Right before scores of dignitaries and pro-June 12, 1993 activists, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday apologised for the annulment of the election, which the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola won.
“On behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of the June 12 struggle, “the President said at the investiture in Abuja of Abiola, his running mate Amb. Babagana Kingibe and the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi with national honours.
The apology was applauded.
|The late Abiola|
Buhari said the country would “no longer tolerate such perversion of justice.” “The decision … is not an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong. Nigerians, of their own free will, voted for the late Chief MKO Abiola and Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe, the presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 1993 elections,” Buhari said, adding:
“The government of the day inexplicably cancelled the election when it was clear who were going to be the winners.
“We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings; recognise that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of free elections.”
Abiola declared himself the president–elect and was arrested by the Gen. Sani Abacha junta. He was held in detention for four years till he died in 1998. He was 60.
The President conferred the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) posthumously on Abiola, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Chief Fawehinmi, the activist-lawyer who was one of the vocal voices against the annulment of the election, and decorated Kingibe with GCON.
Abiola’s award was received by his eldest son, Kola. Fawehinmi was represented by his wife Ganiat.
The government invited eminent Nigerians who participated in the struggle for the actualisation of the election, many of them hounded into exile or jailed by the military government.
Buhari added: “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.
“Our decision to recognise and honour June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25-year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12th elections. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divide to accept it in good faith.
“Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12. The June 12, which restates democracy and freedom.
“The June 12 that overcome our various divide and the June 12 that produced unity and national cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation.”
“I honestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divides to accept it in good faith. Our action today is to bury the negative sides of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustration and agony.
“What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive sides of June 12.
“The June 12 which reinstates democracy and freedom, the June 12 that overcomes our various divides and the June 12 that produces unity and national cohesion.
“This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation,” he said
He then asked for a minute silence in honour of Abiola and those who lost their lives in the struggle for the actualisation of June 12.
Master of Ceremonies Peter Dama announced that former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former military leader Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who annulled the election, sent regrets for their inability to attend the ceremony.
Obasanjo said he was away in Norway for a book presentation. Babangida gave health reasons for his absence. The electoral umpire, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, said he was overseas.
Tinubu: we’ll back Buhari
All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Tinubu praised Buhari’s courage.
He said: “Nigeria, it’s fair that we have chosen democracy as the form of government. We are totally committed to democracy. It has been further strengthened today.
“The love of our nation, to search previous regimes and correct the errors of the past … shows you are a great leader. We thank you.”
He thanked former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, Senator Abu Ibrahim and others for the roles they played in 1993 and thereafter.
To President Buhari, Tinubu said: “We formed a partnership of very strong democratic principles and you are living up to it. You made a promise that you will be committed to transparency and rule of law… you have done it”.
The former Lagos State governor spoke of an ex-president, who “because of the mention of June 12 threatened to throw me out of the helicopter”. But you’ve remained resolute to put Nigeria back on self-discovery, great determination and fidelity with democratic principles. Thank you Mr. President. Thank you for bringing back hope to Nigeria.
“Farewell to poverty. It is the struggle of Africa to banish poverty and you are investing in education, which is a great weapon against poverty. You are feeding our children; we are no longer paying for darkness …, thank you Mr. President.
On Buhari’s second term bid, Tinubu said: “It is not a question of second term, you deserve it. We are going to work for it. No annulment on it, you are going to win it.”
Create ‘hall of shame’
Nobel winner Prof. Wole Soyinka said the Presidential apology at the event was a dimension which he did not expect.
He said: “And l had a lot to say, but fortunately the words have been taken off my mouth. However, l will like to make a request. Mr. president since we are honoring heroes of democracy today, I’ll like to request that you manage to stop creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians.
“It is not possible to honour MKO Abiola in one breath and admire his tormentor in another breath. Loyalty is all very well but loyalty can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual who if he were alive today would be before the International Court for crimes against humanity.
“The one who broke the laws of Nigeria, international laws, pauperised this nation. It is confusing if professional loyalty is carried so far as to be accorded such an individual.
“We had a private conversation some time ago and l remember one of the things which l mentioned to you was this …l said you are fighting corruption.. how come that a notorious dictator, corrupt ruler, is honored by one of the most important avenues in the capital of Abuja, whereas, individuals like the martyrs of the struggle, philanthropists have not been honored? The answer you gave to me was not too satisfactory. But I let it pass.”
Mr. Kola Abiola said: “Mr. President, on behalf of the MKO Abiola family, we accept both the award and the apology. We will like to thank you for the great honour you have done our family.
“We thank you for taking the decisive measures to strengthen our democracy and guarantee our future by reconciling our past. Thank you very much sir. Generations to come will honour you for this.
“May the souls of our dearly departed rest in peace. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”