By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Gbenga Olarinoye, Gbenga Oke, Daud Olatunji, Monsuru Olowoopejo, Gabriel Olawale and Adeola Badru
State governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and activists at separate fora, yesterday, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the June 12, 1993, presidential election across South West states expressing divergent views on the recognition of the election by the Federal Government.
Abiola’s friends deserted us after his death–Wife
Meanwhile, one of Abiola’s wives, Dr. Doyinsola Abiola narrated how friends deserted them after his death, saying it is painful when the head of the family passes on in that circumstances.
Doyinsola said this while responding to Lagos State Government’s gesture towards the Abiola’s family at an anniversary lecture themed: ‘Restructuring: Antidote for effective and efficient polity’, in Ikeja.
She said: “Immediately my husband died, friends and political associates deserted us. These were people that when he was alive, they thronged our house, collected money and lied to my husband not to relent. They charged him to forge ahead. You will remember that our house is very big. My husband was an icon while alive.”
Lagos govt erects MKO statue
Governor Ambode also unveiled a 46-feet statue of Abiola expressing optimism that the monument will forever crystallize what he stood for in his lifetime.
Ambode, who spoke at the unveiling of the statue at the MKO Abiola Garden in Alapere, Ketu said it was in the tradition of the State Government to recognise and remember heroes and heroines who contributed to the greatness of the nation and the State in particular, adding that MKO Abiola deserves the best from the State as Lagos was his success story.
His words: “There was a statue done by my predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola but in the divine world, some things are more glorious than what you think and so we decided at the end of 2016 that we should do bigger statues for Chief Gani Fawehinmi and MKO Abiola since almost everybody passing and entering Lagos go through this particular Ojota axis and so we started late in 2016 that we should build something bigger and so it took us about a year to do this. By the time we did the one for Gani to celebrate his posthumous birthday on April 22, we also agreed that we should unveil that of MKO Abiola today, June 12.”
Ajimobi, Akeredolu, Aregbesola hail Buhari’s gesture
Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Bolaji Tunji, described late Abiola as a symbol of democracy.”
Ajimobi, who commended President Buhari, said: “The declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari was a vindication of the clamour, in the last 25 years, for the recognition of Abiola’s sacrifice.”
His Ondo State counterpart, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu tackled those criticising the President for honouring Abiola saying “successive governments have brushed aside calls and agitations for Abiola to be officially recognized as the winner and consequently honoured.”
“While the generality of the people continued to applaud the decision of Mr. President in this regard, few naysayers do not see anything worthwhile in this act”, Akeredolu said.
In his remarks, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State said: “The greatest honour President Buhari would do to the memory of Basorun Abiola is to ensure that the incident of democratic abortion like the annulment of June 12 election never happen again in Nigeria.”
Also speaking, the guest lecturer at the event and foremost human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana commended President Buhari for honouring Abiola.
Falana whose paper was presented by Comrade Sina Odugbemi said: “The conferment of Grand Commander Federal Republic of Nigeria, GCFR, is a clear demonstration of true democratic practice by the Federal Government, having summoned the courage to heed to the popular demand for the revalidation of June 12.
“In recognition of June 12, it has become incumbent on Mr. President to muster all courage to stimulate the nation’s economy and bid a real farewell to poverty by stopping capital flight and illegal dealing in the nation’s commonwealth.”
June 12, beyond Abiola–NADECO
At another forum in Lagos, the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, said that the annulment of Abiola’s victory was a great disservice to the development of the country.
The Chairman of NADECO, Rear Admiral, Godwin Kanu (retd) said that such victory would have assisted most Nigerians to consider themselves as equal partners in the Nigerians project.
Kanu said: “The June 12 as democracy day goes beyond Chief MKO Abiola as it remains the first time in history of the country when all Nigerians of different persuasions decided to disregard the various national divides of North/South, Christian/Muslim to vote for either MKO Abiola of Social Democratic Party, SDP or Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention, NRC.”
It’s no Greek gift–Aare Adams
On his part, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba, Aare Gani Adams berated those who described the President’s gesture as a Greet gift.
Aare Adams said: “Though, not unexpected, the pronouncements triggered various arguments, and reactions from eminent Nigerians, both within and outside the government circle.”
He said this at 25th anniversary of June 12 presidential election organised by the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, in collaboration with the Nigeria Union of Journalist, Lagos State Council with the theme: ‘Nigerian politics and democratic progress: MKO Abiola and June 12, 1993, cries and beyond’, held at Excellence hotel, Ogba, Lagos.”While some people see President Buhari’s posthumous honours to the late Abiola and human rights activist, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, as a Greek gift to the Yoruba ahead of the 2019 elections, a few others said it was long overdue, describing it as the best gift ever for the memories of the late Abiola and several other heroes and heroines that eventually died and paid the supreme price for democracy to stand.
Whether the Federal Government’s decision was more political than legal, as argued by some people, for me, it is crystal clear that the journey to make June 12 our Democracy Day started several years back. It was a journey that was morphed into series of struggle and activities.”
Buhari doesn’t deserve any praise–Sowore, Agbakoba
Expressing divergent views, a presidential aspirant, and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore said that praising President Buhari for proclaiming June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day will be an injustice to all the people that led the struggle back then.
Sowore said: “I see his June 12 declaration as a political game and going to backfire the same way Jonathan was when he tried to name UNILAG after Abiola. Buhari cannot deceive us that he like Abiola because he did nothing when his election was annulled.
On his part, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, said there was no reason for jubilation over the declaration of June 12 as democracy day because it was MKO Abiola’s rightful entitlement.
Agbakoba said: “June 12 declaration is a Greek gift and today’s honour in Abuja is institutional, not because of the president Buhari but because MKO Abiola is entitled to it.
“I don’t laud the President for anything, because this election was won as you know 25 years ago, rather it is people that championed the struggle that deserves the praise.”
There’s poverty in Nigeria, Abiola family tells Buhari
Meanwhile, the family of late MKO Abiola and other Civil Society Organisations have called on President Buhari to end poverty in the land, saying that was what Abiola stood for.
They spoke at the Abiola family house at Oke-Ido, Gbagura in Abeokuta after a democracy walk that started from June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta and terminated at the family house.
Head of Abiola family, Alhaji Muritala Abiola, appreciated Buhari’s decision to finally recognise their son as the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993, Presidential election.
He stated that the late Abiola wanted to end poverty by all means and that was why he contested and won the 1993 election.
Nigeria yet to achieve realdemocracy–Banire
At a different forum in Lagos, National Legal Adviser of the APC, Dr. Muiz Banire, who spoke on the theme: ‘Popular Power and the Struggle for Internal Democracy’, Banire said: “I am saddened that despite the existence of many political organizations, Nigeria has no real political parties but political platforms which most times lacks internal democracy in the process through which candidates who seek political offices are selected.”
Compensate Abiola family–Ayandele
A governorship aspirant in Oyo State on the platform of APC Dr. Olusola Ayandele called on the Federal Government to compensate the Abiola family over the June 12 saga.
His words: “I am using this opportunity to call on the federal government to follow up the recent announcement with other necessary things such as payment of compensation to the Abiola family and urgent immortalisation of the late business mogul by naming a huge federal facility like the Abuja National Stadium or the National Assembly Complex after Bashorun MKO Abiola.”