Sunday, 4th June 2023

Democracy Day: Triumph of June 12 over May 29

By Oloye ‘Lekan Alabi
12 June 2022   |   2:41 am
Today is the fourth anniversary of the change of our dear country’s Democracy Day from the irrelevant and unpopular date, May 29 to the more relevant and appropriate date of June 12.

MKO Abiola

Today is the fourth anniversary of the change of our dear country’s Democracy Day from the irrelevant and unpopular date, May 29 to the more relevant and appropriate date of June 12.

The credit for the reversal goes to the sitting Federal Government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, the sequel to the nod of the National Assembly and the behest of democrats within and outside Nigeria.

Captured in this article is my submission on the efforts made by some of us, over the years, to get the date, May 29 thrown out of the window as our Democracy Day. Thank God, that our plea was heeded by this government on June 6, 2018. Following is a summary of how we contributed to the emergence of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.

PROFESSOR Emeritus O.B.C Nwolise, is a former Head of the Political Science department of Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan. He is well-known, at home and abroad, as a democrat, patriot and scholar who does not compromise the principles and ethos of democracy.

Apart from being my friend of over 40 years, Prof. Nwolise has been a compatriot in the just struggle for freedom and life more abundant for all. He, since I started hosting, at personal cost, the annual June 12 lecture/luncheon, in 1994, has been the standing lecturer, pro bono, at our outings.

At the 21st Anniversary Lecture of June 12 on June 12, 2014, held at the Press Centre, OYS Council of the NUJ, Iyaganku GRA, Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof Nwolise was, like Oke ‘Badan, solidly present and effective.

The title of his 2014 lecture was JUNE 12: The Missed Opportunities. The preamble of that lecture goes thus: “The annual celebration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day on May 29 is fake and occurs without the soul of Nigeria and the democratic mandate of Nigerian masses. The soul of Nigeria and the democratic mandate of Nigerian masses are with June 12. I will, therefore, most humbly appeal to the Federal Government under the transformational leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, to transform May 29 to June 12 as Democracy Day.

I have no doubt that the government believes and knows that democracy is about the people (the demos; the popular masses), and not about a group of oligarchists who hoisted May 29 on Nigerians with impunity. If the President is in doubt, let’s take the matter to a national referendum where the masses will speak for themselves.”

Former President Jonathan Goodluck, regrettably, did not heed the sane and popular appeal of Prof. Nwolise.

On subsequent celebrations of the anniversary of June 12 by my humble self, the need to uproot and throw away the odious May 29 became my singsong. Nobody has ever come out with any justifiable reason why May 29 was a national mark.

It came to a point in 2018, the 25th anniversary of June 12, when, only God knew and still knows, from where one got the nerve to give a two-week ultimatum, during a circuit of some selected media houses, to the National Assembly, Federal and State Governments, to cancel May 29 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, and replace it with June 12.

Four days to the expiry date of my deadline, as it were, President Muhammadu Buhari hearkened, as it were, to my plea, when on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, he issued and personally signed the press statement authorising the date as the democracy day. In the statement, the Federal Government consented to some of the popular cries of democrats here and abroad.

When God intervenes in any matter, the beneficiary/beneficiaries of His grace should just quietly go and celebrate. In this wise, one does not need to prolong issues about the defeated May 29 date any longer.
That bloody month, particularly its date of 29, has, in the past, wrought terrors on Nigeria and millions of her citizens when you look back at the Kano/Kaduna riots in the 1950s, 1960’s, the 1962 declaration of emergency rule in now-defunct Western Nigeria; the 1963 ‘Operation ‘Wet ‘e’ in the West and the start of the Nigeria Civil War in 1967.

In my recent posts on the current unsteady situation of the country, I asked, and still ask, why instances of blood-letting in Nigeria always occur in the month of May?

With June 12 having defeated the irrelevant May 29, I pray for a continued reign of justice and equity in the land.

In this article