peace.
“This is a period of sober reflection on the selfless service and sacrifice made by our heroes to ensure that we remain united and indivisible as a nation.
“As we are celebrating the maiden Democracy Day, we must do everything possible to strengthen the peaceful coexistence and unity of the Nigerian nation.”
An activist, Amitolu Shittu, who also spoke on the occasion, described the President’s decision on June 12 as “unprecedented, memorable and significant in the history of Nigeria.”
Shittu said, “We thank President Buhari for stepping on toes and for the courage to declare today as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.”
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Onyebuchi Ememanka, Ikpeazu congratulated Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Ahmed Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila “and indeed all Nigerians on this auspicious occasion coming soon after the commencement of this current democratic dispensation.”
In his speech read by his deputy Noimot Salako-Oyedele at the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta, Abiodun promised to emulate Abiola.
The event was held after a rally organised by the state government ended at the family house of the late Abiola in Gbagura, Abeokuta.
The governor said, “I urge us all to make the sacrifice of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola count as we continue to enthrone good governance for the benefit of our people.
“We appreciate the trust and mandate that the good people of Ogun State has entrusted us with during the last general elections.”
He added, “Just like Chief MKO was never a sectional leader or biased in his dealings with anyone he came across, we vow to ensure transparency in all our efforts at taking Ogun State to the height of the vision of our forebears.”
The Speaker of the state House of Assembly Olakunle Oluomo said Buhari deserved to be applauded for legalising June 12 as Democracy Day.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Chibuike Onyeukwu, Ihedioha said it was proper for June 12 to be the new Democracy Day.
The statement said, “He (Ihedioha) urged Nigerians to uphold and defend the significance for institutionalising June 12 as a national holiday.”
Mattawalle described the Democracy Day as a time to reflect on how the country had fared over the years and renew determination for the task ahead, according to the News Agency of Nigeria.
He said, “One of the doyens of the struggles for our modern day democracy is Chief MKO Abiola, on whose honour Nigeria’s Democracy Day was changed from May 29 to June 12.
“The event of June 12 and the subsequent struggles for reversion to civilian rule were the precursors to today’s democracy.”
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary Terver Akase, Ortom called for unity in the country.
Akase said, “The governor commends President Buhari for making the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day a reality, and for immortalising winner of the 1993 presidential election, the late Chief MKO Abiola, by naming the Abuja National Stadium after him.”