By CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & DAUD OLATUNJI
LAGOS —TWENTY years after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections presumably won by late business tycoon, Chief M.K.O Abiola, the Head of Abiola family, Mubashiru, yesterday, exonerated former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida from the complicity that led to the death of Abiola in government’s custody. Rather, he said that Babangida, who annulled the election, had been a pillar of support to the Abiola family since the business mogul died in detention on July 7, 1998.
Mubashiru, M.K.O Abiola’s younger brother spoke at Abiola’s Oja-Agbo family house in Abeokuta during the 2013 June12 democracy walk organized by the Ogun State Government.
The disclosure came on a day that President Goodluck Jonathan said that ‘June 12’ had changed the history of the country for good as leading politicians, activists and groups at different events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of June 12 lamented that little or no improvement in the welfare of Nigerians had been achieved since 1993, adding that poverty among the citizenry had worsened.
Meantime, the Federal Government said, yesterday, that it was ready to immortalise Abiola and urged Nigerians to come up with suggestions on how best to honour the late politician. The government’s effort to name the University of Lagos after Abiola last year hit a brick wall with opposition from stakeholders and students of the institution.
Mubashiru, who in an interview with newsmen in Abeokuta appealed to the Federal Government to pay the debt it was owing Abiola, said Babangida‘s support to the Abiola family was unparalleled after the death of their bread winner, saying, the family believed strongly that, it was not possible for the General to kill his former friend.
He said: “Babangida did anything we wanted in this family. Unless he did not know, he would come. He has been supporting this family. He always supports the family. There was a time Abiola’s daughter was wedding, Babangida was here with his wife right away from Minna, sat down with us; he left his wife to stay with us till the second day. She slept in M K O’s house till the second day.
“That is the major reason why I will always support him and I don’t believe that Babangida was the one that killed M KO, no. That is capital no. Everybody knew that Babangida was not in the government when M KO died. How could you say that somebody who was not there did something? It is not possible. Babangida does not know anything about the death of M.K.O.”
Delivering a speech on behalf of the family, Mubashiru described IBB’s regime as the best urging current governments at all levels to embrace the vision of June 12 by ensuring good governance.
“I want to state unequivocally that General Babangida’s administration remains the best ever in the nation’s history and I implore our current administrators at various levels of governance to embrace the vision of June 12, by ensuring that every Nigerian family gets food on their table and shelters on their heads, all employable youths get jobs while the nooks and crannies of the Federation enjoy basic amenities.”
Pay your debt to Abiola’s family
Appealing to the Federal Government to pay the money it owes the Abiola family, he said: “I also want to thank the President Goodluck Jonathan, for what the Federal Government ought to have done for the family, but was yet to be done. I take advantage of today’s 20th anniversary of June 12, to request President Jonathan to invite Abiola’s family to a meeting to deliberate on how the Federal Government intends to settle the long standing debts owed that political icon, business mogul and symbol of our modern day democracy.”
How June 12 changed our history – Jonathan
Speaking shortly after inaugurating the chairman and members of the re-constituted Police Service Commission, President Jonathan said June 12 was a unique day in the nation. He said although the Federal Government was yet to recognize the day as a public holiday, some state governments had done so. There have been calls from prominent Nigerians urging the Federal Government to recognize June 12 as the nation’s Democracy Day as against May 29.
Prominent Nigerians, who honoured Abiola and urged government to pursue policies that would provide basic amenities and eradicate poverty, were former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Governors Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo); former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu; Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Frederick Fasehun; former Governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba; Convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Dr Tunde Bakare; Chief Frank Kokori and Femi Falana (SAN).
Others include Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ayo Opadokun, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, President of Nigeria Guild of Editors, Femi Adesina; Mr Abdul Oroh, Abiola’s first son, Kola; Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, Ms Ann Kio-Briggs, Jimi Agbaje, Mrs Modupe Adelaja and Hon Dino Melaye.
