June 12 splits National Conference delegates

Confab observed a minute silence in honour of the victims of the June 12 crisis.

The National Conference on Thursday observed a minute silence for victims of the crisis that trailed the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential president amid protest by some delegates.

The election, won by the late business mogul, Moshood Abiola, was nullified by the military administration of Ibrahim Babangida.

It is believed to be the freest and fairest election in the political history of Nigeria.

A delegate from Cross River State, Orok Duke, had, upon resumption of the plenary session, invoked Order 7 Rule 5 under matters of urgent national importance and moved a motion calling for a minute silence in honour of the victims of the crisis.

Mr. Duke specifically sought the leave of the House to pay tribute to all those who fell for the cause of Nigeria’s democracy spearheaded by Mr. Abiola.

He said the Conference should cause the authorities to always remember June 12 as a watershed in the history of Nigeria.

He also prayed that a monument in tandem with what the conference had proposed for other heroes and heroines should be recommended in honour of Mr. Abiola.

“June 12 is a preamble as to why we are here today. It is a continuation of unfinished business of 1993 that we are here. Moshood Abiola paid that ultimate sacrifice and it is not something we can wish away and assume that it never happened to us. It did,” Mr. Duke said.

“I was an active participant, and some of the delegates here were victims of June 12. If we forget history it will repeat itself as tragedy. Those who fell for the sake of June 12 should be remembered today if nothing.”

Soon after he brought the motion, some delegates majorly from the northern part of the country and led by Naseer Kura, a Civil Society delegate, opposed it.
Mohamed Hadajia, a delegate from Jigawa State was heard shouting in opposition of the motion.

But for the wisdom that the Conference Chairman, Idris Kutigi applied in handling the disagreement that followed, the delegates would have exchange blows.

A Federal Government delegate from Ogun State, Ayo Adebanjo, condemned the opposition to the motion.

He said, “It is unfortunate that even members of this assembly, particularly those of us who were victims of Abacha regard June 12 1993 as a mere issue. I thing the delegate who raised this motion should be praised rather than vilified. Without June 12 there will be no May 29. June 12 is the bases of our freedom and democracy and we should remember the day for what it is worth.”

The Deputy President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Issa Aremu, said the best way the country could recognize June 12 is for the politicians to ensure free and fair elections in the country.

“What we are seeing today shows we have not learnt from what happened on June 12. Elections are still becoming a do or die affair with a lot of unnecessary and avoidable violence. The real memory of June 12 to be significant for all of us and for us to make it worthwhile is to reaffirm our commitment to free and fair elections in Nigeria,” he said.

When he was subsequently recognized to speak, Mr. Hadejia said the motion was not relevant to the assignment of the Conference and that it did not have enough time to conclude its assignment.

According to him, “I find it difficult to understand here we are with no time, with a little understanding and with little progress and some people are always and everyday unnecessarily delaying the proceedings of the conference. It is important for people to realize that we are representing Nigerians for something extremely important for this country.

“And I am beginning to suspect, Mr. Chairman, that there are certain people who are coming with ideas to disrupt this meeting so that we don’t perform. It is important that for the Chair to begin to call people to order so that we can continue, thank you.”

A Federal Government delegate, Mike Ozekhome, condemned the ensuing argument, insisting that June 12 was a critical national issue which deserved mention in the Conference.

“Many people paid the supreme prize to attain the democracy we are having today but which some people, unfortunately, are messing up,” he said.

“We should not trivialize June 12 and make it look like it is something that is not important.

“We should observe one minute of silence in honour of people who died during the June 12 crisis whether from the East, North, South or West. They are Nigerians and they paid the supreme price. We should give honour to whom honour is due. June 12 is not just important, it is the watershed of Nigeria’s democracy.”

In his contribution, an elder statesman, Edwin Clark, noted that but for the small-mindedness of the authorities, June 12 should be observed as Democracy Day instead of May 29.

He said it was in a bid to give the event a pride of place that President Goodluck Jonathan named the University of Lagos after Mr. Abiola. He said it was also aimed at recognizing his invaluable contributions to the attainment of democracy in the country.

He said, “29 May is because somebody came into office and decided to make it as democracy day in this country. June 12 is democracy day in Nigeria.

“For eight years he was not recognized, but when the President (Jonathan) came into power he recognized him and even named the University of Lagos after him, but for the protest of the students and the lecturers.

“We must have heroes in our country. So, as far as I am concerned we must observe such a day as an important day,” he said amidst shouts of yes and no among the delegates who attended the session yesterday.

After the debate, the Conference Chairman, Idris Kutigi called for a minute silence in honour of those who died in the crisis.

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