It has become an annual ritual for compatriots to gather around Nigeria to commemorate the anniversary of the June 12 ,1993 Presidential election, widely acclaimed, most peaceful, freest and fairest election in its political history won by the late business mogul, philanthropist and pan-Africanist, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola. In this report, GEORGE OKOJIE takes a look at issues thrown up at the 24th anniversary celebration.
Over the years, the consciousness of Nigerians about the importance of June 12 in the political life of the country and democracy, has repeatedly been demonstrated by the yearly commemoration of the anniversary of the election nationwide by the mass of the people through seminars, workshops, symposiums, lectures, rallies, walk, media engagements, among others to deepen the tenets of democracy in the country.
Observers say the credibility of the election reverberates till today to the extent that it is still regarded as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s political history, thereby making it difficult to erase the memory of June 12 election from many Nigerians, especially democrats and activists.
Beyond mere celebration of a political icon, the former chairman of NADECO and Military Administrator of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (Rtd) at the 24th anniversary celebration said June 12 phenomenon had since transcended individuality, drawing attention to the thick cloud hanging in the horizon on the state of the nation especially with agitations from all parts of the country.
Kanu , who drew attention to various agitations from all parts of the country, said thick cloud hanging in the horizon on the state of the nation, however, expressed the belief that the situation could still be salvaged through restructuring.
According to him, the restructuring will not be about re-inventing the will but returning to a federation of different peoples.
“I will like you to examine the state of the nation- from East to the West, from the North to South and draw the conclusion(s). However, even though a thick cloud is in the horizon, I believe that the situation can still be salvaged; and that can only happen if we restructure. Restructure is no reinventing the wheel, it is a return to a federation of different peoples.
“The bottom line, in conclusion, is that we either peacefully go back to a Federal Nigeria, a Federation of different peoples, who want to live and move together as one country, or we must be prepared willy-nilly, thereof, for an unfortunate and avoidable non-peaceful resolution, to virtually the same effect: a federal Nigeria, (resolved into, non- peacefully) or different countries, to the benefit of the different peoples, who will work out accommodating and progressive arrangements with their contiguous neighbours in the present Nigeria geographic space, again to the mutual benefit of all,” he said.
The Oyo State governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi regretted that 24 years after the election adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the history of the country, the ideals for which Chief M.K.O Abiola stood was yet to be realized.
The governor said the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election was a turning point in the annals of the country, saying the supreme price paid by the acclaimed winner of the election, late Abiola, can never be forgotten.
Ajimobi described the late politician and business mogul as a symbol of democracy, lauding him for his strong conviction that ordinary Nigerians must be freed from the shackles of oppression and penury.
Ajimobi said, “It was this conviction that Nigerian masses should be freed from their oppressors and that the destiny of the whole nation should not be held to ransom by a cabal that propelled him to stand by his mandate and to defend it to the last.
“The democracy that we all are enjoying now was made possible by the likes of Abiola, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Chief Frank Kokori, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and others too numerous to mention.
“This is why we must not allow any circumstance to wipe out the memory of June 12; the day that Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliations, decided to take their destinies in their own hands by voting overwhelmingly for a man after their heart,” he said.
He said the only way to ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain is to promote and institutionalize good governance until poverty, injustice and insecurity are significantly reduced in Nigeria.
Ajimobi added, “This ideal of good governance that is centred on development remains the driving force of our administration. We fervently believe that this is what MKO would have wished for. That is why we would continue to follow in that path in order to keep his memory alive.”
In the same vein a lawmaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Abiodun Tobun also regretted that some people are trying to sectionalise the achievements of the late presumed winner of June 12, 1993 election, Chief MKO Abiola.
Tobun emphasised that June 12, 1993 should be a national and not a sectional issue.
“We should appreciate Abiola as a philanthropist, a politician and a publisher, who familiarised himself with the people. I feel what happened during the annulment was a national issue, it went beyond tribal or religious sentiments.
“The man refused to submit the mandate given to him by the people of Nigeria. He fought and died for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. As far as I am concerned, the election must be declared.
“It was annulled and it must be revisited, then the results must be announced,” he said.
He explained that Abiola won the election, and that June 12 should be seen as Democracy Day, saying that May 29 was just a handover day.
In his upbeat manner, Femi Falana Human Right lawyer maintained that June12 should not be seen as a Yoruba struggle but a national movement that gave birth to the 18 years of uninterrupted democratic in Nigeria.
Falana at a public lecture to mark the 24th anniversary of the June 12 described June 12 as a national movement, saying, “it is wrong for any Nigerian to tag it a Yoruba struggle”.
Falana added that to advocate for proper restructuring of Nigeria, which he described as not negotiable.
He said that political restructuring without economic restructuring was not the solution to the under-development of the country.
For Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State June 12 struggle remained a special day in the nation’s political history.
Akeredolu said that many believed that the June 12 phenomenon transcended the individuality of Moshood Abiola and should not be forgotten.
To underscore its importance he immediately announced the renaming of the Democracy Park in Akure as the MKO Abiola Democracy Park, saying that the meeting was not a political gathering.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said, “We should all agree that June 12, 1993 was the day Nigerians voted for a president in a free and fair atmosphere or else we would continue to be divided along religious and tribal lines.
“All of us should know that Abiola died for the democracy we are all enjoying today. He died, his wife, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was also killed. What do we have to give to him than to immortalise and appreciate him. We should know that only a few people could lay down their lives the way he did.
“He lost his wife, he lost his business empire over the matter. We must appreciate him as the symbol and matyr of democracy. The late Dr. Nelson Mandela fought for the blacks in South Africa and he came out to rule the country.
“Though Abiola is dead, we should immortalise him and declare him as the winner of the June 12, 1993 election.”
As far as the Executive Chairman, Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice(CHRSJ),Comrade Adeniyi,Alimi Sulaiman is concerned the President Muhammadu Buhari led-Federal Government must recognize the late winner of the election as former President of the country, maintaining that Late Abiola, his wife,Kudirat and other martyr laid down their lives for the enthronement of current democratic experiment in the land. He also maintained that non-recognition of Chief Abiola since the enthronement of present democratic experience in May 29,1999, has been hurting the present political system, insisting that the only solution to the many political challenges currently facing the nation was to first give Chief Abiola the rightful place in the country political history and development.
Sulaiman added that national monuments University of Abuja and Eagle Square should be named after the late winner of June 12, 1993 Presidential election.
Many Nigerians were humbled when the House of Representatives on Tuesday pulled their weight behind the struggle and toed the line of thought of these prominent Nigerians by urging the Federal Government to immortalise the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Moshood Abiola.
After an intellectual debate, the House also resolved that late Mr. Abiola be conferred with posthumous Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR), in recognition of his sacrifice and contributions to the unity and development of Nigeria and Africa.