Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Former Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, has disclosed why former President Olusegun Obasanjo could not immortalise the acclaimed winner of June 12, 2003 presidential election, late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola.
According to Okupe, any attempt by Obasanjo to declare June 12 as a national day and immortalise Abiola, while he was president would have been met with stiff opposition by northern leaders and politicians.
He said Nigerians, particularly the South West people should not castigate the former president for his inability to name the Abuja National Stadium after late Abiola as many Nigerians wanted, declaring only a strong president from the North could institutionalise June 12 without rumpus.
Okupe, who also served as the spokesperson of former President Obasanjo, spoke on Wednesday at a commemorative lecture to mark the 26th anniversary of the annulment of June 12, 2003 presidential election, organised by Ladi Adebutu Development Organisation, held in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.
The lecture was themed “June 12: The Yoruba race in a reunited Nigeria”.
The former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant in Ogun State, who pointed out that politics of Nigeria is so intricate, insisted that Obasanjo only avoided the controversy and furore that would have greeted recognising June 12 as a democracy day, while in office.
He, however, said that providence had placed President Muhammadu Buhari to institutionalise June 12, maintaining that only a northern president well respected like Buhari could immortalise Abiola and that would be accepted by the northern elders and leaders.
“There is no better person; there is no better government that can institutionalise June 12 except a government headed by a strong northerner, otherwise it would create serious controversy. Buhari by providence, has been well-placed. He is not just an ordinary northerner, but a very strong one that a lot of northerners have respect for, that even if they disagree (with him) they will not vent their disagreement. They will hold their peace. And therefore, it was easier for him to do it. We give God the glory that it has been done. Delay is not denial.
“When they started Sharia in Zamfara State, Obasanjo publicly endorsed it and allowed it. No northern president can do that effectively without incurring major riot. Those who can complain and those who can show dissension, because it was one of their own that endorsed it (June 12) have also kept quite,” Okupe stated.
In his remark, the convener of the commemorative lecture, Ladi Adebutu, said June 12 remained the foundation of Nigeria’s contemporary politics and watershed in the political history of the country.
Adebutu, who is the immediate past of House of Representatives member for Remo federal constituency, added that unlike the 2003 presidential election, which was considered as the freest and fairest, electioneering process in Nigeria has seriously gone bad and tragic.
He submitted that the only transparent election held in Nigeria remained the June 12, 1993 presidential election, noting that only the conduct of credible polls in Nigeria could truly immortalise late Abiola.