President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola won the 1993 presidential elections but was denied the office by the then Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida.Coming eight days (May 29) after the country celebrated Democracy Day, Buhari announced, yesterday, that the anniversary would henceforth be marked on June 12 in honour of the late philanthropist.

Babangida annulled the results of the election widely believed to have been free and fair. Abiola died while struggling to actualise the mandate.Buhari said Abiola would be conferred with the nation’s highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), reserved exclusively for Nigeria’s presidents.His running mate in the election, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, would be conferred with the second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON) alongside Nigeria’s foremost pro-democracy activist, the late Gani Fawehinmi.

In a statement, last night, Buhari said: “For the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29, as Democracy Day. That was the date when for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government.“The first time this happened was on October 21, 1979. But in the view of Nigerians, as shared by this administration, June 12, 1993, was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even October 1.


“June 12, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful election since our Independence. The fact that the then military government did not uphold the outcome of that election does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process.

“Accordingly, after due consultations, the Federal Government has decided that henceforth, June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day.“Therefore, government has decided to award, posthumously, the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as vice president, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualisation of the June 12 elections and indeed for democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi is to be awarded the GCON.