12 June 2014

Nigeria: Conference Delegates in Shouting Match Over June 12

Delegates at the National in Abuja threw decency to the winds at plenary on Thursday when they engaged themselves in a shouting match over a motion seeking to pay tribute to Nigerians who paid the supreme price fighting for actualisation of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election.

The election was won by the late businessman turned politician, Moshood Kasimowo Abiola, but annulled by the then military government headed by Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, now a retired Army General.

Citing Order 7, Rule 5, a South South delegate representing Cross River State, Orok Otu Duke, had moved that the Conference pay special tribute to the late Abiola and many others who died while struggling to claim the 1993 election mandate.

Duke said: "I am moving this motion on a matter of urgent public importance. I want to say that June 12, 1993 election has become a watershed in our nation's political history.

"We should not pretend as if it has not happened. We all know that Chief Moshood Abiola and many other Nigerians paid the supreme price fighting this course.

"There is every need to pay special tribute to Abiola and those who died in the struggle."

Hardly had he finished moving the motion when Naseer Kura, representing Civil Society Organisations, opposed the motion by engaging Duke in a shouting bout with 'No', 'No', 'No'!

Other delegates immediately joined the fray.

While some re-echoed 'No', 'No', 'No' refrain, others countered with 'Yes', 'Yes', 'Yes'!

It took Chairman of the Conference, retired Justice Idris Kutigi, a long while to restore normalcy on the floor.

While supporting the motion, an Afenifere chieftain and delegate Ayo Adebanjo, thanked Duke for reminding the delegates of the importance of June 12 election.

He said the motion ought to have come earlier.

Adebanjo argued that "the democracy we are enjoying today was as a result of the June 12 election" which made Nigerians to sit up and fight for democracy.

Another delegate representing Jigawa State, Umaru Mohammed Hadejia, however, opposed the motion, saying the Conference has spent much time and could not continue to waste more on "frivolous issues".

He said the Conference should avoid any distraction coming from any delegate so that it can continue with the business of the day, which was the consideration of the report of its Committee on Economy, Trade and Investment.

Also, while supporting the motion, a delegate representing Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Isa Aremu, said "we should always remember June 12 and the acclaimed winner of that election, Chief MKO Abiola".

Aremu also lamented that despite the lessons of June 12, "we are still having problems with our electoral system".

Also supporting the motion, a Lagos based lawyer and delegate representing Federal Government, Mike Ozekhome, said "we should not be like people that have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing".

He, therefore, suggested that the Conference should at least, observe a one minute silence for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives during the struggle for the actualisation of June 12.

An Ijaw leader and a delegate representing Federal Government, Edwin Clark, who supported Ozehkome's position, said the May 29 Democracy Day is supposed to be observed on June 12 if not because of vested interests.

He said "we must respect our heroes".

Conference Chairman, Justice Kutigi, having consulted with other principal officers, then asked the Conference to rise and observe one a minute silence in the honour of those who lost their lives in the struggle for actualisation of June 12 election.

Former Secretary to Government of Federation (SGF), Olu Falae, also spoke on the June 12, 1993 annulled election on Thursday, disclosing that the late military dictator Sani Abacha, in the wake of the crisis, called on him to renounce his membership of the opposition National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) for him to be released from detention.

Falae, the joint Presidential candidate of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999, stated this at the 2014 edition of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) June 12 remembrance day at the Excellence Hotel, Ogba, Lagos.

Falae, who was the Special Guest at the event, with the theme, 'June12: A Solution Model for 2015 Electoral Challenges', added that when he refused Abacha's offer, "he (Abacha) went further to promise to make me the Prime Minister when he becomes the President in the then proposed transition.

"But I also refused to accept his offer despite promising to free me from detention.

"I was not moved by all these promises; he wanted me to renounce my membership of NADECO, he said because I worked as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, so I was his colleague and I should opt out of the June 12 struggle but I told him it wasn't possible," Falae stated.

Going down memory lane, the NADECO chieftain pointed out that the first June 12 anniversary was a sad one, while the next five years after saw many of them in detention.

"Before MKO Abiola decided to vie for the office of the President, I have also contested for the position.

"But Abiola was handed over to me single-handedly by some Yoruba leaders and I was told to take him to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for him to contest as the party's Presidential candidate and I willingly did this with a free and clean heart, and the rest is history.

"What happened after the June 12, 1993 election, that is the annulment, was the beginning of political impunity and that is what is still affecting Nigeria till today.

"When the crisis began, there was a lot of confusion and three of us wrote a speech for Abiola to claim his mandate because he won the election.

