How Saraki Mobillised Other Senators To Give Legal Backing To June 12 As Nigeria’s Democracy Day

By Elizabeth Chukwuma

 After 19 years of celebrating Abdulsalami Abuabakar, a retired Army General and former Head of State, May 29, of handing over to a democratically elected government, the Senate has finally passed a bill recognising June 12, as  Nigeria’s Democracy to immortalise Moshood Kolawole Abiola, popular MKO, a business mogul and presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election.

Abiola, a close ally of then military leaders, particular, Ibrahim Babangida, then Head of State,  had won the election on the platform of Social Democratic Party, SDP, against his major rival Bashir Tofa, of the National Republican Convention, NRC, but was stopped by Babangida, on the advice of the  then top military brass that the election was rigged to favour Abiola. Unknown to may, the then Head of State had cancelled the election because of the military succession plan. Late general Sani Abacha has been lined up to take  over from Babangida after his eight years in office.

 The plan had almost worked until he was forced out because of pressure from Nigerians from all walks of life  leading to the appointment of  Ernest Shonekan, an established  Board room , politician as the interim  President to appease the Yoruba leaving  Abacha befind when he left office to stabilise the Administration.  He got it wrong as Abacha eventually pushed out the lame dock Administration and  declared himself the country’s head of  state on June 8, 1993, to avoid witnessing the celebration of June 12 by Nigerians and further shedding of blood in the country, thus confirming why he did not go along along with the then former military leaders.

The death of the duo, Abiola and Abiola, finally prepared the road for Abubakar, to take over power and finally handed over to the civilians on May 29, 199, described as Nigerians Democracy. Many had expected Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired Army General and former Head of state, who incidentally  was  the first beneficiary of  the late business mogul struggle to enthrone democracy on the platform of the People’s Democratic, PDP, to reverse the date   by  sending an executive bill to the National Assembly making June 12, Nigeria’s democracy day. But he failed to do after eight years in office.

There were indications that late President  Umaru Musa Yar’adua, his successor in office in office  could have done it but died before the end of his first term in office in 2007, paving the way for Goodluck Jonathan , the Vice President to step into his shoes as the country’s President.

The Value News learnt that there was pressure  from him from different quarters incding the Abiola family to imortalise late Abiola , by making 12 , Nigeria democracy day.  He could not muster the political will to do so to avoid stepping on powerful  toes, particular, Babangida, now a Chieftain of the PDP, who was instrumental to the annulment of the 1993, June 12, Presidential election . Instead of bowing to pressure to make June 12, Nigeria democracy day, he  changed University of Lagos to MKO Abiola University to appease the Yorubas , which was resisted by both the lecturers and the students.

Political watchers believe that the refusal of former President Jonathan to make June  12 as the country’s democracy day may have worked against him and the PDP, in the 2015, general election in the south west geo-political Zone. this may have informed why Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former governor f Lagos state, and the Afenifere, a Yoruba social-Cultural Organisation,  threw their weight behind the All Progressive Congress, APC,  a mega party  formed by the Opposition parties bent on replacing the PDP to form the next government of the country in  2015. The party knew had presented a no nonsense  Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army Major General and former Head of State as its Presidential Candidate in the election.

Tinubu and his cohorts knew that if Buhari should win the 2015 Presidential election going by the promises extracted from him, he will turn June 12 as Nigeria democracy and back it up by Law. He won the 2015 election and did not  hesitate in keeping to the promise to immortalise Abiola and the June 12 struggle.

In announcing  June 12 as the new date for the country’s democracy day on June 6, 2018, the Katsina state born Nigerian President  had said  that it was done to honour  the Presumed  winner of the 1993 Presidential election, Abiola. He noted that the date ws more ”symbolic of  democracy in Nigeria than May 29 or October 1”. He had also conferred on him the post humous Award of GCFR  while Babaga Kingibe, the Vice Presidential Candidate, got GCON, national hnour. 

Note that Yakubu Dogara led House of Representatives quickly adopted the date as Nigeria new democracy date but Bukola Saraki, the Senate President and his Colleagues in the red Chamber remained silent to avoid hurting the party leaders, particular Babangida and Jonathan

One year after the Executive bill  replacing May 29 as Nigeria democracy day with June 12, was sent to the Senate by the President, Saraki, who is at the tail of his Administration in the Senate , had considered it necessary to bring out the bill for discussion as a parting gift to the Prsident.

Recall that some members of the National Assembly, particular in the Senate  had criticised  the President  over the decision insisting that  democracy day cannot be changed by just  a mere declaration.  

President Mohammadu Buhari Alongside Bukola Saraki Senate Pesident

They got it wrong as he had backed it up with an executive bill which was sat on by the Senate leadership because of the frosty relationship between  the Legislature and Executive arm of government.

Saraki may have sent a signal to his political associates  that he had reconciled his  differences with the President and ready to play along  with him without sitting on his Executive bills any longer within the few days he will  preside over the Senate Affairs after he had joined the President to break his Ramadan  last Tuesday at the Presidential villa. He knew now that he is at  the  mercy of the President and has no option but to pass the President   outstanding bills that had not been touched over the last one year  and consider  his other requests that needed the Senate approval.

 One of such bills which was quickly passed on Thursday, May 16, 2019, was the Public Holiday Act Amendment bill to recognise June 12 as the new democracy day. This is a major victory for the President, who is currently in Saudi Arabia on the invitation of Salman Bin Abdulaziz, the King , to join him in the lesser Hajj in the Holly City of Mecca. It was learnt that the approved bill had been forwarded to his office awaiting his assent upon his return from Saudi Arabia. This is to give legal backing to this year’s democracy day celebration on June 12, to avoid giving room to those opposed on it to fest on it by dragging the government to Court. 

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