The hero of June 12, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (M.K.O.) Abiola ‘resurrected’ yesterday (Tuesday) in Lagos State and was clothed with well-deserved accolades. Dressed in colourful attires portraying freedom and triumph, Lagosians from all works of life gathered at the MKO Abiola Garden, Ikeja to commemorate the 25th anniversary of June presidential election and celebrate the newly recognised hero and father of democracy in Nigeria.
The climax of this year’s commemoration was the unveiling of the 37-feet MKO Abiola statue at Alapere, by the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. Inscribed on the statue is: “Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, GCFR, was a foremost businessman, philanthropist and politician, who was very popular with the masses. He was also a reputable publisher. As a politician, he contested the June 12, 1993 presidential election under the Social Democratic Party (SDP), an election generally acclaimed to be the freest and fairest in Nigeria, before it was annulled by the then military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
“Chief Abiola was incarcerated and died on July 7th 1998 while demanding for the actualization of his mandate. He was finally honoured by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 with the highest award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, while June 12 was also declared as democracy day in Nigeria, ostensibly to validate the popularly held view that Chief M.K.O Abiola won the election and ought to have been sworn in as president.
“In the light of the above, Lagos State government hereby erects this monument to immortalize this illustrious and patriotic Nigerian, who lost his life in the struggle for the enthronement of democracy,” the inscription ended.
Ambode said recognising June 12 as the authentic Democracy Day in Nigeria was a crown of victory to the struggle that had taken the lives of so many nationalists and patriots.
Commenting on the June 12 anniversary lecture, Ambode said the theme of this year’s edition: ‘Restructuring: Antidote for ineffective Politics’, speaks for itself. He added that Nigeria’s democratic experience would still be far from ideal if the country fails to practice fiscal federalism.
“As a state and people, our stand on a restructuring process that will lead to fiscal federalism, devolution of power is very clear. Our present democratic experience may still be far from ideal but we must all make concerted efforts to entrench fiscal federalism, which is the only way to achieve true nationhood. We are absolutely convinced that it is the right way to go for us to realise the optimum potential and prosperity of the federating states and the nation.
“We all recall that a historic event happened on this very day in 1993 when Chief Moshood Kasimawo Abiola stood as a candidate in a presidential election adjudged to be the freest, fairest and most credible in the history of our nation. It was a day Nigerians demonstrated unity and put aside ethnic and religious biases to speak overwhelmingly with one voice.
“Sadly, the aspiration of Nigerians expressed through the ballot was truncated by the military. Since then, the struggle for democracy has been relentless, championed by progressive Nigerians, men of character and courage who challenged the military junta.
“With the return of democracy in 1999, Lagos State, driven by our irrepressible and indefatigable leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, continued to celebrate June 12 and always recognize its importance in our democracy.”One of the sons of Abiola, Abdulmumini Abiola, thanked the state government for erecting a statue in honour of their father, even before the Federal Government thought of honouring their father.
Former chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area, Comrade Ayodele Adewale, who was a students’ union leader at Lagos State University (LASU) during the struggle days, said he was elated for being alive to witness the day. According to him, beyond declaring a public holiday, giving an award and erecting a statue, there was need for the government to announce the results of the elections as well as punish all those who took part in the annulment. This he noted will serve as a sanction and help prevent future occurrence.
It was business as usual for traders at a mini market in Kola Community Development Area, Agbule-Egba, Lagos, as merchants expressed their hopes for a better Nigeria yesterday. Everybody went about their businesses despite the governor’s declaration of a public holiday.
Besides the state government’s institutions and schools, others went about their daily activities without acknowledging the celebration of the day. When The Guardian visited major locations, including banks and other workstations, official functions were in full gear.At the Ilasa branch where Diamond and Ecobanks are located, when asked why they were not observing the June 12 celebration, they said the Federal Government did not declare the holiday and the new date for democracy day would take effect from next year.
There was also no celebration at the markets. At the Trade Fair complex, business activities were at top gear. When The Guardian sought the opinion of some of them on the day’s significance, many said though they were happy that the country has now gone beyond the reach of the military but Nigeria is yet to rip the dividends of true democracy, reason they were not interested in the celebration.
A businessman, Mr. Uchenna Mark, applauded President Buhari for honouring Abiola, saying, “It is an honour well deserved.” Mark expressed his desire for a better Nigeria, stating that the president has taken a step in the right direction that will “open the floodgates for a better democratic society, where free and fair election reigns”.
For Fola Ajileye, an e-commerce and affiliate marketer, “all I remember about June 12, 1993, is a missed opportunity towards a better Nigeria, if the election had not been annulled as the five years that followed was one of those years that dealt a lot of blows to Nigeria and Nigerians. June 12 is beyond election but the sacrifice Abiola paid for the country so he should be celebrated and honoured.” According to Paul Ayeni, a mechanical engineer, ”all I remember was the riots as the Southwest was in disarray. June 12 is about MKO Abiola. The right mandate was canceled. Abiola merits the award and deserves to be celebrated.”