"Former Governor of Kwara State, Cornelius Adebayo, Ayo Opadokun and myself had to write a speech for Abiola for him to claim his mandate, which contained the truth," Falae stated.

While maintaining that June 12 was the benchmark for due process, he added that the day was a significant one in which there was no rain, chaos, crisis, "but they annulled the election and that is why everything is now going wrong in Nigeria today".

"With the annulment of June 12, a great crime was committed against humanity and until justice and fairness is done, there can't be peace and progress. A fair God cannot bear unrighteousness," he added.

He, however, expressed hope that the ongoing National Conference will bring back the glorious days that Nigerians used to have before it gained Independence.

Kwara State Governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, on his part said the June 12, 1993 election presented Nigerians a veritable opportunity to right the wrongs meted to people by the military.

He spoke on Thursday as guest lecturer on the theme, 'June 12: Lessons for Today's Democracy', at the event organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State Council, to mark the 21st anniversary of the annulled election.

Ahmed, who was presented with the Democratic Crusader Award, said the occasion should be used as moment of sober reflection by Nigerians to elect quality leaders who demonstrate the willingness and capability to transform the country and restore its lost glory.

"The situation that confronts us today calls for sober reflection. Today, we live in a society where you become a leader not because you are imbued with the right measure of leadership skills, understand the challenges facing our country and the concrete pathways to their solutions, but because you come from a certain region of the country or profess a particular religion.

"The truth is June 12 has become a guide to where we are coming from, how we got to where we are today, where we are going to and what we need to get there," he said.

Earlier in his welcome address, the chief host, Deji Elumoye, lamented that 21 years after June 12 and 15 years of uninterrupted democratic rule, recent events indicate that Nigeria is gradually descending to the June 12 era where the liberty of citizens were trampled upon by the military.

He also condemned recent clampdown on the press by the military, describing it as autocratic.

Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, said the late Abiola would have been in the All Progressives Congress (APC) if he were alive today.

He spoke during a special prayer session to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election.

The event, held at the Abiola's family house in Oke-Agbo, Abeokuta, was attended by some of the late politician's children, relatives and well-wishers.

They included Abiola's younger brother, Mubashiru; son, Jamiu; daughter, Tundun; state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Abimbola Akeredolu; Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Yusuph Olaniyonu; and Iyalode of Egbaland, Alaba Lawson.

Amosun, who was represented by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Taiwo Adeoluwa, extolled the virtues and democratic credentials of the late Abiola.

According to the Governor, Abiola won the freest and fairest election in the country and further laid down his life for the democracy currently being enjoyed by all Nigerians.

He submitted that Abiola would have been in the fold of the progressives if he were alive today, urging all stakeholders to work harder towards bringing the politician's dream to fruition.

"June 12 was a day that all Nigerians abandoned religion, culture, tribe and united behind our symbol, Chief MKO Abiola. We are happy that Ogun State produced the second civilian President in Nigeria.

"We should continue to work harder to bring Abiola's dream to fruition. Those of us who are alive have a duty to carry his message forward," he said.

Adeoluwa said Amosun was away to Abuja like all APC Governors for the party's national convention.

"If Abiola was alive today, he would most likely be in Abuja attending the APC convention," he added.

One of Abiola's sons, Jamiu, said the only way the Nigerian government could immortalise his father is to eradicate poverty in the country.

"The Nigerian government has started recognising him gradually but the most important thing is for Nigerian government to do what they can do to make the people comfortable. That is what my father fought for; he fought for the masses," he said.

Also speaking, Tundun explained that her father would remain indelible in the minds of Nigerians due to his contributions to national development.

National Coordinator of Oodua People's Congress (OPC), Gani Adams, called on Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, to take a cue from the way June 12, 1993 elections were organised.

Adams stated this on Thursday at the event marking 21st anniversary of June 12.

He urged Jega to try and adopt some of the strategies and incorporate them into his plans for the 2015 general elections.

The OPC coordinator noted that part of what made the 1993 elections unique was its openness.

He recalled that voters queued behind the candidate of their choice, leaving no room for anybody to rig the election.

That system of voting, according to him, made Nigerians freely give their votes without any sense of insecurity.

In Ibadan, civil society activists called for renaming of the Presidential Villa (Aso Rock) in Abuja after MKO Abiola.

As the martyr of democracy, they reasoned, this is one of the ways to immortalise him.

The activists, led by Mashood Erubami gathered at Mapo Hall, Ibadan, for the June 12 Anniversary Lecture organised by the Nigeria Voters' Assembly (VOTAS).

