Nigerians from all works of life yesterday reignited the June 12, 1993 spirit, when almost everyone voted with one purpose in mind, the building of a new Nigeria, as even yesterday they came out to commend President Muhammadu Buhari for the honour done the winner of that election and some key participants at the election, but in unison they also demanded that the government needs to do more to fully assuage and put the spirit of June 12 to rest.
In Lagos, the mood was ecstatic, as pro-democracy activists, many of whom have been quiet over a long period of time found the June 12 as opportunity to once again speak out in search of a better Nigeria.
From the government quarters, to the Ikeja residence of the late Chief Moshood Abiola , to Excellence Hotel and even on the streets, there were events to mark the day.
At the government circle, the Lagos State governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode took time out to unveil a 46-feet statue of the man they described as Nigeria’s symbol of democracy and adjudged winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO), expressing optimism that the monument will forever crystallise what he stood for in his lifetime.
Governor Ambode, who spoke at the unveiling of the statue at the MKO Abiola Garden in Alapere, Ketu said it was in the tradition of the state government to recognise and remember heroes and heroines who contributed to the greatness of the nation and the state in particular, adding that MKO Abiola deserves the best from the state as Lagos was his success story.
Alluding to the fact that a statue was previously sited at the location, the governor said that his administration decided to erect a bigger statue for MKO Abiola and late Rights Activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi to properly situate their immense contribution to nation building.
“There was a statue done by my predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, but in the divine world, some things are more glorious than what you think and so we decided at the end of 2016 that we should do bigger statues for Chief Gani Fawehinmi and MKO Abiola since almost everybody passing and entering Lagos go through this particular Ojota axis and so we started late in 2016 that we should build something bigger and so it took us about a year to do this.
“By the time we did the one for Gani to celebrate his posthumous birthday on April 22, we also agreed that we should unveil that of MKO Abiola today, June 12.
“But just as if God has a way of crowning all efforts to mark the 25th Anniversary of June 12, our President, President Muhammadu Buhari has deemed it fit to give our own MKO Abiola the highest honour in the land, GCFR and that is why we believe strongly that your presence here is not just for this statue, but it is also historic which we would always remember in the annals of the history and politics of this country that sooner than later, there would be one day we would mark as MKO Abiola Day.
“We are very happy to gather here today at the MKO Abiola garden to unveil this statue, a monument that will forever crystallise his legacy, serves as a reminder to the greatness that Chief Abiola represents in our socio-political landscape,” the governor said.
He described MKO Abiola as a man who transcended race, tribe and religion, adding that the late philanthropist appealed to all Nigerians who voted massively for him during the 1993 Presidential election.
“Sadly, he lost his life trying to secure his mandate. Even though he was from another state, Lagos was his home. And we recognise his contribution to our state and our democracy,” Governor Ambode said.
Responding on behalf of the family, MKO Abiola’s son, Abdul Mumuni Abiola thanked Governor Ambode and the Lagos State government for the honour done the Abiola family, saying the statue was indeed befitting to honour his late father.
“God is great. I heard about this statue six months ago and I was called to come and see it and when I got here, I saw a statue of three-storey building. This is indeed massive. The family of late MKO Abiola really appreciates this and we want to thank the governor,” Abdul Mumuni said.
He also appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for the posthumous award conferred on his father and declaring June 12 as the Democracy Day, as well as the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for standing solidly behind the struggle.
“We thank the President for doing what he did. This statue was planned before the President did what he did and so we want to thank Governor Ambode for this,” he said.
Governor Ambode, who earlier spoke at a symposium held at the Blue Roof, Lagos Television in Ikeja to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the June 12, 1993 election, paid glowing tributes to other comrades who led the struggle from the front including Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ambassador Walter Carrington, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, Chief Frank Kokori, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Mr. Wale Oshun, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and other Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations, Trade and Labour unions.
“We also pay glowing tribute to the beautiful memories of patriots such as Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Michael Enahoro, Chief Alfred Rewane, Dr Beko Ransome Kuti, General Adeyinka Adebayo and several others including innocent ordinary Nigerians, young and old who were murdered in cold blood on the streets of Lagos and in other major cities of Nigeria. Today, we declare that their sacrifice has not been in vain,” he said.
The governor commended Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for being the pioneer governor to declare public holiday on June 12 throughout his tenure in office as well as Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for his steadfastness in upholding the tradition, saying that the occasion attests to their visionary leadership.
Speaking on the theme: “Restructuring: Antidote For Efficient And Effective Polity,” guest lecturer, Dr. Dele Ashiru of the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos (UNILAG), called for the amendment of the Constitution to ensure removal of provisions which inhibit successful running of functional system, especially revenue sharing formula which he said must be by derivation, among others.
