By Femi Adesina There is nothing new under the sun,…
By Kurtis Adigba
In a move calculated to right the wrongs done to Chief MKO Abiola, his immediate and extended families, supporters across the country, democrats, and those who laid down their lives in the struggles against the criminal annulment of the June 12 elections, clearly won by Abiola, president Buhari, has secured Abiola’s legacy, and his, inadvertently, or by some deliberate intention by declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, and awarding to Abiola posthumously, GCFR , which is the highest honour in the country, and reserved for only presidents and Heads of Governments.
If this is the only thing Buhari will be remembered for in Nigeria, it is sufficient. The June 12 mandate was given to Abiola no doubt, but it was much more than Abiola, and his Yoruba ethnic group. It was a pan-Nigerian mandate freely given to a man, who through his philanthropy, has touched so many lives. As a student at the University of Jos, I remember with nostalgic feelings how he came to the Convocation ceremony, and donated some office block buildings to the school. He was a giver. He touched lives everywhere he went without discrimination. Abiola, more than anyone parading GCFR today, is more deserving. Congratulations to the people’s president.
Significance of June 12
The June 12 elections results, demolished the artificial walls of religion and ethnicity erected by the selfish political elites. It broke in pieces every political and religious fables that had been etched in our national political psyche. Nigerians voted for a muslim- Muslim ticket that had Abiola, a muslim from the South, and Kingibe, a muslim from the North.
June 12 elections results, spoke to our capacity as citizens to vote for hope over fear. Abiola’s campaign theme was Hope. He had promised to end poverty, and make the government work for the people. We believed him. We voted for him. He won. But the results were annulled by the forces of revision and retrogression who could not understand why a candidate not anointed by them should be the winner of the election that he was primed to lose! They invented reasons and annulled the results of the election. Up and until today, Nigerians don’t know who authorised the statement that annulled the results of the election but they know the conspirators.
Abiola won in Kano state, the home state of Bashir Tofa, the candidate of the NRC, and presumably that of the North. It was an outcome no one expected, and no one could have predicted. But it happened.
Abiola fought hard to have the annulment overturned. He deployed diplomacy and legal means but to no avail. He then declared himself as the president of Nigeria. He was arrested, detained, and died in some cloudy circumstances in detention. Abiola’s wife, Kudirat, had earlier been assassinated by persons suspected to be agents of the military junta led by Abacha.
After Abiola’s death, General Abdulsalam Abubakar I who had succeeded Abacha as Head of State put together a transition programme to return power to civilians. The general consensus in the country was to allow Abiola’s ethnic group, the Yorubas to produce the next president to compensate them for the sacrifices made by Abiola and his people.
Obasanjo, who was in jail on allegations of plotting coup to overthrow the government of Abacha, was released, pardoned, and foisted on the PDP as her candidate by Babangida and Abdulsalami. Olu Falae, another Yoruba man was the candidate of the other party. Obasanjo won and became the president. He spent 8 years, and wanted more. Obasanjo in 8 years shut his ears against all agitation to recognise and honour chief Abiola whose sacrifices paved the way to the presidency for him.
Obasanjo, also refused to proclaim June 12 as a National Holiday, not to talk of making it Democracy Day! Obasanjo, declared the day he was inaugurated as president, Democracy Day to the consternation of many.
President Goodluck Jonathan named the University of Lagos after Abiola, but the decision was widely condemned by stakeholders of the institution. That was the highest the PDP government did in 16 years. Then came Buhari, the taciturn president who no one gave a thought or chance to recognise and honour Abiola.
Out of the blue, and without notice, president Buhari announced June 12 as Democracy Day, and conferred on Abiola the highest National Honour, GCFR, reserved only for presidents and Heads of Governments posthumously. Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate, got GCON which is also given to the VP and other VVIP. Chief Gani Fawehinmi, also got GCON posthumously.
The PDP, and their sympathizers have criticised the action of the president, and described it as political desperation for votes. No matter what say, and how the see it, it is the right thing to do. President Buhari deserves credit for this bold, timely, and overdue action. The haters of the president can politicise it, it is the right thing to do. Abiola is supremely deserving of the honour done him. Nigerians, also deserve to have the fraud of May 29 as Democracy Day, set aside. June 12, is the real Democracy Day.
President Buhari, should not forget the other heroes of the June 12 struggles such as Pa Adesanya, Baguda Kaltho, who was abducted and murdered, Kudirat Abiola, who was murdered in cold blood on the streets of Lagos, and so many others.
God bless Nigeria.
Kurtis Adigba is the Principal Partner at Kurtis Adigba and Company.