21 Years Gone: FG,South West Mark June 12 In Style
SINCE 1994, pro-democracy activists and state governments in the country, especially in the South-West geo-political zone, have always mapped out events to commemorate the June 12, 1993 presidential polls adjudged the freest and fairest election ever held in Nigeria.
Considered a watershed in the annals of electioneering in the country, the annulled election was presumably won by late business tycoon, Chief M.K.O Abiola, who died in the battle to reclaim his mandate. His beautiful wife, Kudirat, was also assassinated by gunmen said to be government agents.
A host of politicians, activists and many innocent Nigerians, old and young, died in the protests that followed the annulment amid the then military government’s clampdown.
The unbending resolve of most Nigerians through pro-democracy activism paved the way for the return of civil rule on May 29, 1999 with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a kinsman of Abiola as president.
However, since the return to civil rule, the presidency has never celebrated June 12. While South-West governors, who then were of the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AD) chose June 12 as Democracy Day, the presidency under Obasanjo declared May 29 as Democracy Day.
All through his eight year reign, Obasanjo did not acknowledge ‘June 12’ and Abiola’s supreme price in his second coming as head of state. There was also no attempt to immortalise Abiola in spite of unceasing calls for such honour even when the National Assembly suggested that the National Stadium, Abuja be named after him.
Light at the end of the tunnel
However, things are totally different this year, 21 years after. Even, Obasanjo, on June 1, 2014 said that Abiola sacrificed a lot for Nigeria and should be immortalised.
President Goodluck Jonathan kick-started the efforts to immortalise Abiola on may 29, 2012 when he renamed the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Moshood Abiola University (MAU). The renaming, however, remains inchoate on account of legal actions taken by stakeholders.
This year, the Federal Government is organizing an elaborate event –All Political Parties’ Summit on June 12. The gathering, which a host of party leaders have promised to attend, is being anchored by the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi.
Besides the Federal Government sponsored events, there will also be June 12 events in Lagos and other parts of the South-West. The June 12 Movement, in collaboration with Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) and Nigeria Youth Movement Foundation will organize national democracy colloquium and Tribute session tagged: “June 12: The National Confab And Growing Insecurity In Nigeria: The Way Out,” at Abiola’s Ikeja, Lagos residence.
The Lagos State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) will also organize a public lecture. With the theme; June 12: “Lessons for Today’s Democracy,” the lecture will be delivered by Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State with Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) as discussant.
However, the leaders could not go far in the quest as the then military government headed by the late General Sani Abacha unleashed terror on the participants, who had to scamper for safety.
Leading politicians also met in 2002 meeting to address peaceful co-existence among politicians following the wave of violence that trailed preparations for the 2003 elections.