On the anniversary of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, last year, President Muhammadu Buhari honored the custodian of our mandate, the late president elect, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola. However, he bungled the idea by making it look like a “federal character” bonanza, with the extension of the honor roll to Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, a defector and deserter of the June 12 mandate.
By his own admission, Ambassador Kingibe who was Bashorun Abiola’s running mate in that watershed election, abandoned the June 12 mandate, “in the national interest” – a national interest he has failed to explain. Was it in the national interest to have wrongfully annulled the fairest and freest general election in the nation’s history, and plunging the country into chaos and political turmoil?
By the way, as an athlete, I know this too well, you do not win a prize if you did not finish a race. You have to breast the tape, in order to win a prize. The June 12, 1993 presidential election race turned out to be a marathon- a long distance race. A long distance runner myself, I know a thing or two about this: It takes grit, endurance and perseverance, to win a long distance race. Ambassador Babagana Kingibe did not finish the June 12 1993, race; he dropped out and so do not deserve any trophy. Put it bluntly, he sold out to the enemy, even allied with the enemy by serving in the late wild beast, General Abacha’s blood-soaked military junta.
Given the late Chief M.K.O Abiola’s popularity across the country it is little surprising that he won the June 12, 1993 presidential election with such an overwhelming mandate. What is rather surprising to me was his steadfastness and willingness to suffer agonizing prison condition, including the brutal and heartless assassination of his lovely wife , Kudirat Abiola, by Abacha’s butchers. He tenaciously defended the mandate given to him by the Nigerian people, to be their president to the very end, until he was murdered in detention by poisoning his tea.
The late Chief Abiola was betrayed by unfaithful allies like Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State, and others. Even the NADECo guys at some point caved under pressure. With Bashorun M.K. O Abiola in detention, the battle to defend the June 12 mandate was left to activists like Professor Wole Soyinka, Chief Gani Fawehnmi, Dr.Beko Ransome Kuti ( of blessed memory) Femi Falana, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo,` Dr Olisa Agbakoba, Shehu Sani, and all those pro-democracy activists who endured arrests, detentions torture and even death.
The presidency of Chief M.K. O Abiola would have ushered in economic prosperity in Nigeria . Given his vast business background and his knack for doing good, the late president-elect would have embarked on an aggressive industrialization of the country to create jobs and develop infrastructures that are badly needed in the country today
And I have no doubt in my mind that Bashorun M.K.O Abiola would have worked hard to unite the country. As an Ogoni, I know how much the presidency of Chief Abiola is being missed today. Ironically, the Ogoni people largely boycotted the June 12, 1993 presidential election that elected Bashorun Abiola , as a way of protesting decades of neglect and injustices suffered from the Nigerian state. However, the Ogoni people turned out to be a prime collateral damage of the annulment of that election. To me, it is inconceivable to see a President Abiola authorize the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa. Neither would he have allowed the genocide of the Ogoni people.
All said, President Buhari deserve commendation for honoring Chief M.K.O Abiola and his June 12 mandate. This is what former President Olusegun Obasanjo, for whatever grudge he has with Chief Abiola, even unto death, refused to do. Instead Obasanjo sacrilegiously elected to christen May 29, the date he was sworn in after a less transparent election, as “democracy day”. Apart from naming monuments after him, Chief M.K.O Abiola should be recognized as a dully elected president.
Also, the late Kudirat Abiola, the Amazon of Democracy, deserve a national honor for her role in fighting for the actualization of the June 12 mandate, for which she was murdered by Abacha’s animals.
Bashorun M.K.O Abiola was affectionately called “The Pillar of Sports in Africa”. This honor came about as a result of his unprecedented sponsorship of sporting activities across the continent. Yet, the late Chief Abiola was a super philanthropist across the broad; he was building mosques, churches, schools and engaging in many more charitable causes, North, South , East and West of Nigeria. He was arguably Nigeria’s nu mero uno “Father Christmas” . However, on June 12,1993, by winning a general election that both Nigerians and foreign observers agreed is the freest and the fairest in Nigeria history, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola also became the “The Pillar of Democracy in Africa”.
Happy Nigeria Democracy Day, June 12!
By Leburah Ganago
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