Those expecting an elaborate inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term on May 29 will have to wait till June 12, Information, Culture & Tourism Minister Lai Mohammed said yesterday.
The inauguration will be low-key, the minister said in Abuja.
Buhari, who was the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the February presidential election, defeated his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenger, Atiku Abubakar with more than three million votes.
The minister explained that since June 12 has been adopted as the National Democracy Day, all activities lined up for the inauguration have therefore been shifted to June.
Mohammed said: “President Muhammadu Buhari’s inauguration for a second term on May 29, 2019, will be a low-key affair, as a number of the events slated forthe inauguration will now be held during the first observance of June 12 as the National Democracy Day.”
The decision to have a low-profile inauguration for the President, he said, was taken at the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) on May 8.
According to him, world leaders would be invited to attend the events.
He said: “However, invitations have been sent to all world leaders to attend the ceremonies marking the observance of the Democracy Day on June 12.
“Since the first observance of June 12 as Democracy Day falls into an election year, and as a measure to sustain June 12 as Democracy Day, the celebration of the inauguration and the advancement of democracy in the country will now take place on June 12. The country can ill-afford two major celebrations within a two-week interval.”
Details of the events slated for the two ceremonies, the minister said, will be unveiled at a world press conference slated on May 20 in Abuja.
Pro-democracy activist Ayo Opadokun, hailed the government decision to recorgnised June 12 as the Democracy Day.
Opadokun told The Nation yesterday: “My position is not different from what NADECO has which we made serious remarks about. We made our position clear during the last June 12 day. It is the right course of action that President Muhammadu Buhari has taken.
“It is better late than never, that is what we fought for right from day one. At the establishment of NADECO, we told the local and international public that May 29 has no significance other than the exchange of baton.
“And from the inside sources, we were told that it was adopted because the military was in a hurry to leave. Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar wanted to go immediately after the election, until he was told by the Attorney-General that if the presidential election was held, he must give three months leeway, to give room for whatever judicial action anybody will want to take concerning the election.
“They did the calculation and it fell on May 29, it has no significance beyond that. Unfortunately, President Olusegun Obasanjo took over, who was the beneficiary of the martyrdom of M.K.O Abiola. He was so unkind…. as not to recognise Abiola.
“What Buhari did is the right course of action and far much more than that is expected. NADECO will make its position clear when the celebration is around the corners.”
The United Progressive Party (UPP) Chairman, Chekwa Okorie, said: “June 12 as Democracy Day is fit and proper, especially for those who have watched through the political development since the event came up. We know that on June 12, for the very first time, majority of Nigerians participated in the electoral process of that period than at any other time.
“Abiola, who won the election, incidentally, he was from the South, a Muslim and nobody considered where he came from or the religion he professed. He was overwhelmingly voted for by Nigerians across the boundaries. It was the real celebration of our democracy. But unfortunately, those who did not want our democracy to gain root locked him up until he died.
“So, using June 12 as symbol of democracy is proper. One will know that it was Obasanjo that made May 29 Democracy Day. They all knew that Obasanjo would never want Abiola to be immortalised for reasons best known to him alone. But, we have idea why he should be the only one to be celebrated.
“Having said that, the legal framework to make June 12 legal has not been perfected. We expect that the President, who declared June 12 Democracy Day will go further to submit an executive bill which I don’t expect will have any delay because it is not a controversial bill.”
Also reacting, Festus Keyamu, said: “According to the release of Federal Government, May 29 will still hold but will be low-key. So, there is going to be a proper handover on May 29 but the real celebration of democracy day is going to be on June 12. That is what we expected all along, but after sometime; we expect that will be constitutional amendment.
“May 29 is a constitutional matter as a handover day. I expect that before the year 2023, there should be a proper constitutional amendment so that the handover day henceforth will be June 12.
“It should be a constitutional matter from now on. Why this happen now is that the time is not enough to amend the constitution to make June 12 the handover day.
“June 12 is significant because it reminds us of the struggle we had to get out of military rule. It also reminds us of all the sacrifices people made to get us to where we are. Each time we celebrate June 12 it reminds us conscious of our democratic experience, to keep us on our toes, not to do anything that will derail this democracy.”