The Abiolas have their say after President Buhari declared June 12 Nigeria’s democracy day henceforth.
Members of the late Chief MKO Abiola family have been reacting to the posthumous honour handed their dad by the President Buhari led federal government.
Abiola was the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election which is still regarded as the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s history.
The election was soon annulled, however, with Abiola ending up in prison and losing his life for declaring himself president.
Abiola died on July 7, 1998 after attempts by the military to make him renounce his mandate, failed.
Nigeria's new Democracy Day
On June 6, 2018 President Muhammadu Buhari announced that June 12 will henceforth replace May 29 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
“June 12, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our independence. The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military government does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process”, Buhari wrote in a statement.
The president added that “government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON”.
Buhari said, “June 12 was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even the October 1st. Accordingly, after due consultations, the federal government has decided that henceforth June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day”.
The Abiolas speak
Moments after the announcement, some members of the Abiola family took to social media to convey how they felt about it all.
“Dearest Daddy, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale #Abiola GCFR. Wonderful to finally be able to write this, 20 years on! Thank you President Buhari”, wrote Wura Abiola.
Rinsola Abiola shared on Twitter that; “It's going to be 20 years since daddy passed away in July. Two whole decades. This is coming really late but better late than never. For whatever reason you think it is, it took 20 years and others could have done this but they didn't”.
Rinsola also had a word for those who hold the opinion that the posthumous honour is laced with political undertone from an administration that will be seeking re-election in 2019; and which will need all the votes from Abiola’s Southwest base.
“Political undertone, overtone or middletone, that's your business really”, Rinsola wrote.
For Hafsat Abiola-Costello whose mum, Kudirat, was assassinated on a Lagos street as pro-democracy campaigners called for the actualization of the June 12 mandate, President Buhari showed fairness with his announcement.
Hafsat also accused Olusegun Obasanjo, regarded as the chief beneficiary of the June 12 struggle, of doing everything to erase her dad’s memory.
Obasanjo was Nigeria’s president from 1999 to 2007; a period which came after national upheavals and unrest on the back of the 1993 annulment.
“I had expected that the handover from military rule to democracy would be held on the 12th of June. That would have signalled the completion of a circle that began with a dream deferred”, Hafsat wrote.
“That became one fulfilled. But I waited in vain. The hand over was set for May 29, a date pulled out of thin air, signifying nothing.
“Then I thought that the chief beneficiary would ask the country to observe a minute of silence. In memory of MKO, Kudirat, Alfred Rewane, Umaru Yar’Adua, Bal Kaltho, the thousands of students, the tens of journalists, traders and politicians who lost their lives fighting to actualise an unjustly annulled election.
“Again, I waited in vain for he started his inauguration speech…and nothing was said. The first four years passed and it became clear that the goal was to erase the name of the man whose sacrifice paved the way for our democracy.
“Those four years set the tone. And I got tired of waiting. As it slowly became clear that to wait was to wait in vain.
“May we live to witness many more days when justice triumphs over injustice, when sacrifice and service win over arrogance and fraud, and when the blood of our heroes reach from across time to boldly claim the reward that their actions wrought.
“I stopped expecting my country to do the right thing by my father and instead began to understand why Nigeria struggles to find patriots among its leaders. Until today.
“Today when President Muhammadu Buhari gave an executive order to declare that June 12 was Nigeria’s Democracy Day. To confer on MKO the title of GCFR, an honour reserved for presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“To confer on Gani Fawehinmi, the dogged fighter for justice, and my father’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, the title of GCON, the second highest honour in the land.
“And in one day, it got demonstrated to my bruised heart that integrity, fairness, honour were alive and well in a country for which both my parents had sacrificed their lives.
“There are no words that can capture the depth of my gratitude nor the breadth of my joy. I thank God that I am alive to witness this day.”
Saratu Abiola wrote that; “Great stuff. And yes, I do think this was a great gesture. And a long overdue one. I’m a little insulted as a Yoruba woman that people think the Southwest will now promptly hand over votes to Buhari in 2019 because of this”.
Gani Fawehinmi GCON award
The president also posthumously honored Chief Gani Fawehinmi, “a tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for democracy in general”.
Mohammed Fawehinmi, son of the late human rights lawyer and activist, said “For my father’s honour (Chief Gani Fawehinmi ), we thank the government ( of President Muhammadu Buhari) for that. We know he deserved it. We are happy for that”.
Buhari also announced that the investiture ceremony will take place on June 12, 2018.
The annulment sparked protests and civil unrest across Nigeria months later.