By Stephen Ubanna
Opinions appear to be divided in over the recognitions of June 12, 1993, presidential election that was annulled by the then Military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida and June 12, as Nigeria newDemocracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari, of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.
There were those who believe that the Presidential actions had healed the old wound which had hunted the nation over the years. One of such people was Bolaji Akinyemi, a Professor and former minister of External Affairs.
incidentally, Akinyemi was a member of the defunct National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, which had as one of its founding members, Bola Ahmed Tinubu , a former governor of Lagos state and now , national leader of the APC. Akinyemi had commended Buhari for taking the bold decision to recognise June 12, 1993, Presidential election and Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, popular, MKO , and Babagana Kingibe his running mate in the defunct , Social Democractic Party, SDP, as an lected President and Vice President , thus deserving to be honoured with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic , GCFR, and Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, respectively.
The former, External Affairs minister said the honour bestowed on Abiola, the late politician and business mongul was one in many steps to be taken by any government towards the healing of hurting national wounds. An elated Akinyemi declared , ”I thank Buhari for the Presidential decision to recognise June 12, 1993, as a watershed in Nigeria history.
He said ”I recognise how momentous that decision was” , noting that the Katsina state born President of Nigeria has addressed some of the wounds afflicted on this nation by former Administrations. He was alluding to the regimes of Babangida,a former military President and late General Sani Abacha.
Buhari was said to be an insider of the Abacha Administration as he served as the then Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, established to execute projects with oil money by the Administration. Akinyemi described the Presidential decison as a ”national rather than a sectional victory”.
Many believe that Buhari who hada great influence on the Abacha Administration ought to have used his position to facilitate the actualisation of June 12, 1993 Presidential election instead of stabbing him and Babangida on the back to win the heart of Nigerians as a” Democrat”.
They argued that he should have at least made his views about the June 12, 1993 Presidential election, known to Abacha, the then Head of State and let it be that he turned it down but he never did, an indication that he was at peace with his actions.
in spite of the fact that Buhari’s government had recognised June 12 and bestowed honour to late , Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the Presidential election, Akinyemi’s major worries, however, was that he ought to have extended the national honour award to other eminent Nigerians who were involved in the struggle to actualise the June 12 stolen mandate by the military instead of limiting it to late Abiola, Kingibe and late Gani Fawhinmi, member of NADECO and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN.
The former External Affairs minister has his reasons. He stressed that some people had lost their lives in the struggle to actualise June 12, 1993 , Presidential election, as some were imprisoned and detained in various prisons across the country by the Babangida and Abacha Gestapo.
The Ejigbo 2001 incident in Lagos where many people who were running for safety because of a bomb blast at Ikeja Cantonment got drowned in the Creek remain fresh in his mind.
Giving further insight into the pro-Democracy struggle, he said anyany activists were tortured and some forced to flee the country by both the Babangida and Abacha Administrations. The former minister was said to among those that fled the country to the United States, US. Tinubu, who is now a key player in the Buhari Administration was also said to have fled to the US. The duo and other pro-Democracy activists within and outside the country, were said to have used the NADECO platform to sensitize the International Community about June 12, 1993 stolen mandate and the need to force the then Babangida and Abacha Administrations to return the stolen mandate to Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, election.
But the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, has called on Nigerians from all walks of life to take Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the posthumous award to the late Moshood Abiola and others, with a pinch of salt. Although group had earlier celebrated the Buhari’s government declaration on June 12, and the recognition of Abiola as the acclaimed winner of the Presidential election, the group said there was a need to test the motives and true intentions of the government with the upcoming elections in Ekiti, Osun and 2019 presidential elections.
Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere Spokesman, in a statement, said the group had been in the struggle to get the government to recognise the historic moment of June 12 and the sacrifice of Abiola for two decades.
Odumakin, who was a former Buhari ally, fears that the government might be trying to use the Presidential decision to woo voters ahead of the coming 2019 general elections, even though the gesture was a welcome development.“We are not unaware that we are now in the election season and every attempt will be made to woo voters with issues that are popular,” he said.
“He stopped short at saying that Tinubu may not have been the only person that facilitating the recognition of June 12, by the Buhhari government, noting that tAfenifere had been in the vanguard since the annulment of June 12, 1993, presidential election by the Administration of Babangida and for June 12 to be declared Democracy Day for over two decades now. it is not sursprising that despite the mixed reactions that greeted the government declaration on June 12. Tuesday, June 6, 2018 the still maintained its stand that it accept the declarations and commend Buhari bold initiative.
Barshir Tofa, the Kano state born Presidential Candidate of the National Republican Convention, NRC, in the June 12, 1993, election, is not amused by Buhari’s decision. He may not have come out clearly to express his anger over the Presidential decision to give national honour to Abiola and two others over their contribution in the struggle to actualise the election but his actions speak volume.
Barshir , according to sources had not hidden his opposition to the Presidential decision to give the highest natinoal honours of the country to Abiola and Kingibe, his running mate respectively, for an election that was inclusive. An aggrieved Tofa , queried the rational for giving Late, who, he described as his friend the national honour, noting that the government action was not based on” fair play and justice”. He was said to have made it clear to those that care to listen that if he was given the national honour, he would not accept it.
insiders said the government could not have included his name on the national honours list because he was a loser and never mobilised his supporters for the actulisation of the June 12, Presidential election like Abiola and his supporters did.
The source disclosed that Tofa’s remarks about the national honour to late Abiola was merely to draw the government’s attention that he deserves to be on the national honours list which investure had been fixed on Tuesday , June 12, 2018, being the country’s new Democracy Day.