Pro-June 12 promoters won a major victory yesterday. The House of Representatives passed the bill to make June 12 a national holiday with the adoption of the report at the Committee of the Whole.
“When the bill is assented to by the President, subsequent June 12 anniversaries will become public holidays to commemorate democracy, while 29 May will only be celebrated every fourth year when there is inauguration of a new President.”
The proposed legislation titled: “A bill for an act to amend the Public Holidays Act, Cap. P40 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to bring the act in tandem with the current realities and exigencies of the modern times and to declare June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria and for related matter,” was sponsored by Edward Pwajok (APC Plateau) and Kayode Oladele (APC Ogun).
It was referred to the Committee of the Whole on November 22 by Speaker Yakubu Dogara after passing the second reading on the floor.
President Muhammadu Buhari declared June 12 a national holiday on June 6 .
Pwajok, while presenting the bill last month argued that countries set aside some days to commemorate special events such as celebrating their independence, religious festivals, some heroes etc.
He said: “For instance, President Ronald Reagan initiated the celebration of Martin Luther King’s Day as a holiday in the U.S.A. He is considered a civil rights hero in the U.S.A. May 1 is celebrated in most cities to celebrate workers.
“There are individuals who have impacted so much on their countries, that they are celebrated with a declaration of public holidays such as George Washington of the U.S.A, (the First U.S President).
“Certain events also have compelled the declaration of public holiday, such as Human Rights, Freedom. Youth, Women and National Reconciliation days in South Africa.
“In many countries public holidays are not fixed, as they change from year to year. Thus, the U.S.A celebrates presidential inauguration only in the fourth year when new president is sworn in.”
The lawmaker also said that in 2000, former President Olusegun Obasanjo declared May 29 as Democracy Day to celebrate the handover of government by the military to elected civilians.
“This is in addition to celebrating independence on October 1 each year. The question needs to be asked whether the mere hand over of power on May 29, 1999 is more symbolic of democracy than the June 12 1993 election.
“It is pertinent to remember that it was the crisis that accompanied the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election that led to not only the return of democracy in 1999 but the concession of the Presidency to the South West in 1999.”
He said that declaring June 12 as Democracy Day will remind Nigerians of the supreme price many Nigerians including, M.K.O Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane and Bagauda Kaltho among others, paid and many others that lost their jobs, properties and businesses.
“It will also enhance national unity by reminding us that on June 12 1993 Nigerians de-emphasized religion by voting a Muslim-Muslim Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket against a Muslim-Christian National Republican Convention (NRC) ticket.”