In a bold move to heal the transgression of the past, President Muhammadu Buhari has apologised to the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, for his travails after the historic election. The President offered the apology at Aso Rock Villa, Abuja on Tuesday after conferring the country’s
In a bold move to heal the transgression of the past, President Muhammadu Buhari has apologised to the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993, Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, for his travails after the historic election.
The President offered the apology at Aso Rock Villa, Abuja on Tuesday after conferring the country’s highest award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Abiola posthumously.
“We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings, recognise that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and ease the future for the sanctity of free elections,” he said.
“Nigerians will no longer tolerate such perversion of justice. This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country.”
On June 6, 2018, President Buhari declared June 12 Nigeria’s new Democracy Day which would be observed as a national holiday from next year and announced that Abiola, and his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, as well as human rights activist Chief Gani Fawehinmi, would also be honoured with the title of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON). .
Although some have rationalised the political calculations for the 2019 General Election behind the move, the President at the event attended by Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibajo, kingpin of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and former Lagos State Governor, Chief Bola Tinubu, former chairman, All Progressive Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, Human Rights Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, former party chieftain of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), governors and family members of the recipients, rejected the claim.
“The decision at this event is not meant to be, and is not, an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong,” he said.
“Nigerians, of their own free will, voted for Chief MKO Abiola, and Babagana Kingibe – the presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party in the 1993 elections.”
He accused the government of the day of cancelling the elections when it was clear who was going to be the winners.
Although the June 12, 1993 presidential election received widespread acclaim and have been adjudged as the “freest and fairest election” in Nigeria’s history, the military Head of State at the time, General Ibrahim Babangida annulled it.
But Abiola who contested under the SDP and held a massive lead at the polls before the annulment insisted on his mandate and called for the outcome of the election be upheld.
As a result of his fight for justice, leading to the intensification of the pro-democracy struggle, former military dictator, General Sani Abacha jailed him in 1994 after he declared himself the lawful ruler of Nigeria.
Despite calls in Nigeria and abroad for Abiola’s release, Abacha was adamant until he died suddenly on June 8, 1998. Even before the succeeding military government of General Abdusalami Abubakar decided his fate, Abiola also died mysteriously during incarceration on July 7, 1998.
While the President’s move has been generally applauded, some have canvassed the need for awards to other prominent leaders of the pro-democracy movement like Chief Anthony Eronmonsele Enahoro, chairman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Alfred Rewane, also a NADECO chieftain, Baba Omojola, convener, Socialist Revolutionary Vanguard (SRV), Dr Bekololari Ransome Kuti, chairman, Campaign for Democracy (CD), Mr Olisa Agbakoba, former president, Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Mr Chima Ubani, General Secretary of CD, Dr Sylvester Odion Akhaine, now associate professor at the Lagos State University (LASU), Col Dangiwa Umar who resigned his commission on account of the annulment and many other activists who played significant role in the movement to revalidate the June 12, 1993 presidential election victory.