President Muhammadu Buhari says the honour given to late MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, is not meant to “open old wounds”.
At an event on Tuesday, Buhari conferred Abiola with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), in hour of the late democrat.
He also conferred Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running mate in the election, and Gani Fawehinmi, late human rights activist, with the Grand Commander of Order of the Niger (GCON).
The result of the presidential election was annulled by the military government of Ibrahim Babangida before they were announced.
Addressing the gathering at the investiture which held in Abuja, Bubari also apologised to Abiola’s family for the decision of the then government to annul the result of the election.
“The government (of Ibrahim Babangida) inexplicably cancelled the election when it was clear who was the winner,” he said.
“On behalf of the federal government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of late MKO Abiola, who got the highest vote [in the election], and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of the June 12 struggle.
“This event is not to open old wounds, but to put light on the nation.”
He said even though the country cannot rewind its past, “we can at least assuage our feelings, recognise that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and ease the future for the sanctity of free elections.”
“Nigerians will no longer tolerate such perversion of justice. This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country,” he added.
Abiola’s honour had generated missed reactions among Nigerians, especially at the national assembly.
Some lawmakers had said both the investiture and the June 12 public holiday is unconstitutional, while others said it is well deserved.
But Femi Falana, human rights activist and senior lawyer, faulted those kicking against the investiture, saying Buhari could honour any Nigerian “dead or alive”.