In a move to finally bury the wounds of June 12 annulment of the 1993 general election won by a business mogul, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, President Muhammadu Buhari has offered unreserved apology on behalf of the Federal Government to the family of the late Abiola, over the cancellation of the historic election.
The President made the apology at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday during the Special National Honours Investiture and award presentation to heroes of June 12, 1993 poll, which was annulled by the regime of former Military President,Gen Ibrahim Babangida.
Buhari said that the decision to hold the event was not to open old wounds but to bury negative sides of June 12 and its ill-feelings, hatred, frustrations and agony.
He, therefore, called on all Nigerians across national divides to accept the annulment of the June 12, 1993 poll in good faith.
The President said, “I honestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divides to accept it in good faith. Our action today is to bury the negative sides of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hates, frustration and agony.
“What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive sides of June 12.
“The June 12, which reinstated democracy and freedom, the June 12 that overcame our various divides and the June that produced unity and national cohesion.
“This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation
“Accordingly, on behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of late MKO Abiola who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of June 12 struggle.”
President Buhari further asked for a minute silence in honour of late MKO Abiola and those that lost their lives in the struggle for the actualisation of June 12.
In his remarks, the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, at the event, requested Buhari to institute an award to ‘‘name and shame’’ all those who truncated Nigeria’s democratic transition with the annulment of June 12, presidential election.
Speaking at the National Honours Investiture for heroes of democracy, Soyinka said: “Today perhaps is also a day to inaugurate our hall of shame so that as we have hall of heroes in one hand, we also have hall of shame as a lesson to future generations.
‘‘It is not possible to honour MKO Abiola in one breath and admire his tormentor in another breath. Loyalty is all very well but loyalty can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual who if he were alive today will be before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity”.
Soyinka, who did not mention the name of the Nigerian, described the individual as one who ‘‘broke the laws of Nigeria, broke international law and committed crimes against humanity.’’
He added: “It is confusing if professional loyalty is carried so far as to be accorded to such an individual.”
The Nobel laureate recounted his private conversation with the President, where he had argued why a notorious corrupt ruler was honoured by the Federal Government while the martyrs of democracy and philanthropists were left unhonoured.
Soyinka commended the President for tendering an apology to Nigerians and the family of Chief MKO Abiola for the wrong done to democracy in 1993 by the annulment of the June 12 presidential election.
He said, “There are too many traumatised individuals walking the streets as a result of the policies and attitudes of one of the most brutal dictators that this nation has ever known. Closure will come by responding to those traumatised individuals, the victims of unspeakable tortures, some of whom were compelled to watch their beloved ones being tortured.”
Soyinka, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government not to forget the ‘‘nameless and unsung heroes and heroines.
Meanwhile, a senior lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has said that Buhari has announced the results of the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential election.
Falana, who was one of the invited guests at the Special National Honours Investiture in Abuja, said this is due to the honour which President Buhari has bestowed the late Abiola.
He said, “Mr. President, we want to thank you very tremendously for recognising June 12. Some people are saying you should declare the results, you have declared the results.
“We now know the winner of that election officially, who is now being honoured with the order of GCFR reserved for Heads of Government in Nigeria.
“Before this regime, we have had seven governments that pretended that June 12 never existed. In the words of Abiola, we were clapping with one hand, today, we are clapping with two hands.”
Falana, however, called on Buhari to ensure Nigerians bid farewell to poverty, a mission which the late Abiola deeply desire.
“Mr. President, we want you to engage Nigerians to wage a meaningful fight against poverty in this country. We have enormous resources to make every Nigerian happy,” he said.
He also urged President Buhari to direct security chiefs to restore the rights of all Nigerians, calling for an end to incessant killings in some regions of the country.
Meanwhile, Buhari has formally made the late Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election as the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
The conferment of the honour on the late Abiola comes 25 years after the election, which is recognised as the freest in the country’s history.
It comes almost 20 years after Abiola died in detention after being jailed by the late military dictator, Gen Sani Abacha, for trying to claim his mandate.
Earlier in his remarks, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said the award and designation of June 12 by the Federal Government as democracy day marked a new dawn in the nation’s political and democratic advancement, signaling the deepening of belief in the democratic principles of inclusiveness in governance and hope for a greater Nigeria.
He said, “The monumental election that took place on June 12, 1993 represented the first time in the history of our nation that Nigerians voted not for tribe or creed or region but for their convictions, affirming their common heritage and unity of purpose”.
Mustapha said that, nation building requires the sacrifice of all citizens.
He said, “We must therefore imbibe the moral rectitude to look into our past with pride and take lessons from our rich history to draw a roadmap for the present and future development of our great country. We must also recognise the effort of our heroes of democracy.”
“These efforts as we know, were emboldened by some key personalities and groups that included the personages that we celebrate posthumously today. Late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the presumed winner of the election, while trying to actualise the mandate freely given to him, paid the supreme sacrifice. Late Gani Fawehinmi fought his battles in the law courts, on the streets as an activist and deprivation of liberty in detention.
“It is therefore worthy of note, that June 12, which more than any other day, symbolises the varied struggles and sacrifices made by fellow citizens of this great nation, established democracy as our political system of governance, and opened a new chapter in the political history.
“It is in commemoration of this day, the spirit of which should be internalised in the consciousness of Nigerians of all ages and taught to our children and generations of Nigerians yet unborn, that this Administration has, in placing history in the right perspective, declared June 12 of every year as Democracy Day and as a national holiday,” the SGF added.