…June 12: Nigeria will no longer tolerate perversion of justice—-Buhari
…IBB, Obasanjo send apologies for absence at investiture
…MKO was Messiah Nigeria never had —Kingibe
…SDP leaders betrayed Abiola, says Shehu Sani
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, apologised to the family of acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, late Chief MKO Abiola, over the annulment of the election, saying never again will the country allow such perversion of justice.
He also apologised to families of those who lost their lives in the struggle to actualise Abiola’s mandate.
The President tendered the apologies on behalf of the nation at the Special National Honours Investiture of Chief MKO Abiola with the award of GCFR; Alhaji Babagana Kingibe and Chief Gani Fawehinmi with GCON at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The event had prominent Nigerians from all walks of life in attendance, except former Presidents of the country.
It was specifically announced that former President Ibrahim Babangida, who midwifed the annuled election, had tendered apology for his inability to attend the investiture because of I’ll health, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has recently become a vocal critic of the Buhari administration, was said to have apologised for his absence because of international engagement.
Speaking on the occasion, President Buhari in an emotion-laden voice, said the decision to hold the event was not an attempt to open any wounds but to right the wrongs, adding that June 12 produced unity and national cohesion.
He said for inexplicable reasons, the then government of the day canceled the election when it was clear that Chief Abiola was winning.
The President said Nigerians would no longer tolerate such pervasion of justice and that the decision to recognise June 12 was in the national interest.
He also pleaded with Nigerians, irrespective of political affiliations, to accept the decision in good faith.
Why we honoured Abiola, others — Buhari
He said: “Today, I am very happy to be present and to preside over the commemoration and investiture, marking the formal official Federal Government’s recognition of June 12 as National Democracy Day.
“The decision and this event are not meant to be an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong. Nigerians of their own free will voted for Late Chief MKO Abiola and Amb. Babagana Kingibe, the Presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in the 1993 elections.
“The government of the day inexplicably cancelled the elections when it was clear who were going to be the winners.
“We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings; recognize that a wrong had been committed and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of free elections. Nigerians would no longer tolerate such perversion of justice.
“This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country.
“Our decision to recognize and honour June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25-year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12 elections. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divide to accept it in good faith.
“Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12, the June 12, which restates democracy and freedom, the June 12 that overcomes our various divide and the June 12 that produced unity and national cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation.
“Accordingly, on behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of Late MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the cause of June 12 struggle.
“At this juncture, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like everybody present to stand and observe a minute silence in honour of the memory of Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Fawehinmi and indeed all those who lost their lives in the struggle of June 12 1993.”
Buhari most sensitive, reasonable head of state—Mohammed Fawehinmi
Also speaking on behalf of the late legal icon and human rights activist, his first son, Mohammed Fawehinmi, described President Buhari as the most sensitive and reasonable head of state that listened to his people and acted accordingly.
He said June 12 was the foundation of democracy in the country and that the occasion was a show of entrenchment of unity of all citizens of the country regardless of religion and ethnic background.
He said: “Your Excellency, I want to congratulate you for this gesture. You are the first sensitive and reasonable head of state that has listened to Nigerians and acted accordingly. June 12 is the foundation of democracy in this country.
“The recognition of Chief MKO Abiola as president-elect in this country not as presumed winner, I thank God that I have seen today.
“I congratulate the family of MKO Abiola, everybody present, I am proud of all of you. I also congratulate all of my family members here present.
“These people stood their ground, sacrificed all they had for this country and I thank Nigerians that their sacrifices have not been in vain.
“Today is symbolic because it shows the entrenchment of unity of all citizens of this country, regardless of your tribe, ethic background, religious beliefs because we are all Nigerians.
“I want to appeal to all our politicians, for God’s sake, let us appreciate ourselves as Nigerians. Chief MKO won Hope ‘93 but he was not allowed to govern. President Buhari won and we thank God he was allowed to govern.
“We urge all Nigerians to support this man, to stop bickering and trivialities, religion and ethnic background. If you lose take it that way. We are experiencing problems in Nigeria now because of hatred of values but I know with Oga at the helm of affairs, things will be better for Nigeria.
“Thank you Mr. President for this honour and we accept it wholeheartedly and we will continue to pray for you.”
