Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Children of the late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, Hafsat and Jamiu, have opened up on what the recognition and celebration of June 12 as Democracy Day means to the family.
Abiola’s daughter, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, expressed joy over the celebration, and admitted being overwhelmed and over the moon.
Abiola-Costello told Daily Sun that, during the June 12 struggle, at a critical moment, her father decided he was leaving all personal matters.
“Even his family was no longer his priority. His priority was his mandate and he felt that anything that stood in the way of that mandate was not anything he could accept.
“We were no longer his priority. So, we had already given him to the country. And, after he died, for him to have been forgotten, set aside by much of the country, was very painful,” Abiola-Costello said.
On his part, son of Abiola, Jamiu, expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring his father; after many years.
“I want Nigerians to use this unique opportunity to move ahead in the direction that MKO wanted them to move ahead – no more tribalism, no more differences.
“We all have similar problems, let’s solve them together, let’s be our brother’s keepers from today,” the younger Abiola said.
On his part,the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, said in spite of June 12 designation as democracy day, everyday is democracy in Nigeria.
Symington said: “Today (yesterday) is a good day for Nigerians to underscore what they think about their democracy. I just say one thing and it is that, in Nigeria, everyday is democracy day.”
Also, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, in Abuja, yesterday, said it was heartwarming to see Nigerians speak with one voice about June 12.
Bagudu said the celebration on June 12 is an important event in the history of Nigeria, and that the late Abiola truly deserved the honour.
“We have seen he happiness of Nigerians for this decision and for selfless sacrifice and courage of late MKO Abiola; which is a lesson to us, as politicians.
“It is quite great that president Buhari has courageously recognised the importance of this day to Nigeria’s history and has given it the importance that it deserves.”
To the Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, the day has demonstrated that Nigerians can work towards achieving unity in diversity.
Mamora said Democracy Day has also demonstrated the acceptance, by Nigerians, that MKO Abiola truly won the June 12 1993 elections.
He said that the day would always be a reminder that the unity of the country is imperative, in order to achieve peace, progress and prosperity.
“It was a great day, a day when Nigerians from all works of life put aside our diversity, whether based on ethnicity, religion or tribe.
“These sentiments were put aside and then, Bashorun MKO Abiola was elected president of this country, and Nigerians rose in unison, voted for the unity of this country almost three decades ago.
“But today (yesterday), we are seeing the realisation of the significance of that day by Mr. president declaring June 12 as democracy day.
“Each day we remember the significance of this day, it will ginger us into working for the progress of Nigeria, suppressing or putting aside our differences and looking at things that unite us rather than things that divide us,’’ Mamora said.