June 12: Remember other ‘heroes,’ Falana tells FG

Femi Falana
Femi Falana [Photo credits: Newsbreakers]

A human rights activist, Femi Falana, has asked the federal government to recognise other Nigerians who played a part in the struggle for the annulled June 12, 1993, election.

June 12 was officially set aside on Monday as Democracy Day as a mark of honour to MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993, presidential election.

Mr Abiola was arrested in 1994 while struggling to claim his mandate from a military dictator, Sani Abacha, at the time. He died in custody in July 1998.

During his speech at the Democracy Day celebration on Wednesday at the Eagle Square in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the change of name of the National Stadium to MKO Abiola Stadium.

Mr Falana, who appeared as a guest on a Channels TV programme, said the federal government should, beyond conferring national honours on Mr Abiola and late activist, Gani Fawehinmi, “identify other heroes of that struggle from all over the country”.

“This was not a NADECO and Afenifere affair (alone),” said Mr Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

The lawyer explained how the June 12 election birthed the struggle for civil society organisations in the country.

He said after the 1993 election, Bashir Tofa, the candidate of the National Republican Convention (NRC), congratulated MKO Abiola and refused to give in to the pressure of heading to the tribunal.

“The point has been made abundantly clear, after that election, Bashir Tofa, the other candidate congratulated his opponent, and that is what is done in any civilised society; he was under pressure to go to the tribunal, but he said no.

“From that moment, the civil society came in, the progressive trade unions came in and made the country ungovernable for the dictator.”

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Mr Falana noted that “the beauty of those who are coming from the civil society who have found themselves either in the executive or the legislature is to ensure that those ideals are actualised and implemented in government.

“That is why June 12 is so significant.”

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement Wednesday said the declaration of June 12 as a public holiday by the Buhari administration reeks of “hypocrisy and political desperation ahead of the 2019 presidential election.”

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