Former Nigerian heads of state and presidents were Wednesday absent at the Eagle Square, Abuja, venue of the 2019 Democracy Day celebrations.
The former Nigerian leaders, including Yakubu Gowon, Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, among others, were absent at the event which kick-started June 12 as the official Democracy Day,
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier declared June 12 Nigeria’s Democracy Day. The inaugural celebration, which took place Wednesday, had in attendance numerous pro-June 12 supporters.
The government’s decision was in recognition of the place of late Moshood Abiola in Nigeria’s democratic history. The late Abiola is believed to have won the June 12, 1993 elections, widely adjudged as Nigeria’s freest election in history.
The election was however annulled by General Babangida.
Upon return to democracy in 1999, May 29 was adopted as Nigeria’s Democracy Day as it was the day Olusegun Obasanjo took over the reins of power from Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Between 1999 and 2007 when Obasanjo held sway as president, the Nigerian government did not recognise June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, amidst calls from June 12 supporters and civil society organisations.
Obasanjo was absent at the event on Wednesday. A strong critic of President Buhari, the former president had thrown his weight behind Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Yakubu Gowon on his part was also absent on Wednesday although he had earlier attended the May 29 swearing-in ceremony held last month.
No reasons have been given for the conspicuous absence of the former leaders as at press time Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, the event was graced by leaders and diplomats from different parts of Africa and around the world.
Among them were Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda; George Weah of Liberia; Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania; Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo; President Macky Sall of Senegal; President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana; and President Adama Barrow of Gambia, among others.