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Still standing on June 12

MKO Abiola -Died for June 12 1993 election and IBB - Annulled June 12 election

Stories by Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Today the celebration of June 12 by pro democracy groups and activists will  assume a new dimension . This is because, seventeen years after the cancellation of June 12 1993 presidential election believed to be won by MKO Abiola and twelve years after his martyrdom , there was an  official recognition of  the sacrifice made by pro democracy groups  for democracy .

To many pro democracy activists and Nigerians, this is a deviation from what used to obtain in the past when no government acknowledged late Chief  Moshood Abiola as  the symbol of modern day democracy in Nigeria.

Indeed, the story of democracy would never be told at any time in Nigeria’s history  without the mention of June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola whose blood and that of his wife, Kudirat alongside many other  Nigerians was shed before the military could be chased back to the barracks and for civil rule to become a permanent feature in Nigeria’s political  scenery since 1999.

It was a tortuous  journey to the present democracy and it all began with the annulment of June 12 1993 presidential election by the then military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida.

President Goodluck Jonathan’s recent recognition through his nation-wide broadcast on Radio and Television during his May 29  Democracy Day message to Nigerians that indeed, Chief MKO Abiola paid the price for  the freedom Nigerians are enjoying today went a  long way.

The president had eulogised  Abiola and the pro democracy individuals who made  the supreme sacrifice that  ended   military rule and paved the way for democracy. The President said during  his broadcast ,  “It is in this spirit that we remember the great sacrifices made by Nigerian patriots, some of whom paid the supreme price.

We salute the illustrious memories of the M. K. O. Abiolas, the Shehu Musa Yar’Aduas, the Alfred Rewanes and the Gani Fawehinmis, whose sacrifice for democracy have paved way for the enthronement of  democracy. This should compel  us to take our democratic enterprise more seriously and with greater vigilance.

“We must work to ensure that by the supreme sacrifice of  these great heroes, it should no longer be necessary for the tree of  freedom to be watered by the blood of yet more martyrs.”

President Jonathan then pledged that his administration would  take it as a challenge  to conduct credible elections in which every voter will only be entitled to a vote and every vote will count. He further  advised Nigerians to develop a democratic culture in which the will of the people will be treated as sacred and be immuned  to subversion by anti-democratic elements, saying  the consummation of the process of electoral reform is a collective task that must be done this year.

Reiterating  the supremacy of the constitution, he reminded that , “the supremacy of the constitution should always be defended by all regardless of divergence of interests. Opposing views should always be tolerated and the culture of unfettered national debates should be reinvigorated as we collectively seek solutions to our problems.”

Today marks a new day for victims of June 12 some of whom lost their lives, their businesses and their freedom in the struggle. The recognition of the sacrifice made by certain individuals and groups to facilitate  democracy goes a long way to pacify wounded hearts. Pro democracy activists today sound more cheerful despite the shortcomings of democracy, saying  their struggle was not in vain.

Although some of the victims like Pa Abraham Adesanya have died, those who are still alive like: Frank Kokori who was jailed; John Oyegun who went to exile; Chief Ayo Adebanjo who was also jailed; Chief Olu Falae who though was part of the system of that annulment but  later  joined the struggle and was jailed are  cheerfully saying that they did not suffer in vain even though it is still a long way to genuine democracy.

Today, pro democracy groups celebrate the real Democracy Day, acknowledging that June 12 1993 election would continue to be the rallying point in Nigeria’s democratic experiment as long as the issue of electoral reforms and free and fair elections remain illusive. Abiola, in a long time to come will continue to be  a symbol of democracy and rule of law. Nigeria still owes  the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola an immense debt of gratitude.

It was his dogged commitment to the principles of democracy, justice and the rule of law even at the cost of his life that created the basis for the benefits we are enjoying today.

June 12 remains a symbol  that Nigerians can vote freely and conduct a free and fair election devoid of rigging, violence and all manner of manipulation. June 12 buries ethnic jingoism, religious bigotry, tribal sentiments and enhances  the unity of  Nigeria and the fact that a Yoruba or Igbo man can win an election in the North and defeat a Northern opponent in his own domain as portrayed by MKO Abiola of Social Democratic Party, SDP, and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of National Republican Convention on June 12 1993.

Read more of the report in our Special Report section

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