He also said considering the strategic importance of Lagos to the country, special attention must be given to the state, adding: “The Federal Government must wake up and pay Lagos adequately from the national resource so that the state can continue to play the role it had been playing in the country.”
He described Lagos as a model and mega city not only in Africa but the world, and as such all hands must be on deck to work for its sustenance.
Also, Chairman of June 12 Coalition, Comrade Linus Okoroji commended the Lagos State government for sustained commitment to the June 12 struggle which had yielded fruits with the recent declaration of the day as Democracy Day in Nigeria and recognition of MKO Abiola with the GCFR honour.
At the residence of Abiola family, it was a festival, as activists of different shades jostle to be recognized.
Chairman of the June 12 Coalition event at the residence, human rights activists and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba said that he will not praise President Buhari for doing what he did, because it is what should eb done, “Thank the government for doing what?
If we praise what the government has done then we are missing, what Buhari did is what he should have done, I would not praise him at all. Nigerians Have been agitating for this for years. Its just like when you give your child food you said I should praise you.
“My advice is that the presidential candidates should not forget the reason why they are there when they are elected, often they forget, all you need to do is remember the people, if the politicians are honourable they would remember what Abiola died for.
When Abiola died, only few politicians could enter this house, the students unions were tearing their cloths, as a politician you must remember to give the people good road, I mean keep your promises. The way forward for Nigerian is that we have to get a good man, for now we don’t have any.”
Agbakoba argued that by recognizing Abiola, President Buhari is saying that June 12 is valid, and therefore he should go a step further by recognising him as president, adding however, “but I think what Buhari did is illegal, but it is popular and people want it, the Abiola family deserves the honour, so I would not challenge it in court.”
Also speaking at the Abiola residence, a presidential aspirant on the platform of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Dr. Thomas-Wilson Ikubese, commended President Buhari for the honour for Abiola, but called on him to extend the honour to other heroes of the struggle for the actualisation of the mandate.
Ikubese also called for the historic role of Prof. Humphrey Nwosu in ushering the freest election in the country’s history to be recognised.
While calling on the President to extend the honour to all living and dead heroes of the June 12 struggle, he said that a monument that will contain all the names of those who played their part in the June 12 struggle should be erected in a befitting edifice to be named after MKO Abiola.
“MKO Abiola deserves the honour and what we should be thinking of right now is to name a huge national edifice after him. MKO was the man who personified democracy in Nigeria and the field Marshall of all democratic warriors.
“When he is honoured all the foot soldiers must also be recognised by engraving their names on a monument to be erected in a national edifice in memory of MKO. Those who contributed to the struggle for June 12 are indeed widespread.”
He also suggested that two major edifices still stand out that can be named after Abiola, adding that the National Stadium in Lagos and the National Stadium in Abuja are type of edifices that can be named after Abiola.
He said that the country should also not forget the chief umpire of the “undiluted election,” Professor Humphrey Nwosu, adding that he also deserves to be appreciated.
Also speaking the publisher of Sahara reporter and also a presidential aspirant, Omoyele Sowore , said June 12 is also a day to remember journalists who either died or went through a terrible time at the time when newspapers had to be published in neighbouring countries.
He said the government’s conferment of the GCFR honour on Chief Moshood Abiola was not based on the ideological significance of June 12 but on the date and actions of the day.
In his words, “there is a thin line between June 12 as a date with history in Nigeria, June 12 as an action that took place and the June 12 ideology.
“What this government has done is to reckon with the date and action of June 12, they have not touched the ideology of June 12 and so in reckoning with the date and history of June 12, irrespective of what Abiola had done, you cannot forget June 12 to the presidential candidate,” he said.
Explaining what the June 12 ideology entails, he listed transparent democratic processes, eradication of poverty, fiscal federalism or creating a balance in the appointment unlike sectional appointments and creating a country where hope can thrive.
“For me what the government is pursuing is not the ideology of June 12 and so it is only when you’re pursuing these ideologies that you can say Babagana Kingibe should not be reckoned with.
If we were to discuss the ideologies of June 12, so many people including those mouthing June 12 now would not be talking June 12. So many people that rode on the crest of June 12 to fame and power would not be discussing June 12,” he added.
Sowore said that the fact that Nigeria has come out of a 25 year long self-denial of realising the injustice done to Abiola and the Nigerian people was a consolation for him.
Still on the receiving of a national honour, sowore said, “whatever late Moshood Abiola is getting based on the June 12, 1993 election, the vice presidential candidate must also follow in line unless and until he voluntarily says he is no more interested, he is impeached by the National Assembly, or by chance if he dies, but even if he dies he would be honoured posthumously.”
