…IBB, Obasanjo, Nwosu absent
By Okechukwu Onuegbu
President Muhammadu Buhari says late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola was conferred with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the highest honor of the land as well as declaring June 12 as official democracy day to right a national wrong.
Buhari, who made the declaration during a special national honours investiture on the late presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Abiola; his Vice, Babagana Kingibe and human rights activist, late Gani Fawehinmi, at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja on Tuesday, declared that the event was “not an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong.”
Presenting the awards, the president tendered apology on behalf of the country to the family of the departed winner of June 12 election, stressing that the decision to honour them now was because the annulled pres
idential election produced unity and national cohesion.
Buhari, who failed to mention either the result of the election nor why it was annulled, said it was clear that Abiola won the poll, expressing optimism that the country will no longer tolerate pervasion of justice.
He called on Nigerians to accept his pronouncement on June 12 irrespective of political affiliations in the interest of the nation.
Speaking on behalf of the Abiola family, Hafsat Abiola, said that the award would wakeup many Nigerian heroes and heroines of democracy to keep marching forward for better Nigeria.
According to her, her late father and mother, Kudirat Abiola, loved Nigeria so much that they laid their lives for them to reciprocate the love Nigerians showed them by voting a Muslim presidential and Muslim vice presidential candidate, during the election and standing by them to ensure that truth prevails not minding their religious and tribal differences.
In his remark, Kola Abiola, son of late Chief MKO Abiola, said: “We accept not just the award and the apology, but we thank you for the great honor done to our father. I thank you for taking the corrective measure of strengthening the foundation of our democracy and guarantee our future by reconciling the past.”
Also speaking, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, while expressing joy over the success of his principal at the June 12 presidential poll, described President Buhari as a principled man, who took courage and conviction to entrench democracy.
He urged Nigerians to learn from the voting experience and apply it accordingly in every democratic election.
Barrister Mohammed Gani-Fawehinmi, said it was the right step to democracy for President Buhari to take such courageous decision to honour them unlike past Nigerian presidents who abandoned them.
Contributing, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, who was among the vocal persons against the annulled June 12 election, while commending the president for the honour, urged him not to create confusion in the minds of Nigerians by pandering to the whims of the two gladiators of the June 12 episode.
“You can’t honour MKO Abiola in one breadth and admire his tormentor (Abacha) in another breadth,” Soyinka charged.
He urged Buhari to create a “Hall of Shame for June 12 Saboteurs” to expose collaborators to the annulled election, adding that the vulnerable and other victims of torture in the event should be honoured.
Similarly, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, charged the president to extend the gesture by stopping the killings in the country to make every Nigerian happy.
On his part, a former SDP member and Senate President, Ameh Ebute, while querying the reason behind naming only people from the South West as heroes of June 12, called for Nigerians from other tribes and languages who participated in the struggle to be mentioned and honoured.
Senator Iyorchia Ayu, the senate president (SDP, 1992/1993), called on the President Buhari to respect democracy and rule of law by putting a stop to moves to silence the voice of opposition.
“Democracy is different from military rule. In military rule, you can shoot at opposition. But in democracy, every opposition is your friend. Mr. President, people see you as unforgiven. They see you as someone who does not like an opposition. But I don’t think so. Therefore, I want you to love every Nigerian, especially the opposition. If there are people to be considered as enemies, they are people around you who see and make you to believe that every opposition is an enemy.”
Rt. Hon. Agunwa Anekwe, the former speaker, House of Representatives under SDP, who went down memory lane of 1991-1993 events, appealed to the president to fight the insecurity in the country, especially Boko haram and others.
Similarly, representatives of the governors under SDP in the north, Fidelis Tapgun and his counterpart from the South, Olusegun Osoba, called on Nigerians to emulate voters of the era, who took courage to enthrone a government of their choice not minding their religious or ethnic inclination.
In their respective remarks, Senator Jonathan Zwingina, the Director of Hope 1993, SDP Presidential campaign organisation and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), thanked President Buhari for allowing truth to prevail at last, assuring that Nigerians will forever remember him for taking such decision.
Meanwhile, two prominent former Presidents and military rulers, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Humphrey Nwosu, the chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON), who conducted the annulled June 12 presidential election, were conspicuously absent at the event.
Boss Musdapha, the secretary to the federal government, who announced their absence said they wrote letters of apology, expressing reasons for their absence which included health, book launch and other issues they were involved outside the country.