Nigeria worse in 2013 than 1993 – Bakare
At Democracy Audit organized by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) at Sheraton Hotel, Lagos to mark June 12, Convener of the group, Dr Tunde Bakare, said since the historic election, Nigeria had remained impoverished and the problems Abiola promised to tackle remain unsolved.
He spoke as Information Minister, Labaran Maku, who attended the event countered that some improvement even though little had been made and said the government was ready to immortalize Abiola.
In a speech entitled: “From Hope ‘93 to 2013: How Far Has Democracy Brought Nigeria?” Bakare said though some gains like freedom of speech had been recorded, they were not enough as the problems of poverty and flawed elections among others persist.
He urged the government to immortalise Abiola by naming edifices like the National Stadium after him.
His words: “The 1993 MKO Abiola vs. Bashir Tofa election, conducted exactly 20 years ago today, is popularly termed the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria. It was Nigeria’s first taste of a renascent democracy after so many years of military rule, coups and counter-coups. It was an election whose callous annulment shook the nation. Since then, the country has witnessed a lot of changes – for better, and for worse. However, none of those occurrences have left the country exactly the same…”
Some mileage has been recorded – Maku
Speaking at the event Maku said that government was making progress in the areas of power supply by commencing the building of 10 power plants, stopped fertilizer racketeering to boost agriculture, delivered 32 roads in 2012, saved N118 billion from ghost workers among others and urged the citizenry to support the government in its effort to develop the country.
Arguing that President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration has achieved in some areas, Maku cited Power, Agriculture, Education and Transportation as major areas, government has fared well two years after assuming office.
Asked if FG had any plan to give M.K.O a post-humous honour, Maku disclosed that government was interested in immortalizing him. He said: “History will continue to immortalize Abiola, because he died fighting the cause for true democracy, which we are all enjoying today. I can say that the fact that I’m here today, representing the government, we are still looking at better ways to immortalize him, even though, there was public outcry when President Jonathan renamed the University of Lagos after M.KO.”
Privatization of power, not good for Nigeria — Kola Abiola
Son of the late M.K.O Abiola, Kola Abiola, however, faulted FG’s stance that the privatization of Nigeria’s power sector was key to stable power supply in the country. He said: “The idea of privatizing power is not a good idea for Nigeria. If power is privatized, how can the 90 per cent and 70 per cent of Nigerians who live below $2 and $1 per day respectively, afford it? It will only be meant for the rich,” insisting that government must guarantee the citizen some basis things before privatization.
June 12 Movement seeks national dialogue
Eminent Nigerians and leaders of thought, who gathered at a special assembly hosted by the June 12 Movement in conjunction with Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) have decided to commence massive mobilization across the nation for the convocation of a national dialogue to resolve the crises in the country.
At a solemn assembly at the Ikeja, Lagos residence of Chief MKO Abiola, the leaders according to a communiqué signed by the National Coordinator, Mr. Olawale Okunniyi said they took this position in the light of subsisting emergency and insecurity in the country orchestrated by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North and youth militancy in the South.
The August gathering which include Chief Ayo Adebanjo who chaired the assembly, Chief Solomon Asemota (SAN), Speaker of Lagos State House Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji; Governor of Akwa Ibom, represented by his Commissioner for Information, Mr Aniekan Umanah; Hon Abike Dabiri Erewa, Alhaji Shettimah Yerima, Hon Adijat Oladapo Adeleye, Dr Keziah Awosika of PRONACO; Mr Lekan Abiola, son of MKO Abiola; Alhaja Aminat Irawo and Mr Mohammed Fawehinmi among others decided to further engage the government in bringing about a negotiated settlement before the end of the year.
Tinubu, Fashola, others advocate rejection of impunity
Also, former Governor of Lagos state, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his predecessor, Babatunde Fashola and Professor Olarenwaju Fagbohun and some elder statesmen and human rights activists called on Nigerians to reject the culture of impunity on law and order to deepen the country’s democracy.
