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Democracy: Jonathan salutes MKO Abiola, Shehu Yar'Adua...Says they paid the supreme price

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Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday saluted the contributions of the late Bashorun MKO Abiola and the late Gen. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua in the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria after a series of military stop gaps. Both of them died in detention.

Ex President Olusegun Obasanjo serially ignored the suggestion of acknowledging Abiola and June 12.

Abiola, won the 1993 presidential election, believed to be the fairest and freest but which former Military President Ibrahim Babangida annulled. He died mysteriously on the eve of his release from incarceration in 1998.

The late Yar'Adua, a soldier-turned politician, died at the Abakaliki prison where he was detained without trial by the government of the late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha for calling for the termination of civil rule.

He also acknowledged the contributions of the late Alfred Rewane, a pro democracy activist and financier, who was brutally assassinated in October 1995 as well as human rights crusader, Chief Gani Fawehimmi, who died of cancer related ailment last year.

"The second wave of the struggle for democracy was to put an end to military rule that paved the way for this dispensation that began on May 29, 1999. It is in this spirit that we remember the great sacrifices made by Nigerian patriots, some of who paid the supreme sacrifice.

"We salute the illustrious memories of the M. K. O. Abiolas, the Shehu Musa Yar'Aduas, the Alfred Rewanes and the Gani Fawehinmis. The sacrifices that our compatriots living and dead have made to enthrone democracy should compel us to take our democratic enterprise more seriously and with greater vigilance.

"We must work to ensure that by the supreme sacrifices of these great heroes, it should no longer be necessary for the tree of freedom to be watered by the blood of yet more martyrs," President Jonathan said in his address to the nation early this morning on the occasion of Democracy Day.In his speech which is generally about "the labour of our heroes past," the president did not exclude the founding fathers of the Nigerian nation. "Today therefore, is a day to appreciate our resilience, our patriotism, and our faith in this Land of our common destiny. It is a day to remember, as our national anthem clearly instructs us "the labour of our heroes' past." So, when we reflect on democracy, we remember the struggles of our great nationalists. We remember the Herbert Macaulays, the Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Obafemi Awolowos, the Ahmadu Bellos, the Ernest Ikolis, the Aminu Kanos, the Margret Ekpos, the Gambo Sawabas and our living legend, Anthony Enahoro. We, of course, remember all the vibrant and youthful members of the Zikist Movement!

To President Jonathan, democracy is not only about elections but also about the level of popular participation in daily governance.

He noted that democracy also involves individual and group freedoms and liberties, including the freedom of association, right to practice a chosen religion and equal protection under the law.