The June 12 Movement, a political platform committed to the principle of popular democracy, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to recognise the late winner of the annulled 1993 Presidential Election, Moshood Abiola, as a former president of the country.
The Co-ordinator of the of the group, Wale Okunniyi, who made the call on Friday at Mr. Abiola’s house in Ikeja Lagos, during a breakfast of prayers and tributes to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the annulment of the election generally believed to be the freest and fairest in the history of the country, said Mr. Abiola is the face of democracy in the country and deserves to be so immortalised.
Mr. Abiola, also known as MKO, who was the candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party, won the June 12 1993 Presidential Election by a landslide but the election was annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida-led junta. The annulment of the election elicited widespread protests across the country.
On June 11 1994, Mr. Abiola announced the formation of a Government of National Unity in Epetedo, Lagos. He was subsequently arrested by the Sani Abacha military regime. He died in mysterious circumstances in detention on July 7, 1998.
Mr. Okunniyi said President Buhari should also name at least one monument in all states of the federation and Abuja after Mr. Abiola to immortalise him.
“Democracy must give priority to the people. President Buhari should make MKO Abiola the face of democracy. He must recognise MKO Abiola as a former President,” he said.
He said the government should compensate the Mr. Abiola’s family for the collapse of Mr. Abiola businesses while he was in detention. He decried the neglect of the family by past governments saying Mr. Abiola sacrificed his life and businesses for politicians today who are now enjoying the trappings of political offices. He therefore called on Mr Buhari to appoint one of Mr Abiola’s children to a prominent political position.
“Just look at the state of this compound. I’m not happy with what I’m seeing. Past governments have neglected the Abiola family. Abiola sacrificed his life and business for the democracy they enjoy today. He left wives and children and nobody is catering for them. President Buhari must make sure one of them (Abiola’s children) is appointed into his government to compensate the family,” he said.
Mr. Okunniyi also said June 12 is the real Democracy Day and should have been so recognised by the government instead of May 29 as it is currently being celebrated. He said the group would send a letter to Mr Buhari demanding that June 12 be made the official Democracy Day.
He announced that the June 12 movement is working on a plan to set up a foundation in the name of Mr. Abiola and promised that the foundation will be launched by Mr Buhari.
Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, who was billed as the keynote speaker of the event could not attend but sent a note that was read during the event. In his note, Mr. Soyinka, praised the group for keeping the flag of the Abiola democratic legacy flying “despite the unrelenting efforts to expunge it from the chronicle of the nation”.
Abdulmumuni, one of the children of Mr. Abiola said the significance of the MKO Abiola tribute was to help coming generations remember the role his father played in the actualisation of democracy in the country and to help Nigerians avoid making the same mistakes all over again.
“For me it is another way of remembering the sacrifices that have been made in the past because that is another way of we can avoid making the same mistakes again. If you don’t remember your past you’re bound to make the same mistakes. It is a way of honouring my father and the role he played in bringing democracy to the country,” Abdulmumuni said.