16 YEARS AFTER, NIGERIANS REMEMBER JUNE 12
Today has been declared a public holiday by the Lagos and Ogun state governments to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election widely believed to have been won by Chief MKO Abiola.
However, there have been varied reactions from politicians on the place of the presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) who died in custody on July 7, 1998 while seeking validation of his mandate by the military regime.
As a yearly routine since 1999, Ogun and Lagos state governments have continued to observe the day as a work free day in commemoration of Abiola's 'martyrdom'and the June 12 presidential election adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the political annals of Nigeria.
Commenting on June 12, Governor Babatunde Fashola said that the annulled election would continue to haunt Nigerians and would continue to remind the country that it has not crossed the 'finish line'. He said that Nigeria has to cross the finish line and clean up the polity in order to have real democracy adding that Nigeria was merely struggling to produce acceptable leadership.
A former governor of the old Oyo State, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, while reliving the bitter memories of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late business mongul, said his undoing was 'his strong link with the military'.
Olunloyo who was delivering the first annual memorial lecture in honour of the late Ibadan political strongman, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, who died on June 11, 2008 and was buried on June 12, 2008, said that with the prevailing circumstance at the time, former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, had no option than to annul the poll.
According to him, Abiola would never have been allowed to be President of Nigeria adding that the late politician moved too close with the military. “He operated contracts with them. He transacted businesses with them and helped them to transfer money to their foreign bank accounts. He knew their account.”, he said.
He said the late politician was more or less a 'super SSS', who knew every secret in the military and of the military men. They knew that if somebody like him became their president, they would have been in for a soup because of their secrets, Olunloyo remarked.
On his part, former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa described as regrettable the fact that the factors that shaped the outcome of the June 12, 1993 general election in which Abiola emerged as winner still remain largely unresolved. Musa listed some of the issues to include the resolve of Nigerians to unite as a nation, conduct free and fair elections and have a legitimate government.
He identified another unsolved issue as the failure of the progressive forces to be radical in their quest to take over political power in the country.
Also speaking, Prof. Omoruyi said that the mistake Abiola made was that he did not carry the people along in his defence of his mandate. He said that if that had been done, the soldiers would have been compelled to surrender to the strong will of the people.