Nigeria: MKO Abiola - Afenifere Commends Buhari, Doubts Motive

MKO Abiola.

The pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, has urged Nigerians to take the federal government's declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the posthumous award to the late Moshood Abiola, with a pinch of salt.

The group said although it accepted the recognition of Mr Abiola and June 12 by the All Progressives Congress federal government, there is a need to test the motives and true intentions of the government with the coming elections in Ekiti, Osun and next year's presidential elections.

Mr Abiola was the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, which was annulled by the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida.

He was later arrested by the military dictator, Sani Abacha, and incarcerated while fighting to reclaim his mandate, until his death in detention in 1998.

The spokesman for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone chat on Wednesday that Afenifere had been on the struggle to get the government recognise the historic moment of June 12 and the sacrifice of Mr Abiola for two decades.

He feared that the government might be trying to woo voters ahead of the coming 2019 general elections, even though the gesture was a welcome development.

"We are not unaware that we are now in the election season and every attempt will be made to woo voters with issues that are popular," Mr Odumakin said.

"But be that as it may, we have canvassed for the honour of Chief Moshood Abiola since the annulment of June 12 and for June 12 to be declared democracy day for over two decades now. Therefore we accept the declarations and commend them.

"If we are able to hold free and fair elections, if we allow Nigerians to elect their leaders without hindrance, if the will of voters is acknowledged, if the ballot is allowed to reign supreme in the next Nigerian elections, then this would have celebrated our true belief in the spirit of June 12 and the proper honour of Abiola, who died on principle, insisting that the rights of Nigerians and their votes must be respected."

He said if the coming elections failed to meet these tests, then it would show that the declarations were as a mere political gimmick to hoodwink the electorate.

"They say fairness consist in giving even the devil his due. Like I said the true test of the motive and intention will come out in January, in fact right from Ekiti on July 14, we will know whether this is just a mere gimmick or a true spirit of democracy in the land. So it is not far for us to know the motive behind this," said Mr Odumakin.

He, however, warned Nigerians should be vigilant and watch out in the elections that are coming whether the spirit of June 12 had been imbibed or whether the government was paying lip service to the historic moment.

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