Wreath laying on Abiola's grave should be national- John Nwodo

The laying of wreath ceremony on the grave of the late acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Moshood Abiola, on Tuesday angered former Information Minister John Nwodo as he thought it should have been a more national gathering.

Segun Aka-Bashorun, a chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria; Abdulmuminu Abiola, the late Mr. Abiola’s son; Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly; and Wale Okunniyi, the organizer of the event, performed the wreath laying ceremony at the grave of the late Mr. Abiola.

The all Yoruba gathering

“Four Yorubas laid the wreath. This must stop today. Abiola is a national figure,” Mr. Nwodo said at the wreath laying ceremony.

“Next time we are doing something like this, we should try and accommodate his national character,” he added.

The colloquium, which held at the late Mr. Abiola’s residence, attracted a host of politicians and pro-democracy activists.

Mr. Okunniyi said that this year’s event provides an opportunity to brainstorm on steps to move Nigeria forward.

“This year’s event is different because two weeks to this day, the Nigerian presidency came out with some form of recognition after a long delay to the martyrdom of M.K.O Abiola,” Mr. Okunniyi said.

“That has thrown up the momentum on how deservedly M.K.O should be honoured,” he added. 

Majority of the discussants, however, were unanimous that setting aside a national day for the late Mr. Abiola would be more deserving than renaming a “monument” after him.

A dramatic late arrival

The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Adeyemi Ikuforiji called on the National Assembly to make a law declaring June 12 as a national day as well as M.K.O Abiola Democracy Day.

Mr. Ikuforiji, who arrived more than two hours late and asked a seated female politician, much to her chagrin, to give up her seat, said that the late Chief Abiola “deserves a lot more.”

“INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) is also called upon to put to rest this issue of who won the election,” said Mr. Ikuforiji. 

“INEC should as a matter of importance come and declare Chief M.K.O Abiola as the winner of June 12 election.  

“And by so doing, put M.K.O in the annals of Nigerian history. 

“If the chairman of the Interim National Government is referred to as a former president; M.K.O should also be declared as a former president,”

Mr. Ikuforiji added.

Hope for Nigeria

Speaking on the topic ‘Hope 93: Any Hope for Nigeria 19 Years After?’ Olukayode Salako, the national co-ordinator of Change Agent Nigeria, described the country as a “hopeless nation.”

“The Nigerian society is a killer of hope, unless we want to continue to be deceiving ourselves,” Mr. Salako said.

“The hope of M.K.O Abiola being president was gang raped and that is why the image of the Nigerian nation today is that of embarrassment all over the world,” he added.

Mr. Salako blamed the spate of road and air accidents on lack of leadership.

“I was 21 years in 1993… Today I’m 40; I still have to be standing here to be talking about a hopeless Nigeria.”

Ankyo Briggs, an activist from Bayelsa State, said that a truly democratic government would honour June 12 as a democracy day.

“May 29 is a day president hands over to another president and that can change. But June 12 can never change,” Ms. Briggs said.

Some of those at the event include Amy Oyekunle, Executive Director Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND); Supo Shonibare, chairman Afenifere, Lagos State; Lateef Adegbite, Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs; Olorunnimbe Mamora, former Senate Minority Leader; and Ganiat Fawehinmi, widow of the late activist Gani Fawehinmi.

Abdulmuminu Abiola, who was 12 when his father died in prison, thanked the organizers and guests for remembering his father. 

“I was really young when everything happened,” said Mr. Abiola.  

The event began with a video documentary on the struggles of the late M.K.O Abiola in the days after the annulment and which culminated to his death.

In the video, former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who annulled the election stated that he felt “humiliated” after Mr. Abiola’s refusal to participate in his Interim National Government.

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