Abiola, Messiah Nigeria never had—Kingibe
In his remarks, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe commended the President for the courage in recognising June 12 and so proved him to be a man of conviction, fair-minded man who was clear on what was right and what was wrong; what was just and what was travesty of justice.
“The decision came to you naturally because you are a principled politician who refuses to be swayed by the expediency of the moment,” he said.
Kingibe recalled Abiola as a man of great wit and persuasive powers, full of energy and a great philanthropist truly committed to improving the lot of the poor masses.
He said: “Indeed, MKO was the messiah Nigerians never had opportunity to feel his liberating impact. The annulment of June 12 election had the tragic consequence of dissolving that unity we as a people exhibited on that historic date and turning us into a divided people who began to see one another as enemies.
“We must be thankful that we eventually survived the prolonged crisis, even with all the collateral damage to our body politic. Today, President Buhari has called upon us to inter the ghost of the acrimony surrounding June 12 and celebrate the principles and the joy it brought,” he stated.
MKO preferred to die than compromise unity of Nigeria—Hafsat Abiola
Also speaking, daughter of the late MKO Abiola, Hasfat Abiola, said her father was steadfast in his bid to lead the country and preferred to die instead of compromising on the just course.
She said: “It is difficult to try to stand in the shoes of a giant, one of the greatest humans the world ever had but that is the responsibility of why we are here today. And indeed, even for MKO Abiola, it was difficult for him to imagine how he would speak to Nigerians at hisinauguration.
“My mum told me how he would stand in the mirror as he was preparing his speech because the results were coming in; he thought he was going to deliver it. And you know he used to stammer, so he will start… “dear fellow Nigerians” but he never really got passed fellow Nigerians.
“He would say a few words, he will say not like that and then start again and he kept struggling to say what he will say to Nigerians. Because what MKO wanted to say to the Nigerian people and all that MKO did say to the people of Nigeria is to say, I love you the people of Nigeria, I believe in you the people of Nigeria.
“He was born Yoruba but he loved Hausa people, Kanuri, Efik, Igbo people, he loved all. You just needed to be a Nigerian and MKO was your man. If he could help he would do. There are so many things he already did to show that and that was why the people of Nigeria rewarded him with the mandate of June 12, 1993.
“But we know that he was never able to deliver that speech but in many ways, the event that transpired later revealed to Nigerians the eloquence in his heart, the fidelity of his commitment and even his own deep abiding wish that if there was anyway his own actions would in anyway compromise the people of Nigeria, MKO preferred to die, he preferred to leave the earth rather than compromise on you, on your integrity as a people and your sovereignty as a nation.
“Which was why even the day before he died, when he was still being pressured, he asked the question, how do you shave the people’s heads in their absence? He knew he was present in the room he was pressured but he knew that so long as he refused to allow his own head to be shaved as a symbolic message to you the people of Nigeria, that you will be saved.
“And when he died, we accepted his body and have watched in Nigeria as year after year till now the 25th year, you the people have suffered and he was not recognized at all.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, Nelson Mandela it was who said, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done.’
“Who would have ever believed, given the relationship that you had with Chief MKO Abiola that you would be the instrument God will use to honour this man and to bring recognition and healing to the country?
“You apologised to my family and it touched my heart. You know that I also lost my mother in this struggle. So, that apology meant so much. Let me use this opportunity, on behalf of Chief MKO Abiola, because I know what he would have done, to apologise to you, to apologise to your family, anything that he might have done to harm you and to harm your family.
More poverty in Nigeria now than 1993
“Let me also say at this juncture that Chief MKO Abiola was so committed to us, saying farewell to poverty in Nigeria and today we have more people in poverty in Nigeria than we had in 1993.
“I read the statement that you made where you said we should prepare now to wage a battle for the defence of the people of Nigeria against those who think of themselves as the landlords of Nigeria.
“Let me say to you that by recognising June 12, you awaken so many heroes and heroines of Nigeria’s struggle who have shown, because they stood firm on June 12, that money cannot buy them.
“If there is any march that we need to march, if there is any protest that we need to be present to protest, you have called up your own new Army for the defence of this country. And President Muhammadu Buhari, this fight will not take you, God willing, as it has taken MKO but let us fight and bring about the conclusion of MKO struggle that the Nigerian people should be the ones in full control of this country.
“It is not for a few landlords whoever they maybe, it is for the 200 million people of Nigeria.”
