13 June 2000

Nigeria: June 12 Holiday to Honour Abiola, Says Tinubu

Lagos — LAGOS State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu Monday said that the declaration of June 12 every year as a public holiday by his administration was to immortalise the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, who laid down his life for the present democracy in the country.

He also said that others like Pa Alfred Rewane who lost their lives for the same purpose, would also be immortalised.

Tinubu spoke in Lagos as pro-democracy and Human Rights groups converged to mark the 7th anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election annulled by military President Ibrahim Babangida.

Speaking at a rally at the Hope '93 Campaign secretariat, Ikeja, Lagos, the governor vowed to ensure that his administration truly has a place for those who sacrificed for the struggle.

Already, he said a public holiday was observed Monday to commemorate the day when the first freest and fairest election was recorded in the history of the country.

Tinubu, while addressing the mammoth crowd comprising students, human rights activists, O'odua People's Congress (OPC) members, market women and others, declared that the June 12 public holiday was meant to immortalise Chief Abiola, adding "we are doing same for Pa Rewane, Kudirat and other great patriots."

While commending the students for their commitment in the struggle for democracy, he said: "Without you, some of us who are governors today would not have been governors. Without you, the struggle for June 12 would not have been finished. We would not have been able to have democracy that we have today. We thank God for you, for me and for others.

"Today is very very important. I share the pride, the honour and your sorrow with you. If Abiola were to be alive today, it would have been a different story," he stated.

Tinubu promised to create a harmonious atmosphere for open dialogue with the students to enable them rub minds on issues affecting both parties.

The rally which was predominant in states in the South west was hijacked midway by members of the O'odua People's Congress (OPC) who forced fuel stations to start selling fuel.

At the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) satellite depot at Ejigbo in the outskirts of Lagos, an attempt to force tanker drivers to lift fuel nearly resulted in a fracas but for the intervention of the traditional ruler of the community.

Earlier in a release Monday, the Campaign for Democracy (CD), said the day had already been declared a national day for Democracy.

Addressing participants at the rally, leader of the Pan Yoruba group, Afenifere, Senator Abraham Adesanya, read his short speech with a song: "This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice in it," noting that "today, June 12 must be remembered by all Nigerians as the day God brought back democracy to Nigeria."

According to him, the instrument used by God to make the day was Chief MKO Abiola, and that "everybody in the government today are the off shoots of Abacha," noting that at the right time, the right people would take over," we must guard this democracy jealously, we should not allow it to destroy, our children and children's children will enjoy the fruits of democracy."

Speaking also, former governor of Lagos State and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, harped on the principle of equity and noted that "we can never run away from this problem of equity until we restructure Nigeria."

In another joint statement by the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Democratic Vanguard, African Youth Council for Liberty, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and O'odua People's Congress (OPC), it said: "Though Obasanjo and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government claim to be fighting corruption, many well known criminals like General Ibrahim Babangida, Jerry Useni and others are still moving freely, spending our stolen money to terrorise and create problems for us.

The National Assembly is busy cornering the resources of Nigeria for selfish reasons. Instead of using this opportunity and the current political situation to allow genuine reorganisation of the country's political structure, Obasanjo is comfortable with the way the country is by not giving way to the federalism."

The group, through the June 12 day of democracy organising committee (J12DDOC) however, called on Nigerians to fight for genuine democracy and a true federal system which it said can only come through the Sovereign National Conference (SNC). It also called on the people to "fight against all attempts by the current regime of Obasanjo and his committees of useless and unreliable politicians to worsen our level of poverty through unpopular economic, cultural and social policies."

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