‘Government should recognise Abiola as president’
• ‘June 12 ideals yet to be realised’
• Ondo immortalises presumed winner
• Al-Mustapha, Opadokun disagree over his death
• Ndubuisi Kanu, others seek restructuring
24 years after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, fresh tributes were yesterday paid its presumed winner, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.
For Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, official recognition should be given to the late business tycoon and politician as a person who was denied an opportunity to govern the country.
Amosun said: “Abiola laboured so much for us, he paid the supreme price for Nigeria’s democracy. The struggle he died for transcends Abeokuta, Ogun State, South West and Africa too, and we are happy about that. Nigerians trusted him and that was why they voted for him. He must be recognised as an elected president, it is a history we must continue to recognise. He was the president elected but was denied the opportunity to govern.
“We (political office holders) must toe the path Abiola toed. M.K.O will continue to live on, and generations will come to know what June 12 is all about. June 12 will continue.”
Among the activities lined up for the celebration was a walk, tagged “Democracy Walk” which was led by Amosun from the June 12 Cultural Centre, Abeokuta to the Abiola’s family house in Oke-Odo, Gbagura, a distance of over two kilometres.
Others that participated in the activity organised by the state government include Amosun’s wife, Olufunso; Deputy Governor, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga; Speaker of the House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi; former governor of Kwara State, Chief Cornelius Adebayo; President Women Arise, Joe Okey-Odumakin; and Yinka Odumakin.
At the deceased’s family house, where he spoke, Amosun noted that Abiola paid the supreme price for Nigeria’s democracy “which everybody is enjoying now,” insisting that “the June 12 event transcends Ogun State, South West, Nigeria and Africa as a whole.”
On calls for restructuring, the governor said: “I am for it (restructuring) but we must do it in a way that Nigeria will be indivisible.” He promised that the state government would continue to honour June 12, and take the celebration beyond walk in the nearest future.
Joe-Odumakin said: “June 12 was our own watershed. June 12 votes cut across tribal and religious lines, the election helped in promoting national integrity. June 12 was about three choices. It was non-violent, it was a raining day and people went out in a non-violent approach. M.K.O defeated Bashiru Tofa in his own place, so Nigerians set aside colonial interest and overwhelmingly voted for a Muslim, Muslim ticket. And 24 years after, we insist that there should be a posthumous declaration of Abiola as the president of Nigeria. June 12 should be declared our democracy day.”
Responding on behalf of the family, Alhaji Tajudeen Abiola praised the state government for supporting the family. In Oyo State, Governor Abiola Ajimobi expressed regret that 24 years after the election adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the history of the country, the ideals for which Abiola stood were yet to be realised. He praised him for his strong conviction that ordinary Nigerians must be freed from the shackles of oppression.
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, Senator 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.”
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said the seed for the Fourth Republic which started in 1999 was sown and watered by the blood of men and women who were cut down in their prime during the quest to actualise June 12.
“Although the mandate of that election was not actualised, it is generally agreed that the democratisation dispensation which commenced in 1999 is an outcome of the struggle personified by Abiola to claim the mandate given to him by Nigerians.”
At a lecture by the state government to mark the day, Ambode, represented by his deputy, Idiat Adebule, called on Nigerians to remain committed and steadfast in upholding democratic principles and culture by participating in democratic processes such as voters registration, voting for choice candidates at the polls and avoiding anything that could disrupt the peaceful conduct of free, fair and credible election.
The chairman of the lecture and former governor of Lagos State, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kalu (rtd) noted that even though a thick cloud was hanging in the horizon of the country, the situation could still be salvaged through restructuring.
“Re-structuring is no re-inventing the wheel, it is a return to a federation of different peoples. For those who do not know or who pretend not to know, it is in the interest of every section of the country if Nigeria works well.”
Human rights lawyer, Chief Femi Falana (SAN) expressed displeasure over what he described as sectionalisation of the June 12 celebration in the country, saying it is beyond the Yoruba race.
He spoke yesterday in Akure at a public lecture titled “June 12, Hope ‘93: Dream deferred,” in commemoration of Abiola. Falana, who was the guest lecturer, identified people like Col. Dangiwa Umar (rtd), Balarabe Musa, Tony Enahoro, Ndubuisi Kanu, Alfred Rewane, Frank Kokori, Chima Ubanni and Malachi Ugwumadu, among others in the struggle who are not Yoruba.
He insisted that the unity and integration of the nation is non-negotiable, recalling instances when people from the East and West rose to fight injustices against Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria students by their northern counterparts.
He lauded the Ondo State governor and host of the event, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for repositioning the state and payment of salary arrears to workers which the immediate past government failed to pay.
The President of Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Ugwumadu, stressed that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has a golden opportunity to redirect the affairs of the state and nation at large.
The CDHR boss, who urged Nigerians to discard “the war drums of Biafran youths and the madness of Boko Haram” on disintegration, warned that if government failed, “power will still lie again on the streets like it happened in 1993.”
Governor Akeredolu described June 12 as a collective celebration that transcends the person of Abiola as it is about democracy and those who fought valiantly to sustain civil rule in the country.
Akeredolu renamed an existing public utility along popular Oba Adesida Road in Akure, formerly Democracy Park, after the icon: “MKO Abiola Democracy Park.”
Yesterday too, there was a disagreement between the Chief Security Officer to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and Chief Ayo Opadokun over the death of Abiola.
Al-Mustapha alleged that Opadokun and other Yoruba leaders were bribed to be silent on Abiola’s death. He made the allegation while responding to questions by journalists in Kaduna, shortly after a gathering to broker peace between the North and Southeastern part of the country, maintaining that those responsible for Abiola’s killing were paid in dollars.
Al-Mustapha, who claimed to have video-taped how Opadokun and others collected a bribe over Abiola’s death, said he had since submitted a copy to a Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Mojisola Dada, adding that Opadokun led others to the villa to meet Abiola’s killers and eventually came out laughing after receiving dollars a day before Abiola’s assassination.
“When Abiola died, a day after, he (Opadokun) was invited to the Presidency, and he came to the villa alongside his friends. He came with anger into the villa. Those who killed Abiola invited him to the villa. At that material time, they came to fight the government, they wanted to set the country ablaze, considering the tone they came with. They went into the meeting, they came out laughing, yelling and gearing as if nothing happened in the country.”
But in a swift reaction, Opadokun, who is a former General Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, and one of the frontline activists in the fight for the actualisation of the June 12, said Al-Mustapha should not be dignified on the pages of the media because “he is merely seeking for relevance and attention.”
“Al-Mustapha has said this several times but he couldn’t substantiate it with any fact. He was tried for murder and I do not know why he is suddenly running his mouth,” Opadokun said.