By Olayinka Ajayi & Odera Obeze
LEADING pro-democracy activists and elder statesmen, yesterday, vowed to unravel how late Chief MKO Abiola died in government detention 21 years ago and get the perpetrators punished.
They also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to pursue populist policies and respect the rule of law.
The activists, including Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka; Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (retd); Mr. Femi Falana, SAN; Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, and Alhaji Jamiu Abiola, spoke at a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the death of Abiola, organised by Women Arise for Change Initiative at MKO Abiola’s graveside in Ikeja.
Chief Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll, died in government custody on July 7, 1998 while fighting for the restoration of his mandate. The President Buhari-led government has named the Abuja National Stadium after Abiola and made June 12 Democracy Day.
Falana decries high rate of poverty
Falana said a team of lawyers was being set up to re-open the matter on the death of Abiola at the international court, so that justice would be served.
Falana decried the high rate of poverty in the county, saying it contradicted the legacy of the politician.
He said: “MKO Abiola’s campaign was anchored on farewell to poverty, today a 100 milliin Nigerians live in abject poverty. We, therefore, need to rededicate ourselves to taking our people out of poverty, tackle the problem of insurgency, banditry and kidnapping by addressing the high rate of out-of-school children. Abiola stood for justice for all. All Nigerians must benefit from the resources of the nation.“
Odumakin wants judicial commission of inquiry
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, convener of the event, said 21 years after the death of Abiola, he would continually be celebrated as a great son of Africa.
She urged the Federal Government to constitute a judicial commission of inquiry to unravel how Abiola died in custody.
She also called for the abolition of poverty in the country, saying it was an issue paramount to late Abiola
We can’t escape the past—Soyinka
Professor Soyinka said closure over the death of Chief MKO Abiola will be achieved when some of the challenges faced in the country are confronted and eliminated.
Soyinka said: “This is the first gathering in honour of MKO Abiola after the formal recognition by the Federal Government that he was duly elected, and that he is a past president of this nation.
“And all we are waiting for is the formal actualisation through symbolic presence of his photographs among other presidents, even though he was never sworn into office.
“We cannot escape the past, but we can confront the challenges of the present, which of course very often arise from the past.
“We are inching slowly towards closure. One of these days when we gather, we shall be rejoicing. At that time, we would have progressed towards the elimination of some of the abnormalities and contradictions in our country.
“We have the issue of security, obeying the law, which is one thing that equalises all. President Muhammadu Buhari should lead by example by obeying the dictates of the law, so that other Nigerians can follow suit. It is this refusal to obey the law that has made some sectors of the populace think they are above the law and are causing anarchy in the country.
“We have a responsibility as a people, and government should address the issue of education, youth unemployment and insecurity.”
Also speaking, Ndubuisi Kanu, said Abiola would forever be remembered for his principles and for believing in true federalism.
He said: “We are having so many problems today. 21 years after the death of MKO, we are still struggling to enthrone true federalism where every Nigerian will have a sense of belonging as a citizen.
“We urge the government to go back to how we became a country – a Federal Nigeria. That is the way forward, “he said.
Other people who spoke at the event included Alhaji Mohammed Fawehinmi, son of late Gani Fawehinmi; two of the sons of Abiola, Alhaji Jamiu Abiola, and Alhaji Abdulmumuni Abiola.