Ahead of the 2019 general election in Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday June 6, changed the nation’s democracy day from May 29 to June 12, to immortalize the late MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 freest presidential election that was annulled by former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida.
He did not stop at that, as he went further to confrere on the late philanthropist and presidential candidate, the highest national honour of the land: Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, 20 years after his death in 1998.
These latest actions by President Buhari were visited with mixed reaction. Those in support of the Buhari led administration see it as a very welcome idea describing the President as a listening President who cares for his subjects. Buhari’s critics on the other hand dismissed the feat describing it as desperate political calculation ahead of the 2019 general elections which he himself has declared interest to run for a second term.
According to Alfa Belgore, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, the award of Nigeria’s highest national honour to late Chief MKO Abiola is illegal, as it cannot be awarded posthumously, much less the GCFR, which is the highest honour in the land. It went further to state that it is an honour for the living. “The only thing they could do is to name a place after him, but national honours award, no,” he said.
Under the 1963 National Honours Act, only soldiers or other servicemen could be awarded posthumous medals for their bravery.
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that effective 2019 Nigeria’s Democracy Day, marked every May 29 for the past 18 years, be shifted to June 12 to honour Moshood Abiola, the winner of the 1993 presidential election.
Also honoured alongside the late MKO is his running mate, in that election, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, who is to be conferred with the second highest honour of the Grand Commander of the Niger, GCON. Also to receive a GCON is the late Nigeria’s foremost pro-democracy activist, Gani Fawehinmi.