Today, the 29th of May is a significant day in the history of Nigeria. It is a special day set aside for the celebration of democracy; the celebration of a new dawn that marks the end of military rule and the beginning of a democratic rule.
On this day in 1999, the then military Head of State, Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar, handed over power to a democratically elected president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, thus signaling the end of decades of military rule.
This was a welcome relief to Nigerians, as the country had gone from one military rule to another (since 1966), punctuated by only four years of democracy between 1979 and 1983. The outstretched military rule was plagued with disturbing military coups and political turmoil that Nigerians were dissatisfied with.
This day is, thus, etched on the hearts of many as a day to celebrate a government characterized by elections and voting, ruling by the majority, and one where power is vested in the people as opposed to the dictatorship of the military system. It is befittingly then called Democracy Day.
It was instituted by former President Obasanjo, and although the date was initially opposed by members of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), May 29 remains firmly established as Democracy Day.
18 Uninterrupted Years of Democracy
This year’s Democracy Day doubles as the celebration of 18 years of democracy in Nigeria since that day in 1999 when Gen. Abubakar handed over to Chief Obasanjo. Coincidentally, Obasanjo had formerly served as a military Head of State before his return to government as a democratic president years later, much like President Muhammadu Buhari who also served the nation as a president in uniform but was democratically elected into the Office of the President two years ago, on May 29, 2015.
Today, therefore, marks President Buhari’s and the All Progressive Congress (APC)’s second year in office. Under the umbrella of APC, which took over power from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) the ruling party for 16 years, Buhari began his administration when he was sworn in as president on Democracy Day, 2015.
Features of Democracy Day
Democracy Day has its unique features, which include the following:
Usually, on Democracy Day, there is a national broadcast made by the president to address pertinent issues such as the nation’s economy, security, and education. The democratic president is accountable to the people who elected him into power and thus shares his plans for the future with them on this remarkable day. Since the president is out of the country at the moment, it is left to the Vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to make the broadcast.
Like the Independence Day, the Democracy Day is declared a public holiday, not so that people can take a break from work but to give their dues as citizens celebrating this important day. Match pasts held on both the national and state levels by the Army, Air Force, Navy and the Nigeria Police Force to celebrate this day are open to workers who want to join in on the celebration.
Contrary to what some may think, there are actual events lined up for the celebration of this day on both national and state levels. Besides the match past, there are the Juma’at prayers held at the National Mosque and Interdenominational anniversary church service at the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja. Art exhibitions, lectures, and novelty matches are also held as part of the celebrations for Democracy Day.
Democracy has come a long way since it started and, while we are not yet where we ought to be, we are proud that we are not where we used to be. Let us all, therefore, celebrate the progress we have made so far.