President, African Youth Initiative for Good Leadership, Gbenga Adewale, said that “June 12 presidential exercise is dead? That is their own selfish and dreadful declaration.
The haters and lovers of June 12 from every Nigeria local government, state government, national assembly and the Senate are benefiting from the democratic spirit of June 12 every day. ”
Adewale disclosed that Nigerians shall be kicking the ball along with Abiola for overall success of the country.
He stated that MKO Abiola, the flagship of June 12 deserved the honour given to him. “Generation yet unborn will live to appreciate the wonderful deeds of President Muhamadu Buhari,” he said.
At the Excellence Hotel, Ogba where the Oodua People’s Comgress (OPC) in conjunction with the Lagos State council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) held another June 12 commemoration event with the theme, “Nigeria Politics and Democratic Process MKO Abiola and the June 12, 1993 Cries and Beyond” the crowd was massive.
Speaking on why his group has continued to hold events in the last 18 years to commemorate the day, the Coordinator of OPC, Iba Gani Adams said, “whether the Federal Government’s decision was more political than legal, as argued by some people, for me it is crystal clear that the journey to make June 12 our Democracy Day started several years ago.
“It was a struggle that was morphed into series of struggles and activities. We started the journey together. Even when I was detained in 2006, the annual commemorationof the June 12 annuleled election was held in my absence at this venue.
“Today, having made the sacrifices, I feel relieved to witness this day being recognized as our Democracy Day.
“The glory of this day is not for me alone, it is the glory of all members of OPC, and a few other civil society groups that share the same ideology with us. It is the triumph of victory over defeat,” he said.
Chairman of the occasion and the Senator representing Kaduna Central District, Shehu Sani, also expressed his joy at the turn of events.
According to him, “We must express appreciation to Buhari for the recognition given to June 12 as democracy day, he has done what his predecessors failed to do.
“June 12 represents four things; the election, annulment, struggle and the legacy, in terms of the election, SDP mobilised Nigerians to vote for SDP and Abiola, then annulment of the election by the military junta and without the struggle there would not have been June 12 being celebrated today.
“June 12 is about the people, who were actively involved in the struggle against the annulment of the election. Many of the political class who are celebrating June 12 today, especially, the leaders of SDP, betrayed MKO Abiola during the struggle.
“In fact, SDP leaders contributed to the annulment of the election. They were betrayers, traitors and Judas Iscariots. Without NADECO, CD, ASUU, NLC, NUJ, Fawehimi, Beko Ransom Kuti, Yinka Odumakin, Joe Odumakin, Chuma Ubani, Femi Falana and others, June 12 could have been buried.
“June 12 has now become an issue because President Buhari honoured MKO Abiola and declared it democracy day. We accept the gift, but we reject the political motive behind it,” he said.
Also speaking, former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu noted that former presidents who failed to recognise June 12 made big mistakes, but added “today Buhari has done this for Nigerians, when I became governor of my state, Abia in 1919 I sent a bill to the state House of Assembly to make June 12 a public holiday, we were the first state in Nigeria to declare the day public holiday in 2000.
“We are the first state in Nigeria to declare June 12 as public holiday in Nigeria because we believe in it. I was a greater supporter of NADECO. I’m not a member of NADECO but I supported them. Those of them who were living in Washington and London know.
“The story of June 12 cannot be told today and the real story has not been told. Most Nigerians don’t knows those who stopped June 12. Those who you think stopped June 12 are not the ones who stopped it. In one or two years, I will give you concrete details about those who stopped June 12,” he said.
My brother if it is that I can assure you that Buhari would win the 2019 election he would win 65 percent of the vote cast in Nigeria and he would also win 75 percent of the total vote cast in Nigeria I can assure you that,” he said.
Whether the Federal Government’s decision was more political than legal, as argued by some people, for me it is crystal clear that the journey to make June 12 our Democracy Day started several years ago. It was a struggle that was morphed into series of struggles and activities. We started the journey together. Even when I was detained in 2006, the annual commemorationof the June 12 annuleled election was held in my absence at this venue. Today, having made the sacrifices, I feel relieved to witness this day being recognized as our Democracy Day.
For me what the government is pursuing is not the ideology of June 12 and so it is only when you’re pursuing these ideologies that you can say Babagana Kingibe should not be reckoned with. If we were to discuss the ideologies of June 12, so many people including those mouthing June 12 now would not be talking June 12. So many people that rode on the crest of June 12 to fame and power would not be discussing June 12,”