We commend President Muhammadu Buhari’s appreciation of the significance of the presidential election held on June 12, 1993 and for designating that day henceforth as Nigeria’s Democracy Day. We also laud the President for conferring on Chief Moshood K.O. Abiola, the undisputed although undeclared winner of that election, with the nation’s highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR)
Chief Abiola was an illustrious son of Nigeria, whose many virtues, fame and entrepreneurship traversed boundaries. In the June 12 election, he competed with Alhaji Bashir Tofa. Abiola’s candidacy was unique in Nigerian history for the fact that he ran a Muslim-Muslim ticket in spite of which Nigerians, who are usually split along religious lines, voted for his ticket. His deeds spoke for him. He was the second foremost Muslim leader in Nigeria who quoted the Holy Bible as much as he quoted the Holy Quran. He believed that all humanity was of one religion. He was renowned as Nigeria’s greatest bridge-builder across different communities. He was honoured by every part of the country and by last count he received nearly 150 ‘chieftaincy titles’ many ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Abiola never discriminated in his support for good causes. All the sports federations in Africa in appreciation of his unparalleled contributions got together and crowned him “Africa’s Pillar of Sports” because he was unsparing in his support for sports excellence. He held the view that the international system has abolished war and the only avenue for nations to test each other’s strengths is through sports. Because he knew so much poverty in his early years, he was generous beyond understanding. It is said no one ever asked and was not given. And his beneficiaries ranged from street beggars to Federal and State universities. He wasn’t Nigeria’s richest man but his generosity surpassed that of anyone else.
All over the world, he had heads of state as personal friends from Egypt, Pakistan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Southern Africa. He armed the Ugandan National Resistance Movement (NRM) and ensured Yoweri Museveni’s ultimate triumph. MKO invested time and resources in black and Africa causes. He knew all the black mayors in America and was always a special guest of honour at the yearly meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was a tower of support for the Reparations for Slavery movement and he was quietly hinting of making it a major international issue in the United Nations if he became president. He was not particular about material reparations. His argument was that after 500 years of slavery, the West owed Africa, at least, the courteous “I’m sorry.” It was a stance he held which annoyed the white establishment in the West. Many observers suspected that his Reparations activism contributed to the strange lukewarm attitude of the West to his predicament. He was first deprived of the glory of his electoral victory and then incarcerated in a most inhuman condition, a solitary confinement in which he was left nothing but a copy of the Holy Quran in his jail house, all of which proved fatal in the end.
But Abiola was not a man to be cowed, even by the West, on an issue he believed in. And that was also his problem in Nigeria. He did not accept second class citizen status. All MKO always asked for was a fair chance, an honest contest of ideas. He had a brawl with Alhaji Umaru Dikko in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the Second Republic over hegemony. Abiola was unarguably the best prepared president (before and after 1993) Nigeria never had. His transparency, his liberal disposition (he was a member of the Labour Party in the UK) shone through. Whichever way it is viewed, the annulment was an act of betrayal against Nigeria deserving accountability.
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has signed into law the Public Holiday Amendment Bill, June 12 will now be observed every year in the country as Democracy Day while May 29 will no longer be a public holiday but will remain the handing-over date.