July 7 marks the 23rd anniversary of the murder of Chief MKO Abiola, the man popularly elected by Nigerians as president on June 12, 1993.
It was an election widely accepted as transparent, free and fair. It was also a watershed election in that Nigerians transcended the primordial interests of ethnicity and religion to massively vote a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The import of this is better appreciated today as the nepotism of religion and tribe by the powers-that-be sets Nigerians against one another and threatens to dismember the country.
Unfortunately, those gains were frittered on the altar of bigotry and selfishness of the military junta of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Abiola was eliminated after spending over four years in incarceration just because of his blunt refusal to compromise his principled belief that a mandate freely and enthusiastically given by over 14 million Nigerians cannot be overturned by military fiat.
Abiola displayed uncommon courage, unparalled dignity, and unusual candour in his staunch defence of the mandate given him by change-seeking Nigerians who, after trooping out to massively vote for him in 1993, had also engaged all the illegal regimes that held sway while the legal president languished in jail.
Twenty-three years after his elimination, Abiola still stands taller than all his adversaries and murderers.
He represents what Nigeria is capable of being but which we were denied because of the machinations of a greedy cabal fearful of the real CHANGE that Abiola not only promised but also typified.
All the troubles of Nigeria, which Abiola’s victory was meant to abolish, are the very shenanigans threatening the corporate existence of this country today.
A country that gleefully elected a Muslim/Muslim ticket would not hear of such today as it has become badly fractured along regional and religious divides.
Today, we remember MKO in the midst of insurgency ruins, Chibok and Dapchi abductions, among many others too numerous to mention, with people daily burying their loved ones in an innumerable harvest of death.
Abiola’s memory challenges us to end these atrocities and many other acts of terror that not only dehumanize us but also depreciate our human capital stock in the comity of nations.
Government at all levels must commit themselves to the democratic ideals that Abiola, his wife Kudirat, and so many other patriots paid dearly for.
Without these sacrifices, we may not have the democracy that we enjoy (?) today!
It is, therefore, a travesty that those who climbed on that rostrum to power and into office are the very persons endangering our democracy.
But conscionable Nigerians must not be deterred but should see the present challenges as evidence that the battle for freedom and liberty is yet to be fully won.
We, therefore, enjoin Nigerians to continue to insist on the following demands from their rulers:
i. The posthumous recognition of Abiola as President of Nigeria and for his portrait to be displayed amongst those of past Nigerian presidents and heads of State.
ii. A judicial commission of enquiry to unravel how the high treason of the murder of MKO Abiola was carried out while he was in the custody of the Nigerian State.
iii. Restructuring of Nigeria, which has become the only exercise that can stall and reverse the fragmentation of the country.
iv. Bringing about the true CHANGE that Abiola canvassed and epitomised with his campaign mantra of “Farewell to Poverty”
Nigerians, irrespective of creed, race, religious inclination or affiliation, must re-dedicate themselves to the ideals of the struggle for genuine democracy birthed by credible elections.
Entrenching the true spirit of June 12, which is free and fair elections, is the best way to immortalize MKO.
We salute the memory of MKO Abiola, whose election was clean, free and fair and was so adjudged by local and international observers.
And as we so salute the memory of MKO Abiola, we call for an end to political manipulations that have hallmarked most elections before and after that of June 12, 1993.
In the present clime of general atrophy, the restoration of MKO’s political agenda to emancipate the downtrodden and long-suffering Nigerian masses as the true objective of real democracy and true measure of national Independence has become a task that must be done.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin
President, Women Arise