By Dayo Johnson, Dapo Akinrefon, Gbenga Olarinoye, Olasunknami Akoni, Ola Ajayi, Daud Olatunji & Monsuru Olowoopejo
THE celebration of this year’s June 12 anniversary by South-West states was different in many ways.
Across the states in the zone, various stakeholders organised events to celebrate the day.
The recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day by South-West states was born out of the conviction by governors elected on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, that the date cannot be wished away in Nigeria’s political history.
Interesting, President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, directed that effective 2019, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, marked every May 29 for the past 18 years, be shifted to June 12 to honour Moshood Abiola, the winner of the 1993 presidential election.
Since 1999, successive governments brushed aside calls for Abiola to be honoured and for the Federal Government to recognise June 12 as democracy day.
Buhari, in a statement, said: “Accordingly, after due consultations, the Federal Government has decided that henceforth, June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore, Government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to the late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualisation of the June 12 elections and indeed, for democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, is to be awarded the GCON.”
As a mark of honouring Abiola, all the South-West states declared June 12 as work-free day for workers.
In Ondo State, the 2,500 capacity international event centre, the Dome was filled to the brim as the June 12 Democracy Day was celebrated with fanfare.
A work-free day had earlier been declared by the state government to ensure that the ceremony was well attended by all and sundry across the state.
A special town hall assembly to mark June 12 Democracy Day in the state was organised by the state government.
However, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the lead discussant, who is the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress in Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, were conspicuously absent at the ceremony.
Akeredolu’s deputy, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, however, stood in for him at the ceremony.
Governor Akeredolu while speaking during the ceremony, tackled all the critics of President Buhari who raised eyebrow over the honour done Abiola by giving him the highest award of GCFR and the pronouncement of June 12 as the Democracy Day.
Speaking through his deputy, the governor said: “Successive governments have brushed aside calls and agitations for Abiola to be officially recognised as the winner and consequently honoured.
“While the generality of the people have continued to applaud the decision of Mr. President in this regard, few naysayers do not see anything worthwhile in this act.”
Ogun embarks on Democracy Walk
In Ogun State, the home state of Abiola, as part of commemorating June 12, the state governor declared the day work-free, to enable residents and stakeholders mark the democracy day.
It was also an opportunity to celebrate the conferment of a post- humous national honour on their son.
A Democracy Walk was led by the Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun.
The walk, which took off from the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta as early as 7:00am, took participants through major roads in the state capital to Abiola’s family house at Oke-Ido, Gbagura, where prayers were offered for the martyr.
Those who participated in the events include government functionaries, activists, civil society organisations, democracy volunteers, civil servants, labour/trade unions, students, market women/men.
The walk was led by the Ogun State Deputy Governor, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga and the Secretary to the State Government, Mr Taiwo Adeoluwa.
In his remarks, Gov. Ibikunle Amosun, represented by his deputy, Onanuga, said the state government appreciated Buhari for honouring MKO and the people of Nigeria by recognising the acclaimed winner of June 12 election.
“We are grateful for actualising June 12 as Democracy Day. We have always observed June 12 since the beginning of this administration, that is to tell you the passion this government has for MKO,” he said.
Ambode constructs MKO statue
As a way of honouring the late politician, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State re-constructed an earlier statue of Abiola.
Ambode justified reasons the previous statue of the late Chief Moshood Abiola, was replaced with another statue saying, some things are more glorious than what you think.
The governor stressed that the location of the statue was significant and should be made obvious because anyone coming into the state through Lagos-Ibadan Expressway will have contact with the statue.
He unveiled the 46-feet statue which includes 9-feet pedestal, to mark the 25th anniversary of the annulled election at MKO Abiola Garden in Alapere, Ketu, with Abiola’s wife, Dr. Doyinsola Abiola, and others.
The governor, dressed in a white shirt with ‘93’ inscribed on it, disclosed that the structure was reconstructed to further appreciate his contributions.
He said: “There was a statue done by my predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, but in the divine world, some things are more glorious than what you think and so we decided at the end of 2016 that we should do bigger statues for Chief Gani Fawehinmi and MKO Abiola since almost everybody passing and entering Lagos go through this particular Ojota axis and so we decided late in 2016 that we should build something bigger and so it took us about a year to do this. By the time we did the one for Gani to celebrate his posthumous birthday on April 22, we also agreed that we should unveil that of MKO Abiola on June 12.
