BY DAPO AKINREFON
NINETHEEN years after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, pro-democracy activists and eminent Nigerians converged at the residence of late Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola to commemorate the anniversary yesterday.
MKO, as he was fondly called by admirers, was the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland among other titles. But he, however, is positioned in history for his stoic defence of the mandate he won in the country’s freest presidential election in 1993.
Abiola contested on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), won the presidential election on June 12, 1993 but was, however, was denied the mandate by the then military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), who annulled the election.
With the annulment came violent protests by pro-democracy activist and civil societies across the country. Pundits express the view that June 12 ushered in the May 29 democracy presently being celebrated.
The 19th anniversary of June 12 tagged: “June 12 Democracy Day Celebration”, was organised by June 12 Movement, Change Agents of Nigeria Project and Kudirat Abiola Initiative for Democracy, in Lagos.
It was also another opportunity for stakeholders to proffer solutions to the lingering problems that have besieged the country over the years.
While some expressed the view that the federal government should do more to immortalise the late business mogul, others maintained that there was need for proper restructuring of the polity.
As a way of immortalizing the businessman cum politician, Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Dr. Lateef Adegbite; Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji and one time Deputy Minority Leader in the Senate, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and a Niger-Delta activist, Ms. Ankio Briggs suggested to the Federal Government to declare June 12 a national holiday.
Prominent Nigerians present at the anniversary include: Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Dr. Lateef Adegbite; Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji and one time Deputy Minority Leader in the Senate, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora and a Niger-Delta activist, Ms. Ankio Briggs; Lagos state chairman of Afenifere, Chief Supo Shonibare, Ropo Sekoni, Mumuni and Jamiu Abiola, former Minister for Information, Chief John Nwodo, Comrade Joseph Eva, Professor Onasanya, Dr Tunji Abayomi, and Segun Aka Bashorun among others.
Though controversy has trailed the renaming of the University of Lagos after him (Abiola), some analysts are of the view that more should be done by government to celebrate the late politician.
Firing the first salvo was one of the sons of the late businessman cum politician, Mr Mumumi Abiola who commended pro-democracy activists for not relenting in their efforts to sustain the struggle for which June 12 stands for.
According to him, “I want to say that I was very young when the whole thing (June 12 crisis) happened, but I am pleased that you all still continued with the struggle 19 years after my father’s demise. It does not end there, we must continue with the struggle.”
Another son of the late politician, Jamiu Abiola berated past governments for failing to immortalise his father.
Jamiu, however, commended President Goodluck Jonathan for taking the bold step of immortalizing his father.
INEC must release June 12 results — Adegbite
On his part, Adegbite lamented that Nigerian authorities had yet to accord due recognition to the historic day.
While lamenting that due recognition had not been accorded the date, he said “June 12 is once more with us. We recall passionately the glory of that date, June 12, 1993.
“It is lamentable, however, that the Nigerian authorities are yet to accord due recognition to the historic day. I therefore humbly urge President Goodluck Jonathan whose election as president last year was the closet in cleanliness to that of MKO Abiola’s election of June 12, 1993, to kill several birds with one stone.”
Speaking further, Adegbite called on government to, “release officially the results of the elections. Declare Chief M.K.O Abiola the winner of the election. Confer posthumously on MKO Abiola all the honours due to an elected President of Nigeria including the award of the national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic.”
He further said June 12 should be declared MKO Abiola Day to replace May 29 currently observed as Democracy Day adding that “the gesture will be compared to that given Dr Martin Luther King jnr in the United States of America.”
The Seriki and Baba Adinni of Egbaland, however said such recognition “is without prejudice to the naming of certain public institutions in his honour such as the University of Lagos and Abuja National Stadium as previously resolved by the Senate.”
Ikuforiji, who supervised the laying of a wreath on the tomb of Abiola, suggested that there is the need for the federal government to do the right thing by “declaring June 12 a national holiday for him.”
Ikuforiji wants national holiday for him
The Lagos Speaker said “just as a day was set aside for Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King jnr, I am calling on the federal government and the National Assembly to make sure that June 12 be declared a national holiday and MKO Abiola day.
“INEC, should as a matter of importance declare Abiola the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. If Chief Ernest Shonekan, a former head of the Interim National Government, is being recognised as a former president of Nigeria, Abiola should not be an exception.”
….Same with Mamora
Senator Mamora said “if I were the president of Nigeria, what I would do is to declare June 12 a public holiday because we cannot afford to ignore such a day. June 12 was a day that the national question was resolved, to a large extent.”
Briggs stated that the yearly celebration of June 12 was meant to correct all the ills and injustices that had existed in the country.
Briggs said “June 12, for me, is about correcting all the ills that exists in Nigeria. Nigeria has been run by civilian dictatorships whom we call cabal. One of the ways that MKO Abiola will be honoured is for a government to recognise that Nigerians gave Abiola a mandate and so should be recognised as a true former president of Nigeria. Also, his portrait should be hung in the hall alongside former presidents of Nigeria”.
For a one time Minister for Information, Chief John Nwodo, without Abiola democracy would not have been attained.
Nwodo, who served in the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari stated that the need for Nigerians to be ready to make sacrifices for the country just like Abiola did.
“It is indisputable that our present democracy would not have been achieved if not for Chief Abiola. He was an accomplished businessman and a publisher. The first thing we must bear in mind is that it is necessary to make sacrifices for our nation. Abiola fought for democracy”, he stated.
Coordinator of the Change Agents of Nigeria (CAN) Mr Kayode Salako also speaking at the occasion said that had the hope of June 12 been allowed to live, Nigerians would have been singing another song. While he called on the present crop of politicians to ensure things are done properly, he said “we are still struggle to get it right.”