On 12th June, 1993, Nigerians filed out to participate in what has been described as freest and fairest Presidential election in the history of the country that produced late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) who defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention, (NRC).
However, the election was later annulled by the then military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, leading to political uprisings across the federation.
This report examines the significance, why and how the June 12 revolution started and eventual declaration of the day as the Nigeria’s Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Obviously every Nigerian in 1993, explored the possibility of democracy and believed the administration of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida will deliver on its promise of a smooth transition to civilian regime.
The two party system, that led to the emergence of the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), was competitive and formiddable.
Ideologically, NRC was the conservative and to the left, while the SDP was progressive and liberal to the right.
Prior to the elections, the two Presidential Candidates Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the NRC and a Businessman, Chief M.K.O Abiola of the SDP, engaged in series of debates, which created democratic joy in the minds of voters.
Rallies and campaigns were interesting as both candidates moved across the country to sell their manifestos to voters while the level of violence was minimal compared to what is obtainable in nowadays political campaigns.
The Summary narration of the June 12, 1993 experience, is that the election is still the freest and fairest in Nigerian history when MKO Abiola of the SDP officially scored over 8.3 million votes to beat his lone opponent, Bashir Tofa of the NRC, who got over 5.9 million votes.
There are still ongoing debates as to why the election was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida, as the annulment was a serious setback for the Nation’s democracy but President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018, proclaimed MKO Abiola as the winner of the June 12 Presidential election and so, the 8th National Assembly legalised June 12 as the nation’s official Democracy Day and national public holiday.
June 12 is being observed as public holiday in the six states of the south west zone for years but as from 2019 , the day will be observed as a national public holiday to honour MKO Abiola and those who fought for the actualisation of democracy in the country.
One of the Ondo state people and Akure-based public affairs commentator, Mr Jeffrey Abidoye described June 12 as a watershed in Nigeria.
Abidoye expressed happiness that President Buhari had immortalized MKO Abiola in an uncommon historic manner.
A lawmaker in the Ondo state House of Assembly, Mr Olusegun Felemu said majority of Nigerians were happy to have June 12 as official Democracy Day.
To the Secretary-General of Afenifere, Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, the best way to immortalise ideals of JUNE 12 is to tackle economic and security challenges facing the nation.
Nigerians and history will not forget President Buhari for making June 12 official Democracy day for the first time this year and also as the gift for the Nation’s 20th anniversary of uninterrupted democracy, the longest since 1960.