“But just as if God has a way of crowning all efforts to mark the 25th anniversary of June 12, our President, President Muhammadu Buhari has deemed it fit to give our own MKO Abiola the highest honour in the land, Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic, GCFR, and that is why we believe strongly that your presence here is not just for this statue but it is also historic which we would always remember in the annals of the history and politics of this country that sooner than later, there would be one day we would mark as MKO Abiola Day.”
Abiola’s son commends Ambode
Responding on behalf of the family, MKO Abiola’s son, Abdul Mumuni Abiola commended Ambode, noting that the statue was indeed befitting to honour his late father.
“I heard about this statue six months ago and I was called to come and see it and when I got here, I saw a statue of three-storey building. This is indeed massive. The family of the late MKO Abiola really appreciates this and we want to thank the Governor,” Abdul Mumuni said.
Onigbogbo Local Council Development Area, LCDA, also erected an effigy of MKO Abiola in his honour, at Allen/Opebi roundabout.
Gani Adams awards activists
At another event in Lagos organised by the Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land, Aare Gani Adams, former governors and activists converged to honour those who fought for the June 12 struggle.
Coincidentally, Gani Adams took up the mantle of Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land following Abiola’s death, a former occupant of the seat.
One of the highlights of the event was the awards given to activists who fought for democracy.
In his speech, Adams said: “Today, having made the sacrifices, I feel relieved to witness this day being recognised as our Democracy Day.
“The glory of this day is not for me alone, it is the glory of all members of OPC, and a few other civil society groups that share the same ideology with us. It is the triumph of victory over defeat.
“Today, we have defeated the evil voices that killed the dream of the late MKO Abiola. Today, we have silenced the voices of the evil doers. Also, we have made history as the only group in the country that echoes the sanctity of this day to the people.
“The voice of the people, they say, is the voice of God. Celebrating today annually as our Democracy Day for the past two decades come with a lot of sacrifices, but we thank God that the reward came in due time.
“Beyond that, on this special occasion today, we shall be honouring 21 prominent people with special awards for their roles during the June 12 struggle, and after the death of MKO Abiola.
“The gory story of June 12 could best be told by those of us that have the grace to be alive today.”
Abiola, Adedibu celebrated in Oyo
In Oyo State especially in Ibadan, the memories of June 12 were brought to life at two different fora.
In the first place, the League of Veteran Journalists led by Mr Adele, organised a lecture in honour of the late Moshood Abiola and at the 10th year anniversary marking the death of Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the strongman of Ibadan politics, spoke glowingly about the fallen hero.
While presenting a keynote address at the 10th year of Adedibu’s death, a Second Republic Liaison Officer of President Shehu Shagari, Dr. Saka Balogun said Chief Lamidi Adedibu played a key role in the emergence of Chief Abiola as the presidential candidate; his election as President in 1993 and particularly the efforts he made to secure a court bail for Chief MKO Abiola after he was detained following the annulment of his election.
Civil societies lead procession in Osun
Coalition of civil society groups called ‘Coalition of June 12’ trooped out major streets in Osogbo, to celebrate the June 12 anniversary, with a call on President Buhari to declare Abiola the winner of the 1993 presidential election.
The group celebrated the silver anniversary of June 12 in a grand style as they matched in a procession through the major streets in the state capital carrying the portrait of Chief Abiola.
Led by Comrade Waheed Lawal, the group started their procession from Aiyetoro through the popular Orita-Olaiya before terminating at Auraora events centre where the anniversary took place with governor Aregbesola in attendance.
Delivering his keynote address at the public lecture, Aregbesola said it is not too late to officially declare Abiola as a President of Nigeria and his picture be hung among the pictures of former presidents of Nigeria with full entitlements.
Aregbesola said: “While I appreciate the president for what he has done, I want him to take it a step further by setting up the motion to officially announce the full results of the elections and regard MKO Abiola as a past president with his picture hung among those of past presidents of Nigeria. That is the final healing to the injustice done to him and to Nigerians.”
The Osun June 12 coalition group spoke through Alhaji Waheed Lawal, Barr. Shenge Rahmon and Saka Waheed at different locations in Osogbo, called on the president to compensate the families of those that lost their lives or injured in the June 12 struggle.