The Federal Government was enjoined to join the list of expanding states celebrating June 12 anniversary throughout the country and declare the day as a public holiday in the country.

While welcoming the audience, President/Convener of the VOTAS, Erubami, said the election held in 1993 "had become significant because of the principles inherent in its outcome which ostensibly remains the only means to achieving unity, good governance and value based society".

He noted that "the significance of celebrating the anniversary of June 12 is foremost to use the date to caution on the underlying tragedies that may continue to befall the country if the government insists on not using the principles inherent in the day as a basis for running a people focused government.

"Another purpose is to remind Nigerians that the cabals that misled the military are yet to advance reasons for violently upturning the genuine desire of Nigerians to live together in peace and unity.

"To understand their diversities and live by them, constitutionally transit from military to civilian constitutional government, legitimise the process of transferring power among all ethnic nationalities and to build a virile nation where rule of justice will prevail and where no ethnic group will perpetuate the hold of power and oppress the other," Erubami said.

In his remark, former Editor of the defunct 'Daily Times' newspaper, Areoye Oyebola, regretted that Nigeria is a country where anything goes, stressing that otherwise, what could have made the country jettison the electoral system that produced the annulled Presidency of MKO Abiola still adjudged the best in the nation's political history.

Lamenting the evil done the country by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election after it was obvious that Abiola won it, the activist insisted that Nigeria would have become a world power had the winner of the election been allowed to savour the joy of his victory.

Asking the present political players to be mindful of the prediction of an agency of the United States of America that Nigeria would disintegrate in 2015, Oyebola maintained that "we won't have Nigeria to talk about if election rigging is allowed".

Similarly in Osun State, members of civil organisations and human right bodies trooped out en masse to mark the 21st anniversary of the June 12.

The people who marched round major streets of Osogbo, the state capital, sensitised residents of the state on the significance of the June 12, declaring the day as "true democracy day".

Coordinator of the rally who is also Special Adviser to the Governor on Public and Civil Matters, Waheed Lawal, while addressing the people, appealed the Federal Government to name national institutions after late Abiola for his contributions to the sustainability of democracy in the country.

Lawal specifically mentioned University of Abuja and National Stadium to be named after Abiola, insisting that the late Abiola ushered in real democracy in the country.

According to him, "President Goodluck Jonathan led federal government had sectionalised Abiola when he embarked on a failed attempt to name only the University of Lagos (UNILAG) after the acclaimed winner of the annulled 1993 election.

"Over 140 million Nigerians trooped out on June 12, 1993 to cast their votes for Abiola. So, what the Federal Government is trying to do is to sectionalise June 12 when President Jonathan made attempt to name UNILAG after Abiola, but we are saying that Abiola won election in Nigeria and not Southwest alone, he won in the North, and East, he won everywhere.

"The struggle for democracy by MKO wasn't a regional struggle.

"Today, though we live in a civil political dispensation which was the product of the prolonged heroic struggle of the pro-democracy activist, trade unions and other democratic organisations, we regret to say that we are yet to attain genuine democracy.

"Indeed, whatever semblance of democracy we may claim as being in existence in our land today is largely restricted by an authoritarian central government which is easily irritated by the slightest sign of democratic activities by citizens and the mass media."

Lagos State Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Joe Igbokwe, noted that since the annulled election Nigeria has not make any progress.

Speaking to Daily Independent on the occasion of 21st anniversary of the election, Igbokwe lamented that when democratic governance was restored to the country in 1999, those that struggled and risked their lives for the actualisation of the June 12 mandate were schemed out of political arrangement of the country.

This, he said, gave opportunity for those who did not know any thing about the struggle to take the reign of leadership of the country.

"It is unfortunate that those who struggled for the actualisation of June 12 mandate were abandoned while those who didn't know any thing about June 12 are those in the corridors of power making lives difficult for common people today," he said.

The APC spokesman stated that over 5,000 Nigerians, including the winner of that election, lost their lives in the course of the struggle, yet the government did not recognise their contributions.

Igbokwe stated that the effect of the criminal annulment was terrorism and kidnappings that the country is now witnessing in almost every part of the country.

"You see what is happening in Nigeria today; unemployment, poverty, kidnapping terrorism and all forms of crimes against humanity. These are some of the problems that June 12 election would have taken care of if the election was not annulled."

Deputy Whip of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Rotimi Abiru, expressed sadness that the country has not learnt anything from the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election.

Abiru, who spoke in an interview in his office at the Assembly complex, said "June 12 episode is still held in high esteem because we know we held an election that was acclaimed to be free and fair but which was annulled".

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