Chief MKO Abiola
Wednesday June 6 historic declaration of June 12 as a democracy day and honouring the Late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of June 12 presidential elections with the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the highest honour in the land and late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), the foremost Nigerian human right lawyer with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), the second highest honour by President Muhammadu Buhari is good, in order and is in the right direction. It is a welcome development and commendable. Buhari has done well in this direction and we appreciate it.
It is also an honour to those of us who risked our lives at that volatile and unsafe period of national madness to fight for the revalidation of June 12 and enthronement .of democracy in Nigeria.
June 12 presidential election adjudged by the local and international observers as the most credible, freest and fairest election in the electoral history of Nigeria was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida 25 years ago. Late General Sani Abacha who took over from Babangida as the Military Head of State detained late Chief Abiola for declaring himself the President of Nigeria. An action late General Abacha considered affront to his government.
These unfortunate developments, however, brought about strong agitation by Nigerian journalists, lawyers, human right activists, pro-democracy groups etc. There were pro-democracy organizations such as the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), United Action for Democracy (UAD), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Human Right Africa (HRA), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), ail fighting for the release of late Chief MKO Abiola from the detention and revalidation of June 12 presidential election won by him.
There was unprecedented tension and notation in the country. There was confusion, skepticism, hostility, and hatred everywhere, even among the military. Nigerians were killed, detained and many others relocated abroad to save their lives. Many others died while demonstrating against the annulment and some died while traveling to their various homes to escape the bombing of targeted cities, including Abuja. There were bloods and tears all over the land. Media houses were closed down. The Military themselves were in disarray implicating one another. It was the most turbulent time in Nigeria. In fact, the annulment of June 12 was the greatest crime and injustice committed against Nigeria and its people in her quest to attain democracy since independence.
I was a member of NADECO in Abuja. I was arrested at the court premises on the very first day Late Chief Abiola was brought to court in Abuja. I was tortured and detained for 12 days, I was charged to court for writing an inciting and seditious article against federal government and obstructing justice by attempting to free late Abiola with some elements. The trial magistrate was Suleiman Belgore and my lawyer was Barr Pius Nwabueze Okoro from CLO. My prosecutors were retired SP Harrison Omeoka and Sgt Sunday Alfa. Harrison Omeoka was the court, chief prosecutor and he is my kinsman from Rumuekpe, Rivers State. Mr Osita Okechukwu, the current Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON) suretied my bail. Osita, a doughty and dogged fighter and I were members of NADECO in Abuja.
My case ran from July 14, 22-25, August 10, September 15 and in October 11,1994, I was discharged for lack of prosecution. Magistrate Belgore warned that I was discharged and not acquitted. So, if I wrote another inciting article against the federal government that I would be brought back to his court, and I answered yes sir and bowed out to freedom. It was the period, I realized that there was nothing like freedom to mankind, and right from there i vowed and prayed not to pass that way anymore.
Other campaigners for the release of Abiola arrested and arraigned in the same court were, Wole Abisoye, Mrs Bola Olisesan, Gafari Jimoh. Taofeek Adekojo, Tajudeen Lawal, Kasali Murouna, Godspower Nwolu, Orilaye Ajayi, Moses Sunday, Waheed Kasirnu, Gbake Akani, Alami Animachia, Gbenga Shimade and Ashimu Magiri. Their offenses were possession of seditious articles and posters with intent to cause public disaffection, criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, rioting and disturbance of public peace. They were discharged after two times appearance. Olu Akerele who was Late Chief Abiola’s closest aide was in between us and Abiola. Through him, Abiola instructed Mr Kayode Adetokunbo (SAN) to handle all cases involving his supporters, and he did.
President Buhari for whatever reasons and motives has done well and deserves our encomiums for this singular act He is now the saint of June 12. Whether it was self baptism for the sins he committed against democracy when he scuttled and truncated the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in December 31, 1983, so be it. All I know is that Buhari has from this day deeped himself in the ocean of democracy. He is now clean and made whole. He is now a born again Nigerian democrat.
