June 12: Buhari’s apology, Abiola’s honour


The recognition accorded the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, M.K.O Abiola by the federal government is well deserved.
Although coming 25 years after the election and nearly 25 years after its annulment, the presidential celebration is a welcome development.
This is the first time, that watershed event will receive such a loud mention inside the innermost sanctity of our presidential mansion. For all lovers of democracy, this token of appreciation is well received and well planned. To garnish the cake, President Muhammadu Buhari, openly apologised to late Chief Abiola’s, winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, for the injustice done to him by the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida led military junta.
The president assured that “Nigerians will no longer tolerate such perversion of Justice again.” That election said to be the freest and fairest election in the nation’s history was annulled by the military
president, Gen. Babangida.
The apology was tendered by President Buhari at the investiture of Chief Abiola as Grand Commandeer of the Order of the Federal Republic, GCFR at the State House Banquet Hall, the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
“On behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of late MKO Abiola, who got the highest vote (in the election) and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of the June 12 struggle,” President Buhari said before getting guests to observe a minute’s silence in honour of those who died.He acknowledged that the ceremony was not intended to open old wounds, but to right
the wrongs of the past. Indeed it was such an emotional turn of events. No one could have written this script or directed it so well.
According to President buhari, the decision to honour MKO Abiola and to declare June 12 Democracy Day followed years of clamour by the activists, statesmen, groups as well as the family, associates, and friends of the late businessman and politician should be accepted “in good faith” as this will help the nation move forward. He said, “we cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings, recognise that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and ease the future for the sanctity of free elections.”
“Nigerians will no longer tolerate such perversion of justice. This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country.”  Buhari added that by moving past the negatives of the struggle, Nigerians would be able to fully benefit from June 12. “Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12 – side of ill-feelings, hate, frustration, and agony. What we are doing today is celebrating the positive side of June 12,” he said.
“Nigerians, of their own free will, voted for Chief MKO Abiola, and Babagana Kingibe – the presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party in the 1993 elections.”
He accused the government of the time of cancelling the elections when it was clear who was going to be the winners.
Also at the event, the late Chief Gani Fawenhinmi  and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, were also conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON.
Speaking on the Abiola family’s behalf, Hafsat Abiola, one of the daughters of the late politician, who said Buhari’s apology was “very touchy” said the gesture was unexpected considering the relationship that existed behind him and the late Abiola Hafsat  told the audience that Abiola was already rehearsing how to deliver his inauguration speech as the president before the election was annulled. In an emotion-laden voice, she said her late mother told her how Abiola was standing before a mirror to rehearse his inauguration speech. She equally apologized to the president personally for whatever role her late dad may have played in removing Buhari from power in 1985.
We are very proud of these events and moving tributes. We are elated that apologies followed all the atrocities that went on at the time. We urge Nigerians to accept these apologies and decide this time to
unite in the spirit of that annulled to move in a new, refreshing direction. The election of June 12 clearly signposted what is possible in Nigeria. The fact that Nigeria can vote a southerner, vote without looking at religion and did so in a free, organized manner. We must learn the lessons and determine to do better.
We commend the federal government and call on it to look at other injustices in the land and find enchanting ways to smoothen relations.

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