What is in a name? There is something in a name. If you doubt it ask our dear President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. But what about a day? What is in a day? Why should a day be remarkable, at all, to a people? The “remarkableness” of a day differs according to people or persons. The memorial day ceremony that held at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetry in Ehwood, Illinois recently was to commemorate ordinary Americans who became extraordinary by willingly giving their lives for their country to keep it safe and free. By the sheer love they had for their country they gave up their lives of comfort and ease because a revolution needed to be won and answered the country’s call but lost their lives in the process therefore the day became remarkable to the Americans. Here in Nigeria, May 29 and June 12 are both remarkable. This is because the pseudo-democratic government in place now that has brought Nigeria into limelight among the comity of nations came into being through the activities that took place on June 12. So are landmarks in the political history of Nigeria. The fact that both days are remarkable is not in doubt but the thrust of the matter is which should be tagged Democracy Day May 29 or June 12? Below are excerpts of Nigerians stand:
Comrade Chika Unuegbu, State Chairman , TUC Rivers State.
To me, the country is still in search of true democracy, so whether June 12 or May 29, it is not important. What we have now, accepted, it is better than the military; it is some form of democracy since it is a leadership by the civilians but without credible election including the deepening of internal democracy in political parties, there cannot be true democracy. So I think at this point in time Nigeria should be concerned about the fact for true democracy. Nigerians should come together and ensure that the one man one vote thing becomes a reality. And everybody’s vote should count. Nigerians should ensure that nobody imposes the will of a few people on the rest of us. I think we should be putting our energy in that line of discourse rather whether democracy day should be May 29 or June 12.
Both days are significant in the history of Nigeria. June 12 because it was a day Nigeria held an election that is perceived to be the freest in this country but whether we like it or not that election did not bring about a civilian rule. Then May 29 was eventually the day that we had a start- up of a civilian rule, so both of them are related because the June 12 activities led to massive protest and resistance by civil society groups, the labour union especially PENGASAN, NUPENG and ASUU which ultimately gave birth to May 29. so both are significant days in the history of Nigeria and should be remembered in one way or the other. But I think that we should go beyond remembering this days to looking at what is the significance for this march for democracy. Why do people want democracy? Nigerians want democracy because of good governance. So we think much energy should be put to how we should get good governance which in my humble view, should start from electoral integrity. First putting people there, not through rigging, manipulation or subversion of the will of the people but people who are elected into office by the people and who while in office will carry out activities for the people rather than for a few people.
Martin Pereowei Oseji, Manager Stakeholders Democracy Network.
June 12 was the day we conducted an election that was considered to be free and fair. There was no rigging, no violence and at the end of that election, people believed that the outcome of that election would have been the landmark in the political history of Nigeria. But unfortunately the military annulled it. And from that period people became aware that it is possible for us to have a free and fair election. But before this time we had always had elections that are fraught with riggings and violence. But June 12 was different. So for that reason I think June 12 should be the democracy day; on the other hand, the military that annulled that election wanted May 29 to be democracy day because it was a day that they handed over power to civilians. But the way they handed over that power was not democratic. They imposed somebody on us. They brought somebody from the prison and they made up their mind that that was the man they wanted to give power to. So it was a selection and not an election. So to me that is not the correct democracy day. The real democracy day should be June 12.
Kanayo, Emmanuel, Publisher, PH Plain Truth Newspaper
Democracy day is May 29 and it is acceptable in my opinion. The reason is this, the June 12 was adjudged the fairest election but it was not actualised. It has been in dispute. But we came to full democracy on May 29, 1999. This was the day after many years of military rule, we had the civilian taking over. If we want to trace democracy, it did, not start with June 12. In Nigeria, democracy started earlier before, 1960 when the nationalists were going abroad to seek for independence. Democracy is all about independence of your own in every way. So Herbert Macauley, Tafawa Belewa, Azikiwe; they started democracy if we begin to trace history. So it did not actually start on June 12. We know that something happened on June 12, which every Nigerian will always refer to in terms of democracy. According to history that was the time Nigeria had the fairest election won by late M.K.O. Abiola but it was not actualised. The then President Babangida cancelled the election. Abiola won but never ruled, so do we call it democracy half-way? May 29 was the day Olusegun Obasanjo ascended to the throne as the President of Nigeria through a democratic process. I am not in any way canceling the June 12. Those who are agitating the immortalisation of Abiola can go on with it. Those who want to immortalise June 12 can go on with it but it should not be a national issue.
Victor Alasia: National Treasurer, Co-operative Federation of Nigeria.
The two days connote something in Nigeria. June 12 was the day we held the freest election in Nigeria. May 29 was when democracy was officially born in Nigeria. The two days are very important. We should not dwell on the negative side of life. So I think May 29 as democracy day is appropriate. June 12 conotes a lot of bad feelings. Whenever June 12 is mentioned, we remember the late Abiola, his death and all that. And we need to erase some of this ugly incidents from our history. So personally, May 29 as democracy is very very appropriate.
On whether the may 29 government was a selection and not an election; democracy is a process. And we have to grow and mature with time. Even until now our democracy is still selection. What the present President, Goodluck Jonathan has promised, is to give us a free and fair election where every vote will count.