Compiled by Eric Elezuo
When on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari shocked Nigerians with the declaration that June 12 will officially become a national holiday to honour the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election, Bashorun MKO Abiola, not a few expected an avalanche of reactions.
Consequently, Nigerians from all walks of life have learnt their voices to the landmark decision; some good, some not so good.
Below is a compilation of what some of them said:
… If we are able to hold free and fair elections, if we allow Nigerians to elect their leaders without hindrance, if the will of voters is acknowledged, if the ballot is allowed to reign supreme in the next Nigerian elections, then this would have celebrated our true belief in the spirit of June 12 and the proper honour of Abiola, who died on principle, insisting that the rights of Nigerians and their votes must be respected – Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere spokesperson
“The Muhammadu Buhari administration made history today by conferring the post humous national award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Chief M. K. O. Abiola, the acclaimed of the June 12, 1993 presidential election for his huge contribution to the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria, By declaring June 12 Democracy Day the federal government has officially validated the integrity of the fair and free election that was criminally annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida junta… Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN)
“President Buhari’s action with regards to declaration of June 12 as democracy day and award of the highest honour to late Chief MKO Abiola are relevant, just, courageous and patriotic. The actions give hope that President Buhari can do the right thing and correct wrongs before it’s too late for him and for the nation, – Balarabe Musa, PRP Chairman
“…A courageous and bold step by President Buhari, without doubt, the right and just thing to do. June 12 was and is a defining watershed in our history. A truly great move by Mr. President and his allies in APC. A well-deserved honour to MKO and great recognition to the democratic struggle of our people. Besides, it’s an acknowledgement and great accolades for the invaluable sacrifice of our late June 12 comrades like Papa Rewane, Papa Adesanya, Kudirat Abiola and many others, including the media. Also Prof Wole Soyinka , Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and others remain great champions of our democratic heritage. I feel cool. Right now, the impact of the decision is earth shaking. That Nigeria will celebrate June 12 as National Democracy Holiday in our lifetime is massive and Asiwaju’s contribution in getting us here must be acknowledged” – Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi (STA)
“I am very happy and highly elated. It is a major thing to accept Abiola as the president of Nigeria that was not sworn in. The honour of GCFR is reserved for presidents. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who was the best president we never had, got it also without being president. I salute the President for the honour given to Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe. The GCON is always given to vice presidents.
“The acceptance of June 12 as the ‘Democracy day’ is in recognition of the supreme price that Abiola paid. It has elevated Abiola to the status of an international figure like Martin Luther King, who fought for justice and liberation in the United States” – Aremo Olusegun Osoba, Two-time Governor of Ogun State
“It is a great day for democracy. Giving Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi the highest honours is in appreciation of the sacrifices made by the members of the civil society groups. It is a honour for the people who were shot along Ikorodu Road, Lagos by the military during the protests against the annulment. It has been late in coming. The first civilian president in this dispensation ought to have taken the decision. But, we are grateful that Buahri has done it” – Olawale Oshun, former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives
“At last, President Muhammadu Buhari has become a politician. He has caught the nation completely unawares. Declaring June 12 as a ‘Democracy day’ is a monumental breakthrough in the history of Nigeria. It means that everything that was done to abort the wishes of the people have been erased from our political lexicon and history.
“I urge Nigerians to observe, gratify and reward Buhari for his position in Nigeria’s politics. Considering the present circumstances, Buhari’s name should be written in gold” – Deji Fasua, Chairman of the Committee for the Creation of Ekiti State
“The decision is accepted, 24 years after the annulment. We have always clamoured that June 12 should be the ‘Democracy Day.’ We have been marking it every year. The honours to Abiola and Fawehinmi are good.
“The greatest post-humus recognition is that Abiola should be treated as a past president and we want his portrait to be included among past presidents. Also, in memory of June 12, the president make a commitment to free and fair elections in 2019 – Joe Okei-Odumakin, Pro-democracy activist and leader of ‘Women Arise’
“It is a welcome development, but belated. It does not put food on the table now. He should go and restructure the country. What he has done now is a palliative. It cannot erase the problem in the country,” – Ayo Adebanjo
“The implication of his action today is that the election was free, fair and credible and therefore the annulment of the election was unjustifiable and illegal. Since he has gone to the extent of rewarding the late Abiola and his running mate for not being allowed to enjoy their mandate, it is an open admission that the annulment was illegal.
