Obioha: Greatest legacy for Abiola is making 2019 polls as free as June 12
• Government Should Recognise Sacrifices Of Other Patriots
Chief Ralph Obioha, one of the pillars of the struggle for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 mandate of late Chief MKO Abiola, in this interview with LAWRENCE NJOKU, SOUTHEAST BUREAU CHIEF, gave some insights on what the recent recognition by President Muhammadu Buhari meant for democracy and why they undertook the struggle among others.
What is the significance of recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day?
By the recognition, I have seen the cementation of democracy in Nigeria. I have seen the culture of ensuring that democracy is embedded firmly in the Nigerian society than ever. It has also again removed the stain on that same Nigerian democracy. You can confirm that a lot of people who became governors, who became senators, who became federal legislators, had no knowledge of the implication of what the President announced on Wednesday. So the significance is that we are now trying to correct some of the things that were not rightly or correctly done so many years ago.
Are there other areas of anomalies in the country that you feel should receive similar attention?
There is Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, whose life was also terminated over her stand to fight for her husband. She should also be given recognition, either by naming a federal University in her name or creating an institution that immortalises her. A lot of people are saying that it is a gimmick, but if it so, an honour had been done already on Abiola. It is something to celebrate. Nigerians have the right to view it differently.
Talking about June 12 that happened about 25 years ago, are there lessons that government can learn from it?
The conscience of Nigeria has now been touched by this recognition, it is mind bugling. President Buhari at times pulls certain surprises. The lessons are obvious that let nobody contemplate to create any injustice in the society. We are now approaching an election year, so it will be more important if the election next year is conducted on a free and fair basis. It will be the highest honour that will be given to MKO Abiola. If the elections are conducted where the Nigerian people will freely express their preference and whoever gets that preference by majority votes is given the mandate and power is transferred peacefully. If on the other hand, the masses believe that President Buhari has performed so well, that they will return him to power, so be it. But let it be conducted on a free, fair and transparent basis. I am sure wherever MKO Abiola is today, that will be his most sincerest desire. The greatest legacy that can be left on Abiola’s name is for the president to conduct a free and fair election that will allow Nigerians to express who should manage their affairs at the presidency level
Let me also add that since the President wants to be a true democrat by recognising Abiola’s contribution to democracy, my call for him is that after he must have conducted a free and fair election and if he wins again, in 2023, he should ensure that power is rotated to the Southeast.
Is making June 12 Democracy Day and posthumous award on MKO Abiola a big deal?
As the saying goes, better late than never. June 12 was the date the late Chief MKO Abiola claimed his presidency. It was adjudged and accepted worldwide as a free, fairest election that elected him president of Nigeria. The military had put all kinds of wedges, obstacles to abrogate it, but you see one thing about truth, right and justice is that no matter how long you bury it, it will still sprout one day, grow and flourish. I will applaud the courage of President Buhari to recognize what is just and right. The posthumous award put MKO Abiola in the rank of those who had been patriotic and made monumental contribution to the growth of this country. I applaud Buhari for the courage and am sure a lot of Nigerians feel the same way.
Some patriots saw that injustice 25 years ago and took up the struggle for the actualization of the mandate and in the cause of that, the principal beneficiary –Abiola- sacrificed his life. I feel that government has to look into some other issues about justice and equity. There were many people, but let me not mention my name first. We had people like Dan Suleiman, John Oyegun, Bola Tinubu, Wole Soyinka, Ndubuisi Kanu, Cornelius Adebayo, Alfred Rewane, Anthony Enahoro and a host of others, who also sacrificed so much to put the issue in the front burner. As a matter of fact, many of the beneficiaries of the present system may not know what we are talking about. Some were 10 or 12 years old when this incident happened and none had appreciated the kind of sacrifice that took place for what they are enjoying today.
Are you expecting more recognitions?
Injury, no matter who is injured, whether it is the mighty or the lowest, is an injury. It is out of modesty that I am playing down what I personally lost in that struggle. I lost a commercial bank, due to the antics of Abacha; I lost a flourishing brewery, I lost a vegetable factory, I lost a cement bagging plant that was taken over by Abacha cohorts and what have you. These are facts that are on the ground and even at that, I have always in many fora said that if I had passed through these to ensure the enthronement of democracy, it is enough for me. I still believe government should also recognise heavy sacrifices made by other patriots; they are not fools. Wole Soyinka must be mentioned among certain Nigerians, who left this country because of the struggle for the safety of their lives to put in the international fora the fact what had happened in Nigeria was anti-democratic.
What motivated you into joining the struggle for revalidation of June 12?
It is a mixture of patriotism and denial of the mandate freely given by Nigerians. A direct answer to you is that it was actually a struggle over the way the Nigerian affairs were being managed; the autocracy of the Military rule by its nature. So, my direct answer is that it was part of my commitment and belief that democracy will advance the course of Nigeria. At any opportunity I had, I have always said that if we had allowed the mandate of MKO Abiola and what he stood for and canvassed 25 years ago, if a fraction of it had been implemented, Nigeria would have been a better society today.
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