Reactions have trailed President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to make June 12 the new democracy day in Nigeria and award of post humus honour of GCFR on late Chief MKO Abiola, acclaimed winner of June 12 1993 election.
Former Executive Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and campaigner of the June 12 Movement, Chief Frank Ovie Kokori, has described the formalization of the date as the National Democracy Day as the triumph of truth over injustice.
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Kokori said the news of the proclamation by President Muhammadu Buhari and the posthumous honours conferred of the icon of the struggle, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, made him the happiest living man.
“I am the happiest man in this country today because I now realize that the struggle we made, especially my union; NUPENG and PENGASSAN, was not in vain and most of us who suffered terrible deprivation at that time. I am happy to be alive this day.
They even said it is above October 1 because that was the day that we really fought for freedom and I have always said it everywhere. I am one of the happiest people on earth today and I appreciate this government because it took this government to come to realize the importance of that day.
Former presidential aide, Reno Omokri, questioned President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as the official day for the celebration of Democracy Day in Nigeria.
Describing the declaration as a joke, Omokiri said it is unbelievable that the President [Buhari] only considered late MKO Abiola for a national title after publicly praising his jailer, late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha.
“In desperation for the South West vote, he has declared June 12, Democracy Day and given MKO Abiola a post humous GCFR. What hypocrisy! This was a man who served Abacha while Abacha jailed Abiola. This was a man who praised Abacha, Abiola’s jailer!”
On his part, former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Alfa Belgore blasted President Muhammadu Buhari’s award of the country’s highest national honour to late Moshood Abiola insisting that all national honours cannot be awarded posthumously.
Belgore, CJN from 2006-2007, said the national honours cannot be awarded posthumously, much less the GCFR, which is the highest honour in the land.
“It is not done,” Belgore said in a interview with Premium Times. “It is for people living.
“The only thing they could do is to name a place after him, but national honours award, no,” he added.
Belgore, chairman of the 2016 national honours committee, also said he “was not consulted” by the Buhari administration before the decision was taken.
Belgore said under the 1963 National Honours Act, only soldiers or other servicemen could be awarded posthumous medals for their bravery.
The president also declared that Democracy Day would be celebrated on June 12 to further honour the memory of Abiola
The Peoples Democratic Party, however, said the national honour to be conferred on Abiola by Buhari smacked of hypocrisy and political desperation ahead of the 2019 presidential election.
PDP said that President Buhari’s action merely sought to use the name and person of Abiola to gain a political capital and was not out of genuine reverence and recognition for him.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday and signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party recalled that President Buhari, who was serving in the military administration of General Sani Abacha during the travails of Abiola, did not associate either by words or actions with the late winner of June 12 election.
Ologbondiyan further stated that history did not record President Buhari as sympathetic to the Abiola’s family when his wife, Kudirat, was gruesomely murdered by the agents of a government which President Buhari served.
He said, “It is, therefore, a sign of political desperation for President Buhari to seek to use Chief Abiola’s name as a tool to sway Nigerians in less than 12 months to an election where he (President Buhari) is seeking a second term.
“It is also shocking that the respectable grave of Abiola can be dishonoured by granting a posthumous award on him along with someone who denounced the June 12 mandate and preferred the company of his (Abiola’s) traducers.
“Even those who now masquerade as change agents were opposed to the naming of the University of Lagos after Chief Abiola.
“If President Buhari genuinely wants to honour Chief Abiola, he should do so by ending all anti-democratic proclivities of his administration and allow for the rule of law and respect for our constitution.”
“The PDP, therefore, urges President Buhari to shed his desperate actions in his quest to win the 2019 presidential election as Nigerians can no longer be deceived by such antics.”
Also speaking, former Kaduna State governor, Balarabe Musa said, “The decision is commendable and proper. I hope Nigerians will learn from it.
“June 12 was a watershed. We were united as a country to end the military rule. We shunned our differences to vote for Abiola. The election was peaceful.
“Buhari has the courage to do the right thing, which some thought was difficult. June 12 is the proper “Democracy Day” in Nigeria when people put their differences away.
“MKO Abiola sacrificed himself for the country. The chairman of the electoral commission at that time admitted that Abiola actually won the election.
“Therefore, I support the president on this. It is commendable because June 12 was a watershed.”