“The honest thing Buhari could have done was to revalidate the result of that election, by asking the electoral commission to officially announce the result and declare the winner. The fact that Abiola is dead does not make any difference, because his running mate is still alive.
“So, the election can still be made valid and since Abiola is not alive, his running mate can take over the reins of government, having been declared the winner of that election. Therefore, Buhari should have handed over power to Babagana Kingibe, who was the running mate of Abiola” – Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, Presidential Aspirant
“It is a welcome development. But, it is too late. The president ought to have done it before. Abiola deserves it. It is a welcome news. Pa Rueben Fasoranti, Afenifere leader
“The election of June 12, 1993 was the fairest election ever. Abiola won convincely. But, Babangida did not allow it to materialise. Democracy was murdered by Babangida. Democracy was crucified through the annulment of June 12, 1993 poll. Therefore, what the president has done is a right step in the right direction.
“On June 12, 1993, it was a Muslim/Muslim ticket. It was a clean and clear election. It is better to make June 12 the ‘Democracy Day;’ the day democracy was murdered. Things were orderly when I was in the House of Representatives in the First Republic and when I was in the Senate in the Second Republic. Some people have made the Federal Republic of Nigeria to a Republic of corruption. This is what Buhari is trying to end. I support Buhari’s decision to honour Abiola” – Senator Ayo Fasanmi
“One of the greatest acts of leadership is recognising what is good in others, that is what Buhari has done. He had written his name in gold in the political history of Nigeria” – Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, former Senate Deputy Minority Leader
“Abiola won the election but he was denied victory by Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Olusegun Obasanjo. This great injustice is what has been holding Nigeria down. Buhari has achieved what the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) failed to do while in power for 16 years. With this act, PDP has been buried.
“I want President Buhari to go a step further by paying compensation to Abiola‘s family because the June 12 saga had ruined Abiola’s chain of business. Abiola died in the struggle for his mandate, the Concord newspapers, the bookshop, Concord Airline and many others have gone under,” – Joe Igbokwe, Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress (APC)
This is what I expected from President Buhari immediately he assumed power in 2015. It is better than never.
President Buhari deserved commendation for having courage to revert the manifest injustice meted to Abiola – Monday Ubani, Lawyer and human rights activist
“It is a good way of immortalising the winner of the June 12 poll. We have been clamouring for it in the South West” – Chief Niyi Akintola, senior advocate
“It is a good one, though it is belated. We appreciate it that it is coming from him. The conferment of GCFR on Abiola is also welcome, it is commendable.
“Having said that, I think these are all desperate moves to woo the votes of the Southwest. It is like someone setting a trap and placing some very delicious food on the trap so that you swallow it and get caught.
“He wants to catch us once again in 2019. We have always demanded for the recognition of June 12, he has given them to us now, so that he can catch us again by the neck in 2019.
“What I will say is that we should play smart, we should thank him for it and show appreciation. These are things that Abiola deserved, so we appreciate it for doing him the honour,” – Femi Okurounmu
“I must tell you that this is high wire politics. Our president is waxing stronger politically. It has been a long time that many discerning Nigerians, including my humble self, had thought that the late Chief M.K.O Abiola, who died to uphold democracy should be honoured. He had opportunity to sellout; he had the opportunity to avoid the discomfort of incarceration, if only he could renounce the mandate. He did not yield to that rather he defended the mandate.
“I want to say June 12 will be an appropriate day to mark democracy. That argument has been put up for a long time. If by this time, President Buhari has decided to do the right thing, he should be commended. Though I said it was high wired politics, but it is politics in the right direction. It is politics that is induced in political savvy, it is a welcome development. There is nothing sacrosanct about May 29. It was the creation of Obasanjo and because of Obasanjo’s hostilities the man acted this way” – Chekwas Okorie, National Chairman, United Progressives Party (UPP)