Human rights activists gathered at the late Chief MKO Abiola’s residence in Ikeja to lay wreaths in commemorating Chief Moshood Abiola Kashimawo’s deeds in actualizing democracy in Nigeria and also demanded of the federal government to uphold the annulled 1993 presidential election by declaring Abiola one of the past presidents of Nigeria.
It was also demanded that June 12 be declared democracy day instead of May 29 and that Abiola’s family be compensated for their loss. “The real democracy day is June 12 because it was the day Nigerians united despite religious differences or ethnicity and voted for hope ’93.
It was the first time Nigerians supported a Muslim-Muslim ticket but unfortunately the election was annulled, and that marked the beginning of MKO Abiola’s journey to martyrdom” Olawale Okunniyi said.
One of Abiola’s sons, Jamiu, also appealed to the federal government to announce the result of the 1993 election and declare his father as a president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He also mourned his mother who was assassinated in 1996 while her husband was held in detention.
The activists also said that for Nigeria to get it right as a nation, true fiscal federalism must be practised. Mike Ozekhome said; “we must return to the era where regional governments were autonomous. They generated funds and put in 25% of their earnings as a tax to the federal government”. He opined that it was how the likes of Sardauna of Sokoto, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and Nnamdi Azikiwe, developed their regions. “Why have we become so lazy? Why do we rely on Abuja at the end of every month to go and receive crumbs from the master’s table? Why do we always want a part of the national cake without baking “he questioned. He believed that the uprising of insurgencies and militants in Nigeria were results of centralised federalism practised in Nigeria.
Alhaji Shetima Yerima also believed that for Nigeria to witness progress, the central government must be made unattractive. He said that the 1999 constitution is a fraud forced on Nigerians which they must speak in unison against: “we cannot get it right when we still use the same 1999 constitution. Decree fostered on us by the then military government.” He expressed sadness in that after the struggle to install democracy in Nigeria, the country is yet to get it right. He encouraged Nigerians to embrace unison of purpose in fighting Nigeria’s many challenges and expressed regret on his perceived disparity between some representatives at the last Confab.
The former Chairman of Amuwo Odofin, Local government area in Lagos state and former Students’ union president of Lagos State University (LASU), Ayo Adewale, expressed his excitement over the proposed new age benchmark to contest election, and asked that it be further reviewed to 18 years of age since same age is allowed to vote and be enrolled in the military. He enjoined the government to encourage inclusive participation of youths in governance.
Niyi Babade, a veteran journalist, also presented a video documentary of series of events before and after the 1993 presidential election annulment. The event marked the 23rd edition of June 12 Democracy Day Anniversary with the theme: “Hope ’93, June 12 and Popular Change in Nigeria.”