Senior Advocate of Nigeria and rights activist, Femi Falana, disclosed yesterday that a team of lawyers are being set up to re-open the circumstances leading to the death of Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Falana made the disclosure at a wreath-laying ceremony, to commemorate the 21st anniversary of Abiola’s death, organised by Women Arise for Change Initiative (WA), at Abiola’s graveside in Ikeja, yesterday.
Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, died on July 7, 1998.
In 1994, the military regime of late General Sani Abacha charged him for treason because he declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria.
He died in custody; on the verge of being released in 1998.
Falana decried the high rate of poverty in the country and added that it contradicted Abiola’s legacy.
“MKO Abiola’s campaign was anchored on farewell to poverty. Today, 100 million Nigerians live in abject poverty. We, therefore, need to rededicate ourselves to taking our people out of poverty, tackle the problem of insurgency, banditry and kidnapping by addressing the high rate of out-of-school children.
“Abiola stood for justice for all. All Nigerians must benefit from the resources of the nation,” Falana said.
Also, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said Nigeria will only get closure over Abiola’s death when some of the challenges in the country are confronted and eliminated.
Soyinka said: “This is the first gathering in honour of MKO Abiola, after the formal recognition by the Federal Government that he was duly elected, and that he is a past president of this nation.
“And, all we are waiting for is the formal actualisation, through symbolic presence of his photographs among other presidents, even though he was never sworn into office.
“We cannot escape the past, but, we can confront the challenges of the present, which, of course, very often arise from the past. We are inching slowly towards closure.
‘One of these days when we gather, we shall be rejoicing. At that time, we would have progressed towards the elimination of some of the abnormalities and contradictions in our country.
“We have the issue of security, obeying the law, which is one thing that equalises all. President Muhammadu Buhari should lead by example by obeying the dictates of the law, so that other Nigerians can follow suit.
“It is this refusal to obey the law that has made some sectors of the populace think they are above the law and are causing anarchy in the country.
“We have a responsibility as a people, and government should address the issue of education, youth unemployment and insecurity.
“Just when we thought we were dealing with Boko Haram, then come these nomadic herdsmen armed with AK-47, and gradually, the kind of harmonious relationships that existed between various productive arms of this nation begins to disappear.
“We find ourselves on a daily basis being threatened, killed, our women being raped and other productive arms like farmers being driven off their own territories.
“These are critical issues that we need to deal with head on and urgently, so that we begin to celebrate the memories of late Abiola and what he stood for,” Soyinka said.
Convener of the event, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said 21 years after Abiola’s death, he would continually be celebrated as a great son of Africa.
Okei-Odumakin urged the federal government to constitute a judicial commission of inquiry to unravel how Abiola died in custody.
In his response, one of Abiola’s sons, Alhaji Jamiu, appreciated the Federal Government for declaring June 12 Democracy Day.
He said it was an unexpected miracle.