Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, Prof. Akin Oyebode and other activists have challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to declare June 12 as Democracy Day in the country to immortalise the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, the late Chief Moshood Kashimao Olawale Abiola.
Ambode and others spoke at the June 12 Rally at the Lagos Television Ground, Ikeja in Lagos, southwest Nigeria on Friday.
The governor said that June 12 should be declared Democracy Day in Nigeria to honour Abiola.
He said the hope of the people was dashed when the June 12 election was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida, saying that what the nation now enjoyed today was rooted in June 12.
“June 12 personifies our desire to liberate ourselves and take charge of our destiny. June 12 symbolises the patriotism of all Nigerians as the election fired up hope in the mind of the people.
“Lagos has continued to be the hub of democratic ideas and we will continue to expand the frontiers of democratic governance and freedom of our people. June 12 should be declared the real democracy day,” Ambode said.
According to him, “the outcome of this year’s election proved that June 12 has been fruitful. We owe it a duty to immortalise the memory of our heroes,” he said.
The governor stated that Nigeria would never forget Abiola and other martyrs of the June 12 episode
Speaking at the event, Prof Akin Oyebode who was the chairman of the occasion, described Abiola as a titanic hero who must be immortalised, saying that June 12 showed that nobody could suppress the wish of the people.
“Abiola was a precursor of the change we are celebrating today. His slogan was farewell to poverty and have we really banished poverty? The lesson to be learnt was that those who truncate the progress of the people will never be remembered,” he said.
Oyebode added that June 12 had been relegated in the country, saying that ethnicisation of June 12 is a disservice to Nigerians.
“The Federal Government should declare June 12 public holiday. Our victory will not be total until June 12 is recognised as democracy day,” he stated.
Aslo, activists have challenged President Buhari to immortalise Abiola.
The spirit of June 12 has refused to die 22 years after as Nigerians, especially those in the southwest are still clamouring for the recognition of Abiola.
Comrade Debo Adeniran, founder, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL said Abiola deserved to be immortalised rather than June 12 as he was the symbol of the botched election.
“It is Abiola that should be immortalised and not June 12. Everything that led to June 12 and its aftermath was Abiola who represented the will and wishes of the people who championed the aftermath of June 12 election where 40 million Nigerians came to vote and were denied the proceeds of that effort.
“The present regime should waste no time before they immortalise him. There is nothing stopping the government from naming the National Stadium, Abuja after him or any other national monument, even the National Mosque in Abuja can be named after him,” he said.
Comrade Biodun Aremu of the Joint Action Front, JAF, also wants Buhari to immortalise Abiola.
“The present government should stand by what Abiola stood for,” he said, adding that it was not just naming a monument after him that was the issue, but fulfilling his ideals.
“Even those who claimed to love Abiola are hypocrites. There is no official gazette in any southwest state that June 12 should be declared holiday, so if any government comes in now, it can decide not to have it.
“June 12 is just the day of the election, it was annulled June 23. People came to vote him to eradicate poverty. The same thing led to the voting of Buhari, people want change. Abiola will be immortalised if the government keeps electoral promises. All those who claim they are immortalising June 12, in what way have they been responsible in making things good? The elements like Faseun and others who built their popularity on it, what has become of them? The basic things must be provided,” he said.
Comrade Kayode Opeifa and a former Commissioner in Lagos State said Abiola deserved to be immortalised and all those who fought for the actualisation of June 12, urging the Buhari to declare that day a public holiday to serve as a memorial.
“Government should declare it public holiday and it may not be that people will not go to work, it can be for a memorial. June 12 symbolises the real struggle after independence in Nigeria. I was part of it, we knew what we were fighting for and we have it now. In 2015, Nigerians allowed Buhari to come in, that is the gain of June 12. June 12 was the day of the election but June 23 was the annulment. The annulment was the issue. We could put any date. Abiola deserved to be immortalised and all organisations that fought for it,” he said.
Yinka Odumakin, politician, said it is pointless asking anybody to immortalise Abiola, as the late business mogul himself and June 12 have come to stay.
“The very essence that did not allow June 12 to stay is still very much with us now. At the National Conference 2014, when somebody raised a motion to recognise Abiola, it was shot down.
“The forces that did not want MKO to be president based on nationality question are still very much around and that issue should be resolved. June 12 was about the possibility of a new Nigeria. The issue of nationality question should be resolved.”
Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo said Abiola deserved to be immortalised by Buhari as he was the man who demystified the army “for us and put an end once to military rule and enforced the right of the people. He deserves to be immortalised.”
The Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Mudasiru Ajayi Obasa, described the June 12, 1993 Presidential election as the mother of the present democratic dispensation in Nigeria.
Obasa stated that without the June 12 Presidential election, it might have been difficult for Nigerians to be enjoying full fledged democracy currently in the country.
The Speaker, who stated this in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Musbau Rasak, said in view this, it became imperative for Nigerians to not only celebrate the historic event but also reflect on its significance.
“It was a major political event in Nigeria’s history and it deserves to be celebrated. It was the harbinger of the present day democracy. It was the fairest, freest and most accepted election ever not only in Nigeria but also in the entire continent of Africa. June 12 is thus the mother of our present democracy,” the Speaker said.
Obasa stated further that without June 12, perhaps the military would have perpetuated itself in power.
“The collective way Nigerians spoke during the June 12 election and the subsequent struggle to defend the sacred mandate, were enough signals for the military and indeed other anti-democratic individuals and groups that Nigerians were willing to embrace democracy and do away with military rule in all its entirety,” Obasa added.
He stated further that Lagos and other states which celebrate June 12 as their Democracy Day deserve commendation rather than vilification.
“It is June 12 which gave birth to May 29 which is being celebrated as Democracy Day national. Thus, for us in Lagos State and other states marking the June 12 anniversary, it is the day Nigerians got their independence from the jaws of military dictatorship; it is our Democracy Day,” he said.
Obasa also eulogised politicians and personalities who have passed on but were part of the struggle to validate the June 12 election, particularly the winner of the historic election, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola; his wife, the late Alhaja Kudirat; the late Beko Ransome Kuti; the late Pa Alfred Rewane; the late Tai Solarin; deceased former Governor of Ondo, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin; the late Pa Abraham Adesanya; the late Cicero of Esa Oke, Chief Bola Ige, among others who were killed by military bullets during various protests and struggles to validate the historic election.
“They are the heroes of the democracy we are enjoying today and they deserve full national recognition,” he said.