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Soyinka, others remember Abiola, urge action against insecurity, poverty


Prof. Wole Soyinka (left); President, Women Arise, Dr. Joe Odumakin; Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd) and human rights activist Femi Falana (SAN) at the commemoration of MKO Abiola 21 years after his death in Lagos…yesterday. Story on page six. PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

• I am afraid for this nation, says Nobel laureate
Some eminent Nigerians, including Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, have urged the Federal Government to go the extra mile in tackling the myriad of challenges facing the country so that what the death of Chief Moshood Abiola represents will not be in vain.

Abiola was the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 election. He died on July 7, 1998, but recently, President Muhammadu Buhari recognised June 12 as Democracy Day and awarded the deceased the highest honour of the land, with National Stadium in Abuja named after him. Abiola’s death in the course of his struggle to reclaim his mandate is believed to have ushered in the current democratic governance in the country.

Soyinka and others, who made the call when they gathered at Abiola’s residence in Lagos yesterday to commemorate his death, specifically demanded poverty alleviation and urged the government to solve the problems in the nation’s education sector.


Also, the activists requested that the June 12, 1993 election results as belatedly declared by Humphrey Nwosu be gazetted, post-humous recognition be given to Abiola as president of Nigeria and his portrait displayed among past Nigerian presidents and heads of state, and a judicial commission of enquiry be raised to unravel how he died in custody.

Also present at the wreath laying ceremony organized by the Women Arise for Change Initiative (WA) at the Abiola’s graveside in Ikeja are President of WA and Center for Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin; NADECO Chairman, Ndubuisi Kanu; human rights activist Femi Falana (SAN); Chairman, Centre for Free Speech, Richard Akinnola; and the Executive Director, Grassroots Democratic Initiative, Rasaq Oladosu.

Soyinka said: “I am afraid, just looking at the level of poverty in this country, it scares me. Indeed, I am afraid for this nation.

“We cannot escape the past, but we can confront the challenges of the present, which of course very often arise from the past. We are inching slowly towards closure. One of these days when we gather, we shall be rejoicing. At that time, we would have progressed towards the elimination of some of the abnormalities and contradictions in our country.

“We have the issue of security, obeying the law, which is one thing that equalises all. President Muhammadu Buhari should lead by example by obeying the dictates of the law, so that other Nigerians can follow suit. It is this refusal to obey the law that has made some sectors of the populace think they are above the law and are causing anarchy in the country. We have a responsibility as a people, and government should address the issue of education, youth unemployment and insecurity.

“Just when we thought we were dealing with Boko Haram, then come these nomadic herdsmen armed with AK-47, and gradually, the kind of harmonious relationships that existed between various productive arms of this nation begins to disappear. We find ourselves on a daily basis being threatened, killed, our women being raped and other productive arms like farmers being driven off their own territories. These are critical issues that we need to deal with head on and urgently, so that we begin to celebrate the memories of the late Abiola and what he stood for”.

Falana said: “Many Nigerians are still in detention, you cannot have a democracy when you have people languishing in custody. Right now, not less than 150 people are being detained by the Navy, some of them have been detained for over two years and ten of them are detained in a ship on Marina.

“For the past one year they have not been allowed to change their dresses. As I am talking to you now, El-Zakzaky has lost an eye and if care is not taken, he may die in detention. Doctors have advised that he and his wife be flown abroad for treatment but the government is silent on