We accept your apology—Kola Abiola
The first son of late MKO Abiola, Kola Abiola, who received the award on behalf of his father, said his family accepted the apology from President Buhari on behalf of Nigeria over the annulment of June 12.
He said: “Mr. President, on behalf of the MKO Abiola family, we accept both the award and the apology. We will like to thank you for the great honour you have done our family. We thank you for taking the decisive measures to strengthen our democracy and guarantee our future by reconciling our past. Thank you very much sir. Generations to come will honour you for this.
“May the souls of our dearly departed Rest In Peace. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Stop creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians, Soyinka tells Buhari
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, told President Buhari not to create confusion in the minds of Nigerians by honouring late MKO Abiola and be praising his alleged tormentor, late Gen. Sani Abacha.
He said: “Most of what l wanted to say have been actually knocked off my mouth by one singular gesture, the Presidential apology. It is a dimension which l did not expect from today’s ceremony. And l had a lot to say, but unfortunately, the words have been taken off my mouth.
“However, l will like to make a request. Mr. President, since we are honouring heroes of democracy today, l like to request that you manage to stop creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians. It is not possible to honour MKO Abiola in one breadth and admire his tormentor in another breadth.
“Loyalty is all very well but loyalty can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual who, if he were alive today, would be before the International Court for crimes against humanity.
“The one who broke the laws of Nigeria, International laws, pauperized this nation, it is confusing if professional loyalty is carried so far as to be accorded such an individual.
“We had a private conversation some time ago and l remember one of the things which l mentioned to you was this …l said you are fighting corruption.. how cometh that a notorious dictator, corrupt ruler, is honoured by one of the most important avenues in the capital of Abuja, whereas, individuals like the martyrs of the struggle, philanthropists have not been honoured. The answer you gave to me was not too satisfactory. But I let it pass.
“Today, perhaps, is also an opportunity to inaugurate our Hall of Shame so that as we have our Hall of Heroes on the one hand, we can also have our Hall of Shame, as a lesson to future generation, but your apology has been most touching.
“On behalf of the Nigerian people, l accept it. I accept and l am sure that most Nigerians will agree with me. It is a beginning. l do not agree that this is closure to the event of June 12. There are far too many traumatized individuals walking around the streets, pauperized individuals walking around as a result of the policies and attitudes of one of the most brutal dictator. In fact, the most brutal dictator that this country has ever known.
“Closure will come by responding to those traumatized individuals or victims of unspeakable tortures, some of whom were compelled to watch even their beloved ones being tortured, on behalf of a man who was determined not just to demonize, to dominate his environment, but also to dehumanize that environment.
“All that is left to me is to plead so that we do not forget the nameless, the unsung heroes and heroines of that struggle. A number of names have already been listed but l will like to include one of the pioneers, the instigators of the physical confrontations with that dictator, Comrade Ola Oni, who mobilized a number of people and fought the goons and slaves and surrogates of that dictator in that auspiciously named stadium in Ibadan, Liberty Stadium.
“But above all, l want us always to remember that the individual who we are principally celebrating today, the man who reappeared and represented himself, who did not understand the word surrender, saying my name is Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, l am back to reclaim my mandate.”
Don’t regard opposition as enemy—Ayu
Former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, in his remark, told President Buhari that the perception was that he was unforgiving but that his June 12 gesture had showed that he had “a large heart.”
He admonished him not to regard the opposition as his enemies, noting that the President’s real enemies were the people he had surrounded himself with who “turns everybody into your enemy.”
It’ll consolidate unity of Nigeria —Gov Almakura
Speaking to State House correspondents, Governor Tanko Almakura of Nassarawa State said the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, will go a long way in unifying different ethnic and religious groups in the country.
He said: “This is an occasion that is not common, it is an occasion that is unprecedented, it is an occasion that has openly exemplified Mr. President’s gesture and commitment towards democracy, fairness and the rule of law.
“I believe this gesture will go a long way in consolidating the unity and national cohesion of this country because this single gesture has proved to all people in this country that Mr. President means well for every Nigerian whether living or dead.
“I think Nigeria should take a cue from this and commit themselves to the tenets of democracy, fairness and the rule of law.”
June 12 is God’s day for us—Gov Bello
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State said the declaration of June 12 as a democracy day in Nigeria by President Muhammadu Buhari was a political stroke in the history of the country.
