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DEMOCRACY DAY: How we celebrated June 12 by Opadokun, Agbakoba, others

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By Chioma Gabriel, Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon & Olayinka Ajayi

LAGOS—NOTABLE personalities, who played crucial roles in the June 12 struggle, yesterday, shared with Vanguard how they celebrated the historic day.


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Those who spoke with Vanguard included Elder Statesman, Pa Ayo Adebanjo; former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba; General Secretary of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, Mr. Ayo Opadokun; a former General Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Union, NUPENG, Frank Kokori; leader of NADECO in Canada and the United States, Chief Ralph Obioha and Afenifere chieftain, Chief Supo Shonibare.

I returned home after a TV programme— Opadokun

Narrating how he celebrated June 12, Mr. Opadokun said: “I was invited to appear on a live television programme, after which, I returned home. I was excited with the positive response that we got from Buhari with regards to NADECO’s call that a national monument should be named after Abiola. The fact that the national stadium in Abuja has been named MKO Abiola stadium is beautiful to hear.”

I was on TV and Radio — Kokori

Kokori said: “I was on television and many radio programmes with Femi Falana discussing June 12. I was happy indeed but the issue is that June 12 has been hijacked by the government.

“It is no longer about the heroes of democracy because we were not invited to the Democracy Day programme in Abuja. Although I was in Abuja, it was for the civil society programme.

“Those, who gathered to celebrate June 12 at the stadium as Democracy Day were strangers who had nothing to do with June 12 or the struggle. We were not invited. Well, I was not. But all the same, I was happy.”

I can’t comment on June 12— Obioha

Obioha said: “How I celebrated June 12? What do you want me to say? I cannot comment on June 12 any more after Babagana Kingibe, who allegedly sabotaged June 12, has become the honouree and champion of democracy. It is amazing. So, I reserve my comments.”

I was at home—Adebanjo

Asked where he celebrated June 12 and Democracy Day, Adebanjo said:  ‘’In my house; I don’t celebrate with those, who do not believe in democracy. I thank God I am alive when some people are having a second thought about the significance of June 12. Those who refer to June 12 as democracy day must practice what that day stood for. They must practice what Abiola promised and would have done if he was sworn-in. You can’t put people in prison without trial, refuse court orders and clampdown on the press and say you are practicing democracy.

“These are important ingredients of democracy. It is when we have all these put together that we have a democratic society.’’

I celebrated it quietly — Agbakoba

On his part, Agbakoba said he had fulfilled day reflecting on the June 12 struggles with Tundun Abiola, the daughter of Chief Abiola’s most senior widow, Bisi.

Asked how he celebrated the day, he said: ‘’Quietly and I also had a reflection with one of Abiola’s children on what went wrong, what where the strategies we did not apply and where we would have applied the breaks between pro-democracy activism and politics. We wondered if we had not stopped and continued with activism in 1998, may be things would have been different.

‘’We also discussed Abiola, how he decided to be a martyr for democracy. It was a throwback, going back 26 years, looking at the giants of the democratic struggle like Ken  Saro-Wiwa, Beko Ransome-Kuti, etc. It was a fulfilling day for me and now I am enjoying myself with a nice bottle of wine.’’

I celebrated it in Ogba— Shonibare

Shonibare said: “We celebrated the commemoration of June 12 in Ogba, as we had been doing annually since 1995.

“As you and I know that Lagos was the bastion of the resistance movement in the country through NADECO, United Action for Democracy, UAD, CDHR and other Pro- Democracy groups. The day deserves a soul searching-reflection on our polity. The event of our having a free and probably, the fairest election ever conducted in our polity, which was also intended to be the benchmark in establishing a democratic polity and rejection of dictatorship, did enable our transition to civilian rule.

“We have, however, not truly transited to a democratic rule with the spate of disputable and rigged elections at all levels of government.

“June 12 would have been a debacle but for the bravery of late Chief MKO Abiola in not abandoning his mandate even when faced with the possibility of his losing his life. All of us angling to lead in our country must be prepared to make the same sacrifice in standing and protecting the collective good of the country, even if it requires our making the same sacrifice that MKO made. That should be the abiding lesson of June 12.”

I was at the Eagles Square in Abuja—Durojaiye

A former NADECO chieftain, Senator Biyi Durojaiye said: “Like every other statesmen, I was at the Eagles Square in Abuja, where many African Presidents and representatives of the queen of England were present. It is a pity that active participants who suffered imprisonment without court trial or sentence and those who continued the struggle in exile were not present at the event.

“People like Frank Kokori, Ayo Opadokun, Wale Oshun, Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd), Vice Admiral Ndubusi Kanu (retd), Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd), Ayo Adebanjo, Olu falae among others.”

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