NLC Commends President Buhari Over MKO Abiola, June 12
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for his decision to honour the late Moshood Abiola by declaring June 12 as Democracy Day.
Although the decision was critised by some as a political move to gain support from the South-west region, the group in a statement signed by its acting president, Solomon Adelegan, said it goes to show the role of government in modelling good democratic practices and recognising heroism as a cornerstone of political evolution.
The presidency in a statement on Wednesday announced June 12 as Democracy Day and said Mr Abiola, who died in July 1998, will also be conferred with the nation’s highest honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
It also said Mr Abiola’s running mate in the 1983 presidential election, Babagana Kingibe, will be conferred with the second highest honour of Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
“The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) commends the Federal Government for officially recognizing the June 12, 1993 Presidential election as a very important political watershed in Nigeria. The official declaration of June 12 as a national public holiday in commemoration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day deserves the applause of all Nigerians of goodwill.
“This gesture by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is commendable for its courage and thoughtfulness as it conveys significant democratic lessons.”
Saying the recognition was long overdue, NLC said June 12 is beyond the person of MKO Abiola “as it has become synonymous with the capacity of Nigerians as a people to rise above ethnic and religious sentiments to recruit political leadership strictly on the basis of antecedence, performance and issue-based political considerations.”
It also said the June 12 election “signposts Nigerian’s capacity for noble democratic behavior as the election was conducted without the violence, bloodshed, and acrimony which have always characterised elections in Nigeria, particularly political parties’ primaries which have been turned into ‘do or die and ‘cash and carry’ contests.
“The fact that MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe; both Muslims, enjoyed popular acceptance across the geo-political zones of Nigeria deals a cruel gavel on the aspirations of many politicians of today to divide and conquer us on the basis of where we come from and how we choose to worship.
“June 12 instructs all Nigerians to continue to say no to agents of divisive and damaging politics.”
The group however disagrees with the use of presumed winner for MKO Abiola, noting his victory till date was not contested.
“While we commend the Federal Government for honouring the contributions of Chief MKO Abiola, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe to the deepening of our democratic culture, we however object to the choice of ‘presumed winner’ in describing the victory of MKO at the 1993 presidential elections.
“Since there has never been any contestation about the victory of MKO Abiola at the 1993 polls, it is only logical and honourable to expunge the use of ‘presumed winner’ from official and reportorial narrative of the cruel annulment of June 12, 1993 election. In any case, government’s recent action in honoring Chief MKO Abiola makes irrelevant the use of the word ‘presumed’ in describing his victory at the 1993 presidential poll.”
It therefore urged the Federal Government to honour other Nigerians who suffered “enormous discomfort, state persecution and even paid the supreme price on the account of the June 12 struggle”, saying the construction of a June 12 Cenotaph in honour of these Nigerians would go a long way in institutionalising the lessons of June 12.
The congress also urged the Federal Government to demonstrate complete affinity with the ideals of June 12 by removing all obstacles to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria, which it believed can be “best achieved by fully implementing the Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Report and enforcement of provisions in our Electoral Act that criminalise violence, vote buying and other fraudulent practices and places a ceiling on political campaign financing.”