While October 1st (1963) is the day Nigeria became a republic after her first democratic process, May 29th is the official date for celebrating democracy as it is the day that military ruler Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar handed over power to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, marking the end of almost 30 years of military rule since 1966 – with a brief stint of democracy between 1979 and 1983 – and heralding a new democratic government.
As expected, Nigerians will celebrate this day that marks the return to civil rule after a protracted military regime that almost ruined the nation, with glee. And in a bid to contribute to this year’s celebration of the momentous time, we share 4 noteworthy facts about Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
The holiday will be celebrated on 30th of May instead
This year, May 29th fell on a Sunday , and while this is already a work-free day for most of the country’s citizens, the Federal Government has declared Monday, May 30, 2016 as a public holiday to mark the 2016 Democracy Day instead. The declaration of which was done by the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, on behalf of the Federal Government is sure to bring joy to the hearts of the many people resident within the Nation as it would ensure a long weekend for everyone.
The day will mark 17 years of democracy in Nigeria
The first Democracy Day also was held on 29th of May 1999 and as such, this year’s celebration will mark 17 years of uninterrupted democracy. This is a great feat as the first democratic government which commenced after Nigeria became a republic on 1 October 1963 lasted only about 3 years and the second time, which was a brief stint of democracy between 1979 and 1983 with Alh. Shehu Shagari, lasted just about 3 and half years as well. There is the confidence now that democracy has come to stay.
The celebration will coincide with the Biafra declaration day
Originally, the date May 29th date was opposed by some Nigerians who were concerned that the date was too close to the date Chukwuemeka O. Ojukwu declared the ‘Secession and Declaration of the Sovereign State of Biafra’ and the day ‘On Aburi We Stand’ speech was made; on the 30th of May, 1967 and 1969 respectively. This year, as the celebration has been moved to the next day, the 30th of May, it would actually coincide with the Biafra declaration day.
The day will mark 1 year in office of President Muhammadu Buhari
The current Head of state of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, was sworn into seat during the Democracy Day celebration on May 29th, 2015, after winning one of the most intense elections ever held in the country. And so, this year, Nigerians will not only be commemorating the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, they will also celebrate one year in office of the President as well as his sustained effort in building a peaceful, enduring and democratic legacy.