By Olasunkanmi Akoni and Monsur Olowoopejo
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode; Professor of International Law and Jurisprudence, Akin Oyebode; Lagos based Human Right Lawyer, Femi Falana and Dele Alake and other eminent Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to immortalize late Chief MKO Abiola, acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993, Presidential polls by declaring June 12 Democracy Day, in place of May 29 currently being celebrated.
They made the call at a symposium organized by the State Political and Legislative Powers Bureau in collaboration with the June 12 Coalition of Democratic Formations at LTV, Agidingbi, Ikeja in commemoration of 22nd anniversary of annulment of the June 12, 1993 general poll.
According to Ambode, the martyrs who laid down their lives for democracy must not be forgotten.
He said that, “The Centre of Excellence has always been the hub for democratic ideas and we would continue to expand the frontiers of democratic governance and freedom of our people.
The indomitable spirit of Nigerians spoke loud and clear on that day, reverberating across the land”
“June 12 stands as the real Democracy Day which was sanctioned by the blood of martyrs who laid down their lives for this democracy.
We shall not forget them; they will always be with us. As we continue to march on and sustain democratic governance, we would enhance and empower the well being of our people.”
Ambode also said June 12 symbolizes the patriotic and nationalistic spirit in all Nigerians because on that day Nigerians showed that irrespective of class or political sympathy, they would always join hands to respect national values.
“On June 12, we showed irrespective of class or political sympathy, we would always join hands to respect our national values. The general elections of 1993, fired up hope in the heart of Nigerians through the candidature of an unrepentant philanthropist and nationalist, Aare Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola”, he said.
Falana and other activist also faulted the claim that May 29th of every year mark the country’s democracy day, saying “June 12 stand as the real democracy day” for Nigeria.
Falana, however, warned President Muhammadu Buhari to shelve any planned removal of the fuel subsidy but rather establish modular refineries to ease the pain of citizens.
The human rights activists Lawyer, while addressing the congregation, raised concerns that any plans to remove the subsidy would inflict pains on the masses.
According to him, “I am challenging the All Progressive Congress, APC, led Federal Government because there are pressures on President Muhammadu Buhari to inflict more punishment on Nigerians by removing the fuel subsidy.”
He stressed that those who have stolen the wealth of the country must be made to pay for it.
Falana lamented that governors have paid less attention to the diversion of public funds in the country, saying “We must take back every penny from the oil companies who owe the federal government.
On modular refinery
He said, “In our neighbouring countries, they have modular refineries and they were built between $1 million and $15 million. We must start to construct this especially in Lagos State. With this, we will not be inflicting punishment on the citizens. We will not be losing money but raise money.”
Prof. Akin Oyebode, who was the chairman on the occasion, said the day was a celebration of die-hard spirit of Abiola, his wife Kudirat and hundreds of Nigerians that were killed in protest of annulment of the freest and fairest election ever held in the country.
Oyebode said it was sad and almost inconceivable that the politicians and the military decided to make May 29 Democracy Day.
“It must be said that without June 12, 1993, we would never have had May 29, 1999. We know that even as enemies of democracy try to thwart the idea, the sacrifice of MKO Abiola and of Nigerians who took to the streets should never be forgotten,” he said.
Oyebode added that it was unfortunate that the June 12 watershed has been ethnicised, with some states in the South west already marking it as an holiday, while others were still unbothered.
He said it was also amazing that Nigeria named monuments in Abuja and Statdium in Kano after military junta Sanni Abacha, while Abiola has not been immortalized as so deserved.
“Abiola remains a hero, even as June 12 has conscientised Nigerians that no power or effort can stop the will of the people united. MKO Abiola is the precursor of the ‘change’ we have today, given his idea of ‘farewell to poverty.’ To continue to ethnicized such date, is a disservice to Nigeria. I think the time is now ripe for Nigeria to demonstrate their commitment to democracy and truly declare June 12 as a national holiday,” he said.
Alake, who was the Editor of defunct Concord Newspapers and right-hand man of the late Abiola, in his lecture said June 12 was a day Nigerians were re-birthed as a true nation-state, adding that the annulment was the biggest damage ever done to the country.
He saluted the courage of June 12 activists like Frank Kokori, Ayo Opadokun, Alfred Ilenre, Dr. Amos Akingba, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Odion Akhaine and Segun Mayegun among others that were also present at the event.