It was a roll call of who is who in the civil society world on Tuesday as eminent Nigerians, including former Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams; Senator Shehu Sani, Dr. Amos Akingba, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), Tony Uranta, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, among others, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to go beyond just announcing June 12 as Democracy Day and restructure the country.
They made the call in Lagos at the Ogba, venue of the 2018 Edition of the June 12 commemoration, organised by the Oodua People’s Congress and the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council.
While noting that restructuring the country will serve as a way of recreating the ideals that the late MKO Abiola, presumed winner of June 12, 1993 election, which was later annulled by then Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, stood for, they also demanded that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announce the results of June 12, 1993 poll and declare Abiola the winner, while the Federal Government should ensure the payment of presidential entitlements to the family of the late business mogul-turned-politician.
Senator Sani, who was the chairman of the occasion, however, commended President Buhari for doing what others before him could not do by conferring Abiola with the highest honour in the land, but warned him not to attach any political motive to the declaration.
He also urged the president to be wary of fake apostles of June 12, who, according to him, might want to take advantage of the declaration to claim glory for the 1993 election.
“Today is a historic and memorable day. I appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari for the honour and recognition given to the MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
“He has been able to do what his predecessors could not do in the nineteen years of civil rule in Nigeria,” the senator said.
Sani also commended members of leading pro-democracy group, National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Aare Gani Adams, Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) under Frank Kokori and others, who he said, stood against the annulment of the election.
Adams, in his welcome address at the occasion, also expressed his appreciation to President Buhari for taking the bold initiative of honouring the late Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), positing that the declaration of June 12 as the Democracy Day in Nigeria was not the end of the struggle but the beginning that called for the president to do the necessary follow up.
According to Aare Adams, restructuring the country is as important as June 12, calling on Buhari to listen to the yearnings of Nigeria to urgently put the process to achieving it in motion.
“I am sure posterity will always be kind to him (Buhari) for putting Nigeria’s democratic history in the right perspective. The truth is that there is always a light at the end of every tunnel.
“We need to stand firm and raise our voices in support of restructuring. If Nigeria is restructured, the federating units or state will be developed equitably at their own pace. The enormous power at the centre will be reduced and Nigeria will be better off, “Aare Adams said.
Speaking at the occasion, former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, who was honoured alongside other eminent figures, including Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, Dr. Amos Akingba, Tony Uranta, Prof. Tunde Babawale, Comrade Ayodele Akele, among others, said there were still untold stories about the June 12 1993 Presidential Election that he would reveal in two years’ time but not now.
Kalu, who said he was a strong member of NADECO, pointed out people that Nigerians believed were responsible for the annulment of the historic election were not the real culprits.
“The story of June 12 can’t be told today. I will come back may be in two years’ time to give a lecture and give the real insight of the June 12. No Nigerian even knows those who stopped the June 12 election.
“Those people that you think stopped June 12 election are not the people who stopped June 12. It has happened and I believe in one or two years, I will give you a concrete detail of what happened during June 12 and after June 12,” the former Abia State governor said.
Chairman, Lagos State chapter of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Dr. Quism Akinreti, while speaking on the occasion, said hope had been restored into the polity and Nigerians who were involved in the struggle for the actualisation of June 12 mandate, even as he said those involved in the annulment and their collaborators are now put to shame.
The NUJ chairman cautioned those who planned against the wish of majority to know that God is there as master planner, even as he saluted the courage of people like Dr. Joe okei-Odumakin, a foremost journalist, Kunle Ajibade, who were hounded into jail, among others, for part of struggle for actualisation of June 12 mandate.
Akinreti said it was the considered view of the NUJ that late Abiola’s home in Ikeja should be turned to Presidential Library instead of the one now in existence outside Lagos.
He said other demand by the NUJ is that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be made to officially announce the result of the June 12 poll and the winner and late business mogul, Abiola, be declared elected president of Nigeria posthumously.
“We of the NUJ are of the hope that the house of Abiola in Lagos should be turned to Presidential Library instead of one called presidential library now.
“The INEC should be made to officially announce the result of the June 12 election and declare him (Abiola) as Nigerian president. The result should be formally announced,” he said.
The guest speaker, Dr. Derin K. Ologbenla, reviewed the state of affairs in the country, including events leading to the June 12 poll and struggle that followed to ensure its de-annulment, with the battle seen as ethnic agenda by some sections in the country, saying that had the election been upheld and Abiola sworn-in as president, Nigeria would have been much better.
He called on the government to put a final stop on the incessant killings in parts of the country, including Benue State, urging also that political restructuring of the nation must also be undertaken as a matter of urgency.
An Afenifere leader, Dr. Amos Akingba, in his own remark, said peace would continue to elude those who continue to look for trouble, just as he tasked Nigerians to take their destiny in their hands as no genuine politician existed anymore around to trust but those that were out to serve their own selfish interest.
Akingba, who spoke in Yoruba, said: “Omo to ni iya o n ko ni sun, o un na ko ni foju borun. Ko is oloselu gidi mo, awon ojelu lo wa,” literally meaning, “A child who said her mother would not sleep, he too would not sleep. There is no more genuine politician around but fake ones out to fill their pockets.”