For General Ibrahim Babangida, General Sam Abacha and General Abdulsalami Abubakar they would remain stigmatized and tainted as sinners of June 12, collaborators and obstructors of democracy in Nigeria for that era. It is on record that General Babangida’s government superintended for the annulment of June 12 presidential election won by Chief Abiola, General Abacha’s government superintended for Abiola’s incarceration and General Abubakar’s government superintended for Abiola’s death. These were the roles and contributions they made in murdering and burying June 12 which is now resurrected by President Muhammadu Buhari. They cut down a big tree shielding many souls.
As for Chief Olusegun Obansanjo, his conscience would continually prick him for his inability to recognize late Chief Abiola as a man who laid the foundation of the House of Democracy he occupied for eight, years as President of Nigeria. June 12 would remain a fatal wound in their hearts for life. Dr Good luck Jonathan tried, as he made an attempt to recognize and honour Abiola by renaming the University of Lagos after Late Abiola, but it did not work out, neither was his efforts good enough.
Three Generals tormented Chief Abiola to death and buried him in a shallow grave 25 years ago, one General exhumed Abiola’s body on June 6 and on June 12, 2018 accorded him a befitting burial. What Buhari did on June 12, 2018 was to accord late Chief Abiola a Presidential burial and to cloth the naked and forsaken June .12 with national attire as the father of our democracy. Whatever were his motivations is secondary. Baba Buhari is likened to Joseph of Arsmathaea who sought Pilate’s permission to take away the body of our Lord Jesus Christ for a befitting burial, he was allowed and he did.
While decorating late Chief MKO Abiola, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Amb Babagana Kingibe who abandoned Abiola and June 12 struggle to accept ministerial appointment in Abacha’s government with national honours, President Buhari said while it was not possible to go back into the past, it was necessary to recognize that a wrong was committed, and that Nigerians would no longer tolerate such perversion of justice. He maintained that his government’s decision to recognize June 12 was in the national interest and, therefore, urged all Nigerians across the divides to accept it in good faith, adding that the intention was to bury the negative side, of it and celebrate the positive side of the day the nation overcame all divisions.
Believe it or not late Chief MKO Abiola was the martyr for our democracy. He laid the foundation of our present democracy. He was the hero of our democracy. He died for Nigeria, democracy and liberty. His death was not in vain. He died a good death. He could have as well died in a plane crash as a business man traveling all over the world, or died quietly in his sleep. Such death would not had attracted the kind of sympathy, honour and recognition his death is enjoying today because he died for a worthy cause. He was a businessman and not really a politician and a democrat, but he stole the show and died for politics and democracy.
Today, late Chief Abiola had become the greatest politician and democrat in Nigeria, even in death. Now, you can’t talk about business and politics in Nigeria without mentioning his name. He had achieved them all. At 60, he had many wives and children, much money, many investments. These should be the consolation of late Chief Abiola’s family.
By his death, late Chief MKO Abiola had joined the great men and women of the world who laid down their lives for their countries to move forward. They include late President Abraham Lincoln, Late President John F. Kennedy all of the United States of America, late Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi both from India, Sate Rev Martin Luther king for the blacks in the United States, Late Prime Minister of Sweden, late Mr. Olof Palme, late Patrice Lumumba of the Republic of Congo, late Amilcar Cabral of Cape Verde, late Pakistani Prime Minister, Mr Ali Bhutto, late Captain Thomas Sankara of Bukinafaso, late Steve Biko of South Africa, four Ghanaian Generals etc.
People like Nelson Mandela sacrificed his time for his people. He was kept in a solitary confinement for 27 solid good years by the racist government of South Africa. Here in my state, Rivers State, indeed Niger Delta, people like Isaac Adaka Boro, Dr Obi Wali and Ken Saro-wiwa died for Niger Delta. Today, Niger Delta is relatively free and was on top with Dr Goodluck Jonathan as president of Nigeria for six years. Above all, our Lord Jesus Christ laid down His precious life for mankind for the reunion and renewal of our faith with God, our creator.
All these means that for a nation or a people to be socially, economically, politically strong; calm and stable, there must be ransoms sacrifice of its eminent and distinguished citizens. That was the ransom price and sacrifice late Chief Abiola paid. A price for democracy, liberty and democratic stability and thus worthy of recognition and honour. Today, Nigeria is at 18 years of uninterrupted democracy. Something we never witnessed before. Courtesy of Abiola’s sacrifice.
It is, therefore, my candid opinion and appeal to the federal government to as well gazette and engrave the names of the heroes of our democracy on a stone and conspicuously place it in the front of the National Assembly, Abuja for Nigerian children yet unborn to know those who fought for our democracy. They include, late Chief MKO Abiola, late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Late Chief Adekunle Ajasin, late Chief Abraham Adesanya, late Chief Anthony Enahoro, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) late Chief Mrs Kudirat Abiola, Chief Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Chief Ayo Adebayo, late Chief Bola Ige, (SAN) late Chief Alfred Rawane. Chief Ayo Opadokun, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Late Prof Chinua Achebe, Mrs Ayo Obe, Prof Wole Soyinka, Chief Arthur Nwankwo.
Others were, Chief Ralp Obioha, Chief Segun Osoba, Mr Abdul Oroh, General Alani Akinrinade, Mr Clement Nwankwo, Osita Okechukwu, Col Abubakar Umar, Dr Tunji Abayorni, Prof Odia Ofeimun, Chief Femi Falana (SAN) Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, Senator (Mrs) Chris Anyanwu, late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), Barr. Ledum Mitee, Major General Ishola Williams. Comrade Frank Kokori, Col Tony Nyiam, late Mr Chima Ubani, Commodore Dan Suleiman, Senator Shehu Sani, Chief Olabryi Durojaiye, late (Barr.) Oronto Douglas, Dr Baba Omolaja, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Prince I.K. Ogbuehi, Joe Igbokwe, Mr Kunle Ajibade, Mr Ben Charles Obi, etc. These were the great and brave men and women who sent the military back to the barracks where they rightly belonged and enthroned democracy in our country.
In the same vein the names of the heroes of our independence should also be recognized and engraved on stories and placed at the Eagle Square, Abuja for all to see. They include such names as the late Rt. Hon Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Late Chief Herbert Macaulay, Late Alhaji (Sir) Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Late Alhaji (Sir) Ahmadu Bello, Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Late Chief Anthony Enahoro, Late Dr M.I Okpara, late Mallam Aminu Kano, Late Chief Ernest Ikoli, Late Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Late Chief Dennis C. Osadebay. Late Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe, Late Chief Harold Dappa Biriye, Late Dr. Francis Akano Ibifam, Late Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, etc.
Furthermore, the National Assembly building, the heart of democracy should be renamed after Chief MKO Abiola. It should be known as Moshood Abiola Democracy House. Abiola’s birthday should be proclaimed as National Holiday just as America did to late Rev Martin Luther King. Prof Humphrey Nwosu who conducted the most credible, freest, peaceful and fairest elections in the electoral history of Nigeria should be honoured with the national award. Names of those who lost their lives during the period should be gazetted and a token paid to their families. These can assuage our nightmare, frustration, agony, shame and sorrows of June 12.
For the families of those that lost their loved ones during the period, they should accept it in good faith and as an act of God. Knowing that the mystery of life and death are beyond our understanding and explanation. That God only knows why they died and He alone has the power over life and death. He alone can comfort them and give back life to the dead on the resurrection day when we shall meet to part no more.
As for me, my soul will now be still. For each time i recalled the tortures I received from the heartless security men just to say how much money Abiola gave me, the annulment of June 12 election, the death of Abiola, the detention of many pro-democracy activists and death of many of them and other Nigerians, my soul quaked and 1 felt so Sad that our efforts, sufferings and struggles were in vain. But today, they weren’t in vain any more. So, now, be still my soul. Thank you, Baba Buhari.
-Prince Ogbuehi, a June 12 activist, wrote in from Eagle Island, Port Harcourt.