President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday at the investiture of the GCFR award post-homoursly to late Chief MKO Abiola apologised to the family of the late business mogul for the annulment of June 12 election.
Chief MKO Abiola running as SDP presidential candidate was coasting home to victory at the poll with results already released in 14 states when the then military president stopped further announcement of the results and then annuled the poll.
This was followed by protest by Nigerians and strident demand by Abiola for the restoration of his mandate. In the process he declared himself president and was arrested and detained by the late General Sani Abacha regime. Abiola died in july 1998 while in incarceration.
But 25 years after that criminal annulment of the election, President Muhammadu Buhari in a surprise move announced the granting of post-humous award of GCFR honour to Abiola and GCON to his former running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe. He also replaced May 29 with June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day.
On Tuesday at an emotional event at the Presidential Villa, Buhari handed over the GCFR award to the Abiola family. In attendance at the event were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Chief Bisi Akande and children of the late Abiola.
Buhari said Abiola got the highest votes at the poll and ought to have been inaugurated. He said the award was for reconciliation and national healing.
He said: “Today, I am very happy to be present and to preside over the Commemoration and Investiture, marking the formal official Federal Government recognition of June 12 as National Democracy Day.
“The decision and this event is not meant to be and is not an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong. Nigerians of their own free will voted for Late Chief MKO Abiola and Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe, the Presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 1993 elections. The Government of the day inexplicably cancelled the elections when it was clear who were going to be the winners.
“We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings; recognize that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of free elections. Nigerians would no longer tolerate such perversion of justice.
This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country.
“Our decision to recognize and honour June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25 year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12th elections. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divide to accept it in good faith.
“Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12. The June 12, which restate democracy and freedom. The June 12 that overcome our various divide and the June 12 that produced unity and National cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation.
“Accordingly, on behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of Late MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the cause of June 12 struggle.
“At this juncture, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like everybody present to stand and observe a minute silence in honour of the memory of Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Fawehinmi and indeed all those who lost their lives in the struggle of June 12 1993.
“Thank you all and God bless Federal Republic of Nigeria”.