IRRESPECTIVE of whatever legal and political reservations being advanced, we are convinced that the Federal Government has done the right thing by officially recognising the late Chief Moshood Abiola as the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
When President Muhammadu Buhari announced this on Wednesday, 6th June 2018, he also declared June 12 as our Democracy Day and conferred MKO Abiola with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) award. This is an honour reserved for former presidents. But Buhari stopped short of recognising him as a former President as demanded in some quarters, probably because Abiola was never sworn in.
Abiola’s running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, was conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) while Nigeria’s foremost human rights lawyer and irrepressible human rights and June 12 activist, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, also got the GCON. The President formally presented the honours to Kingibe and the families of MKO Abiola and Fawehinmi on Tuesday, June 12th 2018 at a ceremony graced by Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka among others.
Coming 25 years after the military junta led by General Ibrahim Babangida torpedoed the sovereign will of the Nigerian electorate, this is an elixir to all who struggle for freedom, equity and justice that in spite of the heavy costs often involved, their efforts will never in vain.
MKO Abiola and his wife, the intrepid Alhaja Kudirat, were martyred in the struggle. His wealth, which he had so generously shared with all comers in his event-filled lifetime, went with him. So did his media empire which, at a point, bestrode the three old regional precincts of the country. President Buhari is the eighth since Abiola’s mandate was truncated. June 12 stubbornly remained a fresh agenda on the table; a nagging sore on the conscience of the nation.
With the official recognition of Abiola as winner and the declaration of June 12 as our Democracy Day, its “burial” has been reversed. Other things that went with it will surely come back to life. Its forgotten heroes and martyrs should be remembered and systematically honoured. Its ideology – power shift, restructuring and true federalism – will return to the front burner.
The commemoration of our democracy on June 12 will bring back to the fore, especially for the present and future generations of Nigerians, the virtues that the election crystallised. It was the freest and fairest poll in which Nigerians put aside their ethnic, religious, regional and sundry primordial differences and chose their leader. But the military, backed by some forces of darkness, truncated the mandate and re-unleashed the centrifugal forces that have held our dear country in thrall till this day.
The message of “Hope”, which MKO Abiola preached, is rekindled. Nigeria of our dream is not lost.
June 12: Buhari tenders apology to MKO Abiola’s family