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Abiola, Gani Families React To June 12 and Honour From Buhari

Mixed reactions have continued to trail President Muhammadu Buhari's action of honouring the late Chief MKO Abiola and the late Gani Fawehinmi (SAN).

While some Senators and House of Reps members think the President stepped out of life, the families of both men have something different to say.

Buhari has ordered that his proclamation of posthumous national awards of GCFR to Abiola and GCON to Gani, be gazetted immediately by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami. This is to enable the investiture go on as planned next Tuesday, the anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Abiola but which was annulled by the military government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

Abiola’s running mate Alhaji Babagana Kingibe is also to be honoured with GCON. Chief Fawehinmi was a major crusader for the actualisation of the election.

Buhari has also declared June 12 as the Democracy Day to replace May 29, beginning from next year.

In a letter to the President on behalf of the Abiola family, his eldest son, Mr. Kola Abiola said: “On behalf of the wives, children and grandchildren of the late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, I am writing to formally express our sincere appreciation to you for conferring him with the National Honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) and designating June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria going forward.

“You Excellency, as I wrote in my letter to you on June 12, 2016, in our minds, the award was the only befitting recognition of the importance of Chief Abiola’s fight for democracy for Nigeria which culminated in four years in incarceration/solitary confinement and decimation of his business and financial interests, before the ultimate sacrifice, being his life on July 7, 1998 at the age of 60.

“You Excellency, your decision to also designate June 12 as Democracy Day rights the wrong done to all the nation-builder and heroes that produced the democratic credentials on which the Nigerian polity now thrives. We are profoundly grateful to the people from all corners of Nigeria that worked tirelessly to ensure the most free and fair election in our nation’s history in 1993, fought valiantly for the Hope ’93 mandate given to Bashorun Abiola by the Nigerian people and died trying to protect the mandate.”

‘It’s well deserved’ 
The late Fawehinmi in 2008 rejected the offer of a national award by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. His family rejected a posthumous one offered by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, but accepted the Buhari offer “warmly”.

The scion of the family, Mr. Mohammed Fawehinmi, said: “Accepting the award is a fuller affirmation of the commitment of the late Mr. Fawehinmi. The award is coming at the same time as the recognition of Chief M.K.O Abiola as the winner of the June 12 election.

“The award to Abiola is a veiled indictment of the old decision by the evil geniuses of yesteryears. This would have been my father’s happiest moment, because what he had canvassed for is now being done.”

Mr. Fawehinmi added: “It is well deserved because Chief (Fawehinmi) practically killed himself for this country. And this is demonstrated by his detention in so many places, very dangerous detention centres that IBB, Abacha and Obasanjo put him in, because they intended to kill him outright but for the press and God.”

He added: “We are very, very excited! We are very happy. … It was what my daddy wanted. Now, he is being given an award, which is equivalent of award for Chief Justice of Nigeria and also the Senate President. It’s a thing of joy.”

Mr. Mohammed also hailed the honuor for the late Chief Abiola, saying, “This (award) is an entitlement to all Nigerians, because Nigerians voted this man (Abiola). They voted a Muslim/Muslim ticket, with Babagana Kingibe, his running mate. All Nigerians agreed to vote. That shows that it is the will of the people.”

He criticised those who said the honuor was extended to the family by President Buhari for political gains. He told online newspaper The Crest: “They that were not desperate, what did they do when they were there? Ask them! Ask them! What did they do? Did PDP recognise June 12? Did they recognise Abiola? That is what we have to ask ourselves now. In fact, (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo was jealous of Abiola. … He went to South Africa to say that the best man may not necessarily win an election. Shortly after that, he was invited to be the president. Imagine if he was the one who won that election and he was denied, how will he feel?”

‘It’s like a dream’ 
Abiola’s daughter Hafsat, in a television interview, said she felt like being in a dream when she heard of the President’s pronouncement.

She said: “I cannot believe it; I’m still praying that somebody won’t wake me up and say I was sleeping or something.

“I just cannot believe it, it’s so long overdue. (25 years), it should have been done in 1999. June 12 should have been declared the day of transition in 1999 and it was not and that was already a sign that Nigerians were going to be cheated.

“We had fought, fought soldiers and the army who wanted to oppress and dictate to us and when it was now time for us to begin this new democratic transition, it was as if they pulled out someone that would continue to protect their interest and not recognise and validate the interests and needs and rights of the people of Nigeria.

“We saw with June 12 that even before an Army, journalists came out, wrote articles, people were on the streets, labour unions went on strike, market women went on strike and shut down a powerful military dictatorship.”

In a Facebook post, she said: “Dear friends, words cannot truly express how happy I feel. Here is President Buhari’s executive order declaring that June 12, the day of the election that my father won, would henceforth be Nigeria’s Democracy Day and conferring on my dad the title of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, a title reserved for presidents. Twenty five years after June 12.”