• ‘How issue almost tore 2014 National Conference apart’
A former Foreign Affairs Minister and a top former leader of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, says nobody can accuse President Muhammadu Buhari of pandering to the South of Nigeria, following his decision to posthumously honour Chief MKO Abiola with the nation’s highest award and recognise June 12 as Democracy Day.
Buhari had, last week, announced that the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) award would be conferred on Abiola, the undeclared winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Abiola’s running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, and the late human rights / democracy activist,Chief Gani Fawehinmi, are also to be conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) award.
Akinyemi, in a statement, yesterday, narrated how the issue of the June 12, 1993 election nearly tore the 2014 National Conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to him, the Buhari gesture had brought closure to the agonies of those imprisoned, tortured or lost family members on account of the annulment of the June 12 election and efforts to de-annul it.
He advised that many of those who were prominent in the fight to actualise the June 12 1993 election, also adjudged as Nigeria’s freest and fairest election, deserved national honours.
“I recognised how momentous that decision was and I not only welcome the decision, I thank President Buhari for the decision”, he said,
Akinyemi went on: “President Buhari has addressed some of the wounds inflicted on this nation and applied healing balm on these wounds. Only those who lost family members, those imprisoned and detained or who had family members imprisoned and detained, those tortured and those driven into exile had felt the need for some measure of closure. That closure was achieved on June 6 by the executive order issued by President Buhari.
“I appeal to the President to remember other Nigerians who also played active roles in the struggle. People like Dan Suleiman, Ndubisi Kanu, Frank Kokori, John Oyegun, Dr. Akingba, Bagauda Kaltho and others deserve national honours in future exercises.
Saying the courage of the President in tackling this issue should be acknowledged, the former NADECO leader narrated: “As the Deputy Chairman of the 2014 National Conference, I recall that when the issue of June 12 was raised, it almost tore the Conference apart. I also recall that the issue of June 12 had been raised in different sessions of the National Assembly without resolution. That it took President Buhari to resolve this issue is a manifestation of what social scientists call the Nixon-China syndrome. It took a rabid anti-communist like Richard Nixon to extend diplomatic relations to China without the fear of being labelled a communist. It has taken a Buhari, who nobody can accuse of pandering to the South and who is trusted by the North to do justice to June 12”.
He added: “The spirit of June 12 is national. Let us build on it. Thank you, President Buhari for taking the first of the many steps you will need to take to heal the wounds that afflict us.