They spoke at the event co-organised by June 12 Coalition of Democratic Formations, held at LTV ground, Agidingbi, Ikeja, with theme: ‘Electoral system: The bane of political instability in Nigeria,’ which was chaired by former administrator of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd).
Tinubu, who was represented by the Secretary of National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, Chief Ayo Opadokun, lamented that 14 years after the country returned to democracy, Nigeria was still crawling rather than walking.
Make June 12 a national day – Mimiko
Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to elevate June 12 to a pan Nigerian event.
He spoke at a symposium organised by the state government in Akure to mark the 20th anniversary of the annulled 1993 election, the governor said that MKO Abiola represents the totality of Nigerians to make a change and submitted that the June 12 victory was a pan Nigerian mandate.
Nigeria could disintegrate in months, Kalu warns
Erstwhile governor of Abia State, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, warned that Nigeria could disintegrate within months well ahead of the 2015 doomsday prophesy on account of increasing disaffection in the polity.
In a lecture marking the 20th anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election delivered in Lagos yesterday, Kalu nevertheless gave options for the country to survive disintegration among which were social justice and a workable electoral system.
In the lecture delivered at the behest of the Odua Peoples Congress, OPC, he called for all elections to be conducted the same day.
Regretting the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and the possible honour it could have brought to the rulers at that time, he said: “That election could have positioned the then military president, Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) as the authentic Nigerian hero, celebrated at home and abroad, but alas, the election was voided, and it threatened the fabric that held us together as a country.”
Stop lamenting, Osoba, Falana, Kokori, others tell Nigerians
Leading politicians, and eminent persons who attended a similar event organized by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, Lagos State Council, called on Nigerians to stop reducing every anniversary of the annulment of June 12 presidential election to a day of lamentation.
They also regretted that the progressive camp failed to have a political platform, noting that June 12 would always be celebrated in Nigeria.
The Guest Speaker, Kokori, who spoke on theme; ‘Post June 12: The Good and the Bad’, took a swipe at the Judiciary and other sections of the society for alleg edly betraying the struggle for a truly democratic nation.
His words: “Celebrating June 12 is celebrating a generation of Nigerians who sacrificed themselves for the democratization of Nigerians.
“In December, when I will be 70, I will release my memoir in which I have named 50 heroes of the struggle whose names must not be missing in the honours list. It is saddening to know that most Nigerians have lost consciousness of the significance of June 12; we must know that June 12 is very significant.”
Similarly, Osoba said, “I am writing a book on that period; we at NADECO made the mistake of not having a political wing like the IRA in Northern Ireland. If Tinubu had listened to our leaders who did not want us to participate in the transition programme, he would have remained in America and he would not have been a governor. We have learnt our mistake. It is not worthwhile that the civil society should continue to lament bad governance 20 years after. I want the civil society to support the emerging political platform of progressives in the country.
Falana, who drew much applause from the audience, extolled the role played by the media in those days, naming such media houses as The News, Tempo, Tell, The Guardian, Vanguard and others. He noted that a number of journalists lost their lives in the struggle while many were imprisoned and tortured.
Fasehun berates Tofa for belittling June 12
Founder and President of Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, Dr. Frederick Fasehun berated Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), who contested against Abiola in the June 12, 1993 election for attempting to rubbish and belittle the June 12 historical event.
Fasehun stated this at a press conference in Lagos in commemoration of June 12.
Last week Tofa said June12 was dead and should be forgotten.
The OPC leader stated that when someone in the calibre of Tofa, attempts to belittle that historical event, then Nigeria was in trouble. “A foreigner may ask us to forget June 12 and he will be forgiven. A child may ask us to forget June 12 and he will be forgiven. A dim-wit may ask us to forget June 12 and he will be forgiven. However, when someone in the calibre of Alhaji Bashir Tofa, Presidential Candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), and Abiola’s opponent in the 1993 election, attempts to rubbish and belittle that historical event, then Nigeria is in trouble,” he said.