By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives yesterday made June 12 a national holiday with the adoption of the report on the bill at the Committee of the Whole.
The Bill, when assented to by the President, will make June 12 a public holiday to commemorate Democracy every year, while May 29 will only be celebrated every fourth years 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 Hons. Edward Pwajok (APC Plateau) and Kayode Oladele (APC Ogun).
It was referred to the Committee of the Whole, on 22nd November 2018, by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara after passing second reading on the floor.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari declared June 12 a national holiday on June 6 this year.
Pwajok, while presenting the bill in November, had argued that Countries set aside some days to commemorate special events, such as celebrating their independence, religious festivals, some heroes etc.
“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; while May 1st 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 the new President is sworn in.”
The lawmaker also said In the year, 2000, President Obasanjo declared 29 of May, each year as Democracy Day to celebrate the handover of Government by the military to elected civilians.
“This is in addition to celebrating independence on October 1st each year.
“The question needs to be asked whether the mere handover of power on May 29, 1999 is more symbolic of Democracy than the June 12th 1993 election.
The lawmaker said though President Muhammad Buhari declared June 12 as a public holiday, in deference to the National Assembly which raised issues on the need to adhere to the law, there was no public holiday on June 12, 2018,” he argued.
“It is pertinent to remember that it was the crisis that accompanied the annulment of the June 12th 1993 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 declaring June 12 as Democracy Day will remind Nigerians of the supreme price many Nigerians including M.K.O Abiola, Kudirat Abiola, Alfred Rewane, Bagauda Kalto, etc paid and many others that lost their jobs, propertics, businesses etc.
“It will also enhance National Unity by reminding us that on June 12, 1993, Nigerians de-emphasized religion by voting a Muslim-Muslim SDP ticket against a Muslim-Christian NRC ticket.
“It will, therefore, remind us of the need to be more nationalistic and Democratic.
It also acknowledges the organizational skills of those who planned that election like Professor Humphrey Nwosu etc.”