The only way the Federal Government can truly honour Moshood Abiola, the winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, considered the freest and fairest presidential election in Nigerian history, is to declare the late businessman and philanthropist, a former President, his family has said.
The election was annulled by former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida before the final results were announced by the then electoral chairman Humphrey Nwosu. Mr. Abiola was having a clear lead over his rival, Bashir Tofa, before the election was annulled. Mr. Nwosu and other senior officials of the commission later stated that the remaining unannounced results showed that Mr. Abiola clearly won the election.
The former military dictator, Sani Abacha jailed The Ogun State born Mr. Abiola for declaring himself President. He later died in prison in July 1998.
Declare him President
In a bid to immortalise Mr. Abiola, the Federal Government had on the celebration of democracy day (May 29) renamed the University of Lagos after him. However, Mr. Abiola’s family is not content with the gesture.
“We want the federal government to realise that this man won the election and he should be declared as a former President of this country. That is what we are looking for,” Bashiru Abiola, the head of the extended Abiola family said.
The family head made the statement at the annual June 12 celebration which took place in Abeokuta, adding that the recognition should also include all benefits enjoyed by former heads of state in the country to the late politician’s family.
Bashiru Abiola stated that the family has fared poorly since the politician’s death because the late politician was the bread winner of the family. He said “since he died, we have not got any help except from the state government.”
NSCIA joins call
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, joined the call for the Federal Government to honour Mr. Abiola by declaring him a former President. In a statement signed by its Secretary General, Lateef Adegbite, the NSCIA urged Mr. Jonathan to “Confer post humously on MKO Abiola all honours due to an elected president of Nigeria, including the award of the National honour of the Grand commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR.”
The statement also called on Mr. Jonathan to declare June 12 a public holiday, and name it ‘MKO Abiola Day’, to replace May 29 as Democracy Day.
According to the NSCIA, “The gesture will compare to that extended to Martin Luther King Jnr in the United States of America”.
As part of the annual June 12 celebration, the Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, led thousands of Nigerians to honour the late politician.
The ceremony was attended by Non-Governmental Organisations, civil society groups, labour unions, market women, students and other Nigerians.
The participants, led by the governor, embarked on a Democracy Walk round the major areas in the town. They also visited the family home of late Mr. Abiola, located at Oke-Agbo area of the state capital.
The walk terminated at the Moshood Abiola International Stadium where celebrants converged to pour encomiums on the late politician.
Speakers at the ceremony include Mr. Amosun; Hakeem Ambali, Chairman of the Ogun state chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress; Hafsat Abiola-Costello, daughter of the late politician and Joe Okei-Odumakin, president, Campaign for Democracy.
The daughter of late politician in her speech expressed appreciation over the resilience of the people in remembering her father annually with the regular June 12 celebrations.
“I am sure that my father in the grave will be comfortable and fulfilled for the love and affection always shown to him with the celebration of June 12, and I want to express the family’s appreciation to everybody. We are very much grateful and happy,” she said.