State governments in the south-western Nigeria, human rights groups mark June 12; pour praises onMoshood Abiola
ACTIVITIES MARKING the eighth anniversaryof the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential electioncame up at Ibadan, Abeokuta and Lagos last Tuesday.
At Ibadan, the Yoruba used the occasion to unveil what they call the Yoruba constitution. The document contains 10 articles with 66 sections. It also contains an elaborate preamble and a lengthy appendix. Its stated goal is “constitutional re-formation of Nigeria.”
Bolanle Gbonigi, a retired Anglican bishop who chaired the occasion, extolled the virtues of humility, generosity and justice of the June 12 hero, Moshood Abiola. He was supported by Beko Ransome-Kuti, human rights activist and Hafsat, a member of the Abiola clan.
The guest of honour, Ahmed Tinubu, the Lagos State governor, was represented by his chief of staff, Lai Mohammed. The Oyo State governor, Lam Adesina, was represented by his trade union adviser, Layi Agbaje.
The Yoruba constitution was presented to the public by Segun Gbadegesin, a professor of political science at George Washington University, USA. It demanded among many other things, true federalism, regional police, regional armies, regional constitutions and resource control. It also pleads for a return to derivative revenue allocation.
According to Gbadegesin, “Yoruba wants freedom for all and life more abundant; that Yoruba stands for freedom of thought, conscience and belief.” According to him, “the Yorubaman’s ways of life show his beliefs. We want restructuring, not the break-up of Nigeria. We want restructuring in the manner set out in 1920 by Hugh Clifford, a former governor-general of Nigeria.”
Making a case for a sovereign constitutional conference, Gbadegesin said government was in place in 1954 when a constitutional conference was held, “so, we could also hold one now despite the government in place.”
Gbadegesin called Kudirat a reincarnation of Moremi; but while Moremi sacrificed her son to save the Yoruba, Kudirat sacrificed herself to save Nigeria.
In her speech, Hafsat Abiola, the guest speaker said that democracy guarantees civil liberty, the right of life, liberty, dignity of human person and the pursuit of happiness. She wants these liberties to be guaranteed to all Nigerians without exception. “Moshood Abiola and Kudirat Abiola fought and died so that freedom would ring everywhere in Nigeria. Yet, today freedom does not ring! Today, while we have political structures that have democratic labels, we do not have democracy,” she said.
She said Nigeria could only have democracy when the people are liberated from the shackles of ignorance, poverty and disease. “Democracy is about transparency in governance, openness; when a government is run like a cult, it becomes an oligarchy, not a democracy,” she said. “We are transiting to democracy,” she added.
In his review of the Yoruba constitution, Femi Fani-Kayode, a lawyer, berated President Olusegun Obasanjo for banning the broadcast of Abraham Adesanya’s speech to the Yoruba on radio and television.
In Lagos, the Civil Liberties Organisation celebrated June 12. Abdul Oroh, executive director of the organisation said at a press conference that the celebration was a tribute to all those Nigerians who lost their lives or became socially dislocated in the struggle for May 29.
“Although, we are not at the helm of affairs today, we would be proud, if not now, but in the future to say yes, we were there and we did what we had for our country,” he said.
He said some Nigerians viewed June 12 as the day Babangida fought dearly to preserve military power, while others see it as the day Nigerians stood up to challenge the culture of militarism, but it is still too early to say if the culture has been defeated or whether it is in retreat.
According to Oroh, the present administration has attempted to re-write history by denying its existence, “forgetting that but for June 12, we would not have had May 29. That is why we are marking June 12 as a tribute to the late Moshood Abiola, Kudirat, his wife and others who gave their lives in the struggle for democracy in Nigeria.”
Oroh told Newswatch that those at the helm of affairs today have not managed democracy well, because they don’t understand it, since they didn’t fight for it. He accused Obasanjo of lack of commitment to transparency because he failed to co-operate with other branches of government for greater democracy and accountability.
Oroh believes that democracy is endangered bysharia, violence in the Niger Delta, the endemic corruption and political instability engendered by a faulty constitution.
As part of the anniversary, the CLO published its 1999 annual report on the state of human rights in Nigeria. The report provided evidence that the 1999 elections which brought Obasanjo to power were a monumental fraud. The CLO insists that before new elections, there should be a constitutional conference that will review the constitution and conduct a referendum to ratify the constitution.
At Abiola Nursery School, Ikeja, Moshood Erubami, president of the Campaign for Democracy, recounted the ordeal of June 12, its significance as the harbinger of democracy. He told Newswatch that the annulment of June 12 election exposed the evils of military rule.
In Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital where the event was also marked, Governor Segun Osoba poured endless encomiums on Moshood Abiola and his slain wife, Kudirat. He described Abiola as a generous man who gave freely. He described how many benefited from Abiola’s benevolence. Osoba assured Abiola’s children that one day one of them would become the president of Nigeria. Osoba promised to ensure that June 12 shall be made a work-free day every year in Ogun State.
According to him: “All of us holding political offices today, from the president to the house of assembly members, to the councillors, everybody in government, we owe our survival today to MKO Abiola.” He said the revolution started by Abiola on June 12 is still burning.
Lola Abiola Edewor, eldest child of the late hero responding for her family, thanked the people for the honour done to her father. She gave special thanks to Osoba for his support for the Abiolas.
June 12 was marked as a public holiday in the AD-controlled states of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun.
Abraham Adesanya, leader of the pan-Yoruba cultural organisation, Afenifere, in his address to the Yoruba on the day said that June 12 did not create a gulf between the North and the South. He restated his call for the SNC and that the federal government should immortalise Abiola.
Additional reports by Phillip Oladunjoye and Rosemary Udoh
Newswatch Volume 33 No 25, June 25, 2001