A motion tabled at the 2014 confab, seeking due recognition for the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late Moshood Abiola, brought disagreement among participants, according to a former Minister of External Affairs and Vice Chairman of the 2014 National Conference, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi.
He, however, praised President Muhammadu Buhari for recognising Abiola’s victory in what is often described as the most credible election in the nation’s 57-year history.
The elder statesman also hailed the decision to confer on the late Abiola, the national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, almost 20 years after his death.
Abiola’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, and the late human rights lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, were also singled out for Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger honours.
Akinyemi, in a statement titled ‘On honouring MKO Abiola and June 12’, said, “President Buhari has addressed some of the wounds inflicted on this nation and applied healing balm on these wounds. Only those who lost family members, those imprisoned and detained or who had family members imprisoned and detained, those tortured and those driven into exile had felt the need for some measure of closure. That closure was achieved on June 6 by the executive order issued by President Buhari.
“The courage of the President in tackling this issue should be acknowledged. As the Deputy Chairman of the 2014 National Conference, I recall that when the issue of June 12 was raised, it almost tore the conference apart. I also recall that the issue of June 12 had been raised in different sessions of the National Assembly without resolution.”
The former minister also appealed to the President to remember other Nigerians who had also played active roles in the pro-democracy struggle.
“People like Dan Suleiman, Ndubuisi Kanu, Frank Kokori, John Oyegun, Dr. (Amos) Akingba, Bagauda Kaltho and others deserve national honours in future exercises,” he said.
Akinyemi stated that the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day is a victory for all Nigerians, not just for those who voted for Abiola.
“The voting pattern on June 12, 1993 sealed the cleavages that have bedevilled Nigeria since the unification by Lugard. The annulment of the election results reopened and deepened those cleavages.
“I recognise and accept that the June 6 Presidential Executive Order has applied some balm on these cleavages and therefore should be welcomed as a national rather than a sectional victory,” he added.