Magnus Eze, Enugu, Fred Itua, Abuja and Chinelo Obogo
The Federal Government has received kudos as the Bill recognising June 12 as Democracy Day scales the National Assembly hurdles.
The Senate, yesterday, concurred with the House of Representatives on the passage of a bill to legalise June 12 as Democracy Day.
Senate Leader, Ahmed Lawan moved that the House bill which sought the concurrence of the Senate be read the second and third reading. The motion was unanimously carried and the bill passed.
If President Muhammadu Buhari assents to the Bill, May 29 that had been held as Democracy Day since 2000 will cease to be.
It equally means June 12 of every year will replace May 29 as Democracy Day if the bill is signed by President Buhari
In separate reactions, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Afenifere lauded the ratification of June 12 as a healthy development for the nation’s polity.
The apex-Igbo group said the election held in 1993 and annulled by the military government marked a watershed in the annals of Nigeria’s democratic experience.
Deputy National Publicity Secretary of Ohanaeze, Chief Chuks Ibegbu told Daily Sun that without June 12, there would not have been any further democratic milestone in the country.
He, therefore, urged the ruling class and all Nigerians to imbibe the lessons of June 12, even as he said what was currently going on in the country was political drama.
“Nobody can discountenance that June 12 was a watershed in this country. Without it, all these subsequent democratic journey wouldn’t have been possible. Anything done to make that day sacrosanct is laudable. The significance of June 12 should not be lost on the ruling class and all Nigerians.”
While the Afenifere also expressed happy that the date has got national recognition, it said until the tenets of democracy were upheld by the Federal Government, such recognition will be futile.
Spokesperson of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin told Daily Sun that the Federal Government has not embraced the principles of June 12, which is free and fair election.
“We welcome the decision of the Senate to recognise June 12 as Democracy Day and we are happy that the date has got official recognition. However, we are worried that if we are not careful, all that we are doing will amount to a mockery of June 12, if we do not embrace the spirit of June 12, which is free and fair elections. We just had elections in March; did that election reflect what June 12 stands for? All that June 12 stands for has been watered down, we are living with the spirit of annulment on the one hand, while we celebrate the date (June 12) on the other hand. So, until we live with the spirit of what June 12 stands for, it would appear that we are just playing games.
“If the president genuinely believes in June 12, we would not have gone into an election without amending the Electoral law. We did not sign the Electoral Bill and went into election only to ratify June 12 in order to validate the election. For us, it is not just about celebrating the symbolism of that date, it is about the nation accepting the spirit of June 12. That’s when we can clap our hands,” Odumakin said.
Reacting, Anthony Sani, Secretary General of the ACF said: “When President Muhammadu Buhari recognised June 12 as Democracy Day in honour of Chief MKO Abiola, we applauded the action and prayed that the gesture would go a long way to bring about healing of the wound inflicted by annulment of the election in 1993. And if the NASS has passed the decision into law, then it is heartening. Democracy Day is now legally on June 12 of every year”
President Buhari, had in June 2018, as a way to immortalise the late M.K.O Abiola, acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, declared June 12 as the new Democracy Day.
To give the Presidential declaration necessary legal backing, Edward Pwajok and Kayode Oladele sponsored a Bill in the House of Representatives last year.
The bill passed by the House in March, sought for an Act to amend the Public Holidays Act to declare June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria in view of current realities and exigencies of the modern time.
Pwajok who led debate on the bill, noted that before 1979, there were separate Acts regulating public holidays in the country.
The Plateau State lawmaker recalled that in 1975, a law was enacted to repeal all state laws on public holidays and to streamline the process of declaring holidays for the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He noted that by law, the president may declare any day as a public holiday by public notice or Act through the Minister of Internal Affairs.
He added that by the schedule of the Act, some days such as New Year Day, National Day like October 1 and religious festivals were set aside for public holidays.
The lawmaker said in 2000, the National Assembly amended the schedule to declare May 29 as Democracy Day.
He noted that in May 2018, President Buhari announced June 12 as the new Democracy day.
Pwajok posited that for the pronouncement of President Buhari to become effective, there has to be an amendment of the Public Holidays Act.
The Federal Government had said President Buhari’s inauguration for a second term on May 29 will be low-key.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who spoke to State House correspondents on the activities slated to mark the May 29 inauguration said a number of events slated for the inauguration will be held on June 12.
Mohammaed said the decision to have a low-key inauguration for the presidentwas taken at the meeting of the Federal Executive Council on May 8. He said invitations had been sent to world leaders to attend the ceremonies, marking the observance of Democracy Day on June 12.