The Social Democratic Party (SDP) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring late Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential polls and for also declaring June 12 as the new democracy day.
The party’s National Secretary, Shehu Gabam, made this known on Monday while addressing journalists in Abuja.
He said the decision was a welcome development and a relief as the old SDP was the platform on which the late Mr Abiola won the election in 1993.
The then SDP was formed by the People’s Front of Nigeria, People’s Solidarity Party and the Nigerian Labour Party.
Although the current SDP has some members of the old SDP as members, it is a separate entity.
Mr Abiola won the primary election in March 1993, and contested the presidential election which was later annulled
The president recently announced June 12 as Nigeria’s new democracy day in honour of the late businessman and also conferred on him the highest national honour in Nigeria, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
“SDP commends President Buhari for taking the bold step of acknowledging the wishes of Nigerians who voted in 1993 to have Abiola as their president. In the June 12, 1993 election Nigerians were united in electing him as their leader,” the party said.
The opposition party questioned the timing of the decision.
“However, we would like to make the following observations: why did it take three years for Buhari to acknowledge the sacrifice that Abiola made for democracy to be established in the country? All the intelligence reports and other information necessary for government to have taken this decision had been available to the presidency in the last three years.
“This right decision should have been taken earlier than now and that would have given this administration the opportunity to mark June 12 as Democracy Day,” it said.
The party apart from querying the timing of the honour, also disagreed with the conferment of the award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Babagana Kingibe, who was the running mate of the late Abiola
It said this recognition of Mr Kingibe was “misplaced and self-serving” because he (Kingibe) renounced the election
“The conferment of the award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, who was the running mate of Chief MKO Abiola, is glaringly misplaced and self-serving.
“Ambassador Kingibe renounced the June 12 mandate as quickly as the military gave him a pot of porridge. He accepted ministerial appointments, first as Foreign Minister and later as Minister of Interior under the draconian administration of Abacha. Kingibe did not participate in the struggle hence he does not deserve this national honour.”
The party congratulated the family members of the late Abiola and all labour leaders, lawyers, journalists, civil rights activists and politicians who either lost their lives or suffered one persecution or the other during the struggle to enthrone democracy.
It called on the government to “best honour them by ensuring that the 2019 general election is as free and fair as the June 12 election”.
It also called on Nigerians to oppose any manipulation in the electioneering process in 2019.
It asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to learn from the June 12, 1993 presidential elections and conduct its affairs “in line with the spirit and letter of the Constitution, Electoral Act and other laws that guide the electoral process.”