BAYELSA State Governor Seriake Dickson; Second Republic senator, Chief Ayo Fasanmi; former Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Mrs Florence Ita-Giwa; former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Comrade Ledum Mitee and labour leader Isa Aremu yesterday added their voices to the commendations that have trailed the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to declare June 12 as the nation’s Democracy Day.
On different occasions yesterday, they commended the President not only for recognising the landmark that the June 12, 1993 presidential election represents for the country but also for honouring the acclaimed winner of the election, Chief MKO Abiola, with the highest national honour.
In a statement issued in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital yesterday, Dickson commended President Muhammadu Buhari for immortalising Abiola, the winner of the presidential election.
The governor said although the award was belated, the gesture would partly address the wrongs of the past and strengthen democracy, insisting that it was better late than never.
But the governor called on President Buhari to declare Abiola as a President that was never sworn in and urgently sponsor an executive bill to the National Assembly in order to legitimise it.
He said declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, giving national honour to Abiola’s running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, as well as giving posthumous national awards to Abiola and the late legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, were in order.
The governor, however, called on Buhari to show the same political will and patriotism on the critical issue of restructuring Nigeria. He said the President should ensure that Nigeria is restructured with power devolved from the centre to the federating units and fiscal federalism enthroned to guarantee balance, peace, prosperity and stability in the country.
He said a restructured Nigeria would address the dysfunctional system, over concentration of power at the centre, pseudo-federalism and the expropriation of the resources of the Niger Delta.
While stressing that, those championing the cause of restructuring were the real patriots, the governor believed Buhari would etch his name on the sands of time and become “a Nigerian hero of all times if he restructures the country.”
The governor also urged the President to honour the then Chairman of National Electoral Commission (NEC), Prof. Humphrey Nwosu with a national award for his uncommon courage and commitment to the conduct of transparent elections in June, 1993, stressing that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.
On her part, Ita-Giwa said with the development, democracy has been strengthened and entrenched in the country.
“I look at it from the point of view of honouring people who put in efforts and those who lost their lives in ensuring the sustainability of democracy,” she said. She said it was also a relief, especially for the family of the late Abiola, who must have carried the burden and anger for many years.
Ita-Giwa said the declaration will give them more confidence in Nigeria. Reacting to insinuations that it was a political move, she said: “In democracy, in my many years of experience, people would apply politics to things that are done devoid of political thinking.
“For me it is a good thing to happen to this country.” Expressing support for the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Comrade Ledum Mitee, said the decision was worthwhile.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents yesterday, Mitee lauded the change but added: “Beyond the pronouncement, the Federal Government should ensure it upholds the values of June 12, as the 2019 general election is coming.
“What made June 12 remarkable is not the month and number but the values MKO Abiola held for the return of democracy and for free, fair and credible election.”
He challenged the government at all levels to replicate the credibility and fairness in the forthcoming elections. Second Republic senator, Chief Ayo Fasanmi, said the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day was in order.
He said: “What Mr. President did really made me happy because it is better late than never. “The 1993 presidential election was the best, freest and most transparent election in the history of Nigeria, and acknowledging that and declaring the day of the election as Democracy Day is worthwhile.”
He said on the day of election, Nigerians from the North and South went ahead to do away with ethnic and religious sentiments and voted for Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and Baba Gana Kingigbe on Muslim-Muslim ticket.
According to him, June 12 really brought all Nigerians together and the day that had provided a united front for the nation must be celebrated. Labour leader, Comrade Issa Aremu, also hailed President Muhammadu Buhari for bestowing on the late Chief MKO Abiola Nigeria’s highest honour and making June 12 Democracy Day in place of May 29.
Comrade Aremu who is a member of NLC NEC and General Secretary of the Textile Workers Union, said President Buhari has ensured democratic consolidation by posthumously honouring Chief Abiola, as long demanded by democratic forces. Aremu added that by conferring Chief Abiola with GCFR, President Buhari had commendably rekindled faith in sustainability of democracy in Africa’s largest democracy.
According to him, “The President gave the correct signal that never again would any group of people violate the mandate of Nigerian people through mandate annulment.
He said: “President Buhari has brought integrity to governance by shunning the hypocrisy and shameless denials of past leaders of Nigeria that June 12 was truly a watershed in the struggle for democracy in Nigeria.
“Labour agrees with the administration that June 12, 1993 was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29, as it was on June 12, 1993 that Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our independence.” (The Nation)