Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu yesterday praised President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring the hero of June 12, the late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (M. K. O.) Abiola, and making the day a national public holiday.
Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, spoke at two different events marking the maiden edition of the public holiday in Lagos.
The two events were the June 12 celebration by pro-democracy groups at Abiola’s home in Ikeja and the maiden National Democracy celebration organised by the state government at the Blue Roof of Lagos Television (LTV) compound, also in Ikeja, the state capital.
Thanking President Buhari for correcting what he called an error of the nation’s historic record, Sanwo-Olu said June 12 demonstrated that free and fair elections are possible in Nigeria and that people’s hope can only be suppressed for a while.
He added: “The shining moment we are experiencing today peers back into our recent past and calls forth memories of that fateful day. It reminds us that free and fair elections are possible, that new beginnings are possible and that hope, the people’s hope can only be dashed and buried for a moment.
“It teaches us that hope, the pursuit of justice and love of the people does not die, no matter how sound they may seem to have been defeated by hard and cruel people.”
The governor praised those who were at the vanguard of the June 12 struggle, like former governors of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Ndubuisi Kanu, as well as Amos Akingba, Dele Alake and a host of others
“Indeed, we are all beneficiaries of that single event in history that birthed a taste for democracy, and today has guaranteed a voice for the people, a vote for every citizen and had established a government that people want and deserve,” he said.
Speaking on the theme of the celebration, Democracy and Restoration of True Federalism in Nigeria, Lola Ogundowole, a retired Professor of Philosophy from University of Lagos (UNILAG), said the fact that Nigeria was only able to realise the importance of June 12, after a quarter of a century reflected the self-contradictory nature of the country.
The academic noted that the late Abiola was the first elected President who never stepped into Aso Rock Villa in Abuja.
The chairman of the event, Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd), congratulated the past heroes of democracy for their struggle in enthroning the system of government.
He said a lot of blood of Nigerian youths had been shed to get to where the country is today.
Expressing sadness that a true and free poll was annulled in 1993, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain expressed joy that President Buhari brought back hope to Nigerians, even as he condemned the selfishness of some Nigerian leaders.
He said the President had honoured Nigerians by honouring the late Abiola, the symbol of June 12, 1993 poll.
In his goodwill message, Kanu said: “We have no choice than to unite and live in peace, if we don’t want to continue to suffer in the country. We have no choice than to live in unity and oneness and in love with one another for the sake of our future generation. These were the virtues that June 12 brought about.”
A former Head of Service (HoS) in Lagos, Sunny Ajose, recalled that in spite of Nigeria’s diversity, Nigerians came out en masse and voted for the late Abiola 26 years ago.
Alake, a former Lagos State Information Commissioner, said he was directly involved in the history of June 12.
The eminent journalist recalled that the late Abiola called him to his home town on the night of January 3, 1993 and directed him to make a publication that he was seeking the office of the President.
The editor of defunct Concord, which was established by the late business mogul, said: “He (Abiola) made me to make a publication announcing his choice to serve the country. The story, which then got published, was titled: Why I Want To Serve.”
Alake insisted that the late Abiola was motivated to serve the country, adding that everything about him was about the people and his fatherland.
He said even his programmes, titled: Farewell to Poverty, was about the same conviction.
At Abiola’s home, Deputy President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Isa Aremu said: “Never again should a person rule us without having our mandate. We need a leadership that is angry against underdevelopment. That is what the National Assembly stands for.”
One of the daughters of the late Abiola, Mrs Lola Abiola-Edewor urged President Buhari to tackle insecurity in the land.