He said: “It’s a historic day, it’s a wonderful day, June 12 is a God’s day for us that believe in democracy and it is a day that God has made for every Nigerian to celebrate the great sacrifices that people like Chief MKO Abiola, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and others have really sacrificed for this country.
“I say a big thank you to the father of the country for making the dreams of every democrat in this country come true. June 12 is for the whole county and Mr. President has given a master stroke in this particular declaration of June 12 as democracy day.”
Buhari least expected to honour Abiola—Kokori
Chief Frank Kokori, a former Secretary General of Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Gas Workers, NUPENG, said President Buhari was the least person expected to honour Abiola, adding it was a confirmation that Buhari had a great soul.
He said: “If this is coming 25 years later, it means one day your country will remember you because some of us felt when we came out of Abacha’s gulag and we were not recognised, I just felt what sort of country is this.
“Like my personal experience as one of the most famous prisoners of conscience in the world, I saw that my country did not even appreciate the four years I spent in one of the worst cells in the world. And we did all these for our country and the country did not recognise us.
“So, now we are happy and we are very grateful to our President, the least president we expected who should have done this, Muhammadu Buhari. We thought people like Obasanjo should have done that for us long time ago. There was so much pressure not Muhammadu Buhari, we least expected it, so in doing it for us, he has a great soul and we appreciate it.”
Thank God I’m alive to witness this— Fawehinmi’s wife
Fawehinmi’s wife, Ganiyat, on how she felt about the honour done her husband said: “I was a bit disturbed. Every time the security will come, turn our house upside down, even his office was broken into, they took away many files during IBB regime and they were not returned till date.
“So I just thanked God that I am alive to witness today and I know that my husband will turn in the grave for this June 12 that is being actualised because he really fought and died for it.
“I believe God has a purpose for it, I believe that is how God wants it because you can’t run a race ahead of God. So, God has a purpose of actualising it today which is exactly 25 years after Hope ‘93 when Abiola wanted to be the President.”
Segun Osoba: Buhari is courageous
Former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba said Buhari with the conferment of award has demonstrated he is courageous to do what others could not do.
“I was just telling Chief Kokori that the fact that the two of us are alive to witness the event of today is a thing of joy. Because, Kokori became the last man standing when everybody was taken and I was wrongly accused which is not true. So I am happy that we are all alive today.
“The significance of what we are doing today is that the President has the courage to do what others failed to do. Secondly, he has shown tremendous courage in recognizing Abiola as late President of this country because I hate the language the presumed winner of the annulled June 12 election, with this declaration of honour of GCFR, which is reserved for Presidents and GCON for Vice Presidents and other eminent Nigerians, shows that the President has answered our appeals over the years and I thank God I am still alive.”
Ex-President threatened to throw me out of aircraft because of June 12 —Tinubu
The former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said one former President had sometime threatened to throw him out of an aircraft because of his stand on June 12.
He said: “I want to particularly salute Mr. President for your courageous determination in issuing the executive order to recognise, bring about the result and further committed to democratic principles in the country. Thank you.
“Nigeria, it’s fair that we have chosen democracy as a form of government. We are totally committed to democracy. It has been furthered and strengthened today.
“The love of our nation, to search previous regimes and correct the errors of the past ….. shows you are a great leader. We thank you.
“We formed a partnership on very strong democratic principles and you are living up to it. You made a promise that you will be committed to transparency and rule of law…, you have done it.
“I know one of the ex-presidents because of June 12, who threatened to throw me out of the helicopter. But you remained resolute to put Nigeria back on self-discovery, great determination and fidelity with democratic principles. Thank you Mr. President. Thank you for bringing back hope to Nigeria.
“Farewell to poverty. It is the struggle of Africa to banish poverty and you are investing in education, which is a great weapon against poverty, you are feeding our children, we are no longer paying for darkness…, thank you Mr. President.
“It is not a question of second term, you deserve it. We are going to work for it. No annulment on it, you are going to win it.”
SDP leaders betrayed Abiola — Shehu Sani
Meanwhile, the lawmaker representing Kaduna Central district, Senator Shehu Sani, yesterday, accused leaders of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, in 1993 of betraying acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, late Chief Moshood Abiola describing them as betrayers, traitors and Judas Iscariot.
While he commended President Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, he said: “We accept the gift but we reject the political motive behind it.”
Sani, an activist during the June 12 struggle, 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 in, Lagos, yesterday.