June 12 each year marks the occasion and commemoration of Democracy Day in Nigeria.
Prior to 2018, the day was mostly commemorated by the Lagos State government, some states in the South-West, and a few other Nigerians who wish to remember the annulled June 12 1993 presidential election.
The election was arguably the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria. Despite having a Muslim-Muslim ticket, Moshood Abiola popularly known as M.K.O Abiola, and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe under Social Democratic Party (SDP) enjoyed the majority support of the Nigerian voters who turned out in large numbers to express their franchise.
Abiola and Kingibe had contested against the National Republican Convention (NRC) that had Bashir Tofa as the presidential candidate and Sylvester Ugoh who was a former governor of the now defunct central bank of Biafra as his running mate.
Regrettably, the election won by the late popular philanthropist M.K.O Abiola was annulled by the military government headed by General Ibrahim Babangida on grounds that did not and still do not hold water. The annulment of the election led to widespread protests across the country – East, West, North, and South, some of which turned violent.
The growing local and international pressure plus the media outburst and criticism led to Babangida exiting office on August 26, 1993. An interim government led by Ernest Shonekan took over but it didn’t last as Sani Abacha seized power on November 17, 1993, in what was to become the last successful coup in the country.
Abacha’s emergence did not deter protests and pressure from the local and international communities over the annulment of the June 12 1993 election. Abiola himself continued mounting pressure on the government to declare him the winner of the election.
Abiola was later arrested on June 23, 1994, shortly after making a public appearance in Lagos where he declared himself President, stating that he would form an opposition government within 30 days.
He was placed majorly in solitary confinement and asked to renounce himself as the president as part of negotiations for his release. Abiola strongly rejected the proposal and would go on to die on the day he was set to be released from jail. It was widely reported that he fell ill and died. The cause of his death remains controversial.
In 2018, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari recognised Abiola as a posthumous Nigerian President and conferred on him the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
Buhar also changed the celebration of the Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12, to commemorate what was widely believed to be the best election condcuated in the history of Nigeria.
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