When the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida announced that Nigeria would go back to democratic rule and set elections for June 12, 1993, no one knew how iconic that date would become in the history of the nation.
The election held and was won by the candidates put forward by the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and his running mate, Baba Gana Kingibe. In what was declared by everyone, both local and international, as the freest and fairest election in the nation’s history, Abiola’s mandate was taken away from him and he was jailed. He never smelt freedom till 1998, months before his death.
Nigeria has since that time found its way back to democracy after General Abdusalam Abubakar handed over power to President Olusegun Obasanjo on May 29, 1999. That auspicious date was picked as Nigeria’s democracy day. For 19 years, it remained so. But no more.
With a presidential declaration, President Muhammadu Buhari, has ordered that, henceforth, the nation would celebrate Democracy Day on June 12 in commemoration of the victory and also the loss that attended the derailment of the democractic process after the annulment.
We would never know how great a presidency the Abiola team would have but they stood for hope and a new beginning. They stood for an end to military rule and also a young government as they were, by Nigerian standards, young. What we do know his, though posthumous, Abiola has being given the recognition he deserves.
On June 12, 2018, the president bestowed upon Abiola the national honour General Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), a preserve of just the nation’s president or head of state. His mandate was finally recognized.
This, of course, threw up allegations of political manoevering, questions on the timing and the why. All these are really irrelevant when we think on it. For the Abiola family, it is a vindication that has been long coming. It is an end to years of licking their wounds and having lost their father to the dtruggle to make Nigeria a better place. It is their due.
Kudos to President Buhari for the courage shown, congratulations to the Abiola family for their perseverance and to the doubters, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.