I Craved To Be Ambassador Under MKO Abiola's Presidency - Carrington

Source: BABATOLA MICHAEL - thewillnigeria.com

LAGOS, July 23, (THEWILL) - Former United States Ambassador, Dr. Walter Omowale Carrington today said he had looked forward to being the US envoy to Nigeria under the presidency of the winner of the June 12 presidential election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale (M.K.O.) Abiola, whom General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida annulled his election without justification.

Carrington, who served in Nigeria during the regime of the late tyrant, General Sani Abacha, disclosed his heart’s desire at the presentation of a book titled; ‘A Duty to Speak: Refusing to Remain Silent in a Time of Tyranny’, to honour the former US ambassador who turned just 80.

"I would have loved to be an ambassador under the leadership of the acclaimed winner of the June 12 presidential election, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, but the military Junta at the period scuttled it," Carrington said.

A number of well-meaning Nigerians, who graced the book launch, showered encomium on Carrington.

Those at the ceremony include Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN); his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; ex- Commonwealth of Nations Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana; Professor Akinwunmi Ishola; Chief Adebayo Faleti; Senator Ayo Fasanmi; and General Alani Akinrinade amongst others.

He also commended Nigeria’s media actors, pro-democracy leaders and human rights activitists for the strategic roles they play to end the successive regimes of tyranny and secure Nigeria’s democratic transition more than one decade ago.

Carrington described former leader of National Conscience Party (NCP), Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) as a great human right activist for making him proud as a lawyer. He added that he "will ever respect Fawehinmi and Femi Falana among others," both of whom he acknowledged their roles in the country’s transition to democratic rule.

The ex-envoy acknowledged that the battle against the military junta became possible considering how Nigeria’s media stood their ground in the face of military threats and persecution as against their counterparts in the United States who "supported the annulment of the 1993 elections after they had been settled by the military ruler at that time."

Also at the launch, Carrington’s wife, Arese urged the country’s media, pro-democracy actors and human rights activists to reclaim Nigeria, a position she advocated strongly given the number of hydra-headed crises confronting the country after the successive regimes of military junta formally ended in 1999.

In her speech she titled Reclaim Nigeria, Arese attributed the state of the nation to subsequent bad leadership since independence, calling the people of Nigeria to stand up and claim what rightfully belongs to them.

Arese explained the need for all Nigerians to start the quest to rebuild Nigeria saying, "We must reclaim Nigeria and finish what we have started. Nigeria has got to belong to you the people, that’s when we’ll have the interest to save Nigeria."

The Ambassador was commended for his courageous battle against the General Sani Abacha military junta and for his struggle for a greater Nigeria as Nigerians irrespective of their classes were urged to learn from Carrington’s fight for a great Nigeria.

Elder statesman, Chief Anthony Enahoro described the former US ambassador to Nigeria as a fearless and courageous leader who contributed immensely to the June 12 struggle and Nigeria’s democratic transition.

Enahoro who was represented by the former Military Administrator of Lagos State, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, said, "Carrington struck me as a unique personality and he was totally instrumental to the formation of NADECO."

Speaking at the book presentation, Tinubu reflected the period of military dictatorship in the country and the June 12 struggle, lauding Carrington for speaking out loud and clear in support of late Moshood Abiola, as winner of the June 12 1993 elections despite pressure from his country men who spoke contrary to his stand.

The former governor said: "I must say that you are a man of greatness. Nigerians would ever be thankful to you. You stood your ground and that’s why you are celebrated today."

He called for credible elections while asking the National Assembly "to desist from dictating the time for the 2011 general elections. The lawmakers are to make laws and do not have the right to fix the time for elections. They are trying to absorb the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by dictating the time for the elections. Now we have credible INEC. Let us not disrupt it by infringing on their independence."

On his part, Mimiko urged all Nigerians to replicate Enahoro’s resilience in the struggle for justice in the 2011 elections tasking the people of Nigeria to ensure that their votes count. He said electoral fraud "is the greatest hurdle facing the nation today."

He added that the struggle for credible election "is on in Ondo, we are going to make sure every vote counts. The greatest challenge we have is that we must stand up for free and fair elections. If we get it, other things would fall in line."

Fashola, who also paid glowing tribute to Ambassador Carrington, said it became necessary to honour Carrington because of two reasons, which included the gains and assistance that the country and individuals had so far inherited from him.

He said the voice and speeches of Carrington while the late tyrant was in power, acknowledging that his role "made it possible for civil rule to thrive in the country. Somebody like me and my brother, Governor Segun Mimiko would not have been where we are today. This is a kind of voice that the umpire of our elections must learn from.

"If the umpire of the 1993 presidential election had gone ahead to conclude his job by announcing the results perhaps we would have not been in this mess. If the umpire of the 2007 elections in Ekiti and Osun States had gone ahead to announce the real results, people like Kayode Fayemi and Rauf Aregbesola, the AC gubernatorial candidates in the states would have not been in court waiting for justice today," he said.

The book, a collection of Ambassador Carrington’s speeches, especially between 1993 and 1997, was edited by the Mrs. Basirat Fawehinmi-Biobaku, daughter of the late human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi.

In her address at the book presentation, Fawehinmi-Biobaku said the book presentation was the fulfilment of her father’s dream to honour the ambassador for his role to enthrone democracy in Nigeria.

According to her, "When my father was on the sick bed, he told me that one thing he would have loved to do but that his ill health would not enable, is presenting a book in honour of Carrington. He however directed me to do so. I believe that my father will be happy in his grave seeing this presentation fulfilled. I’m happy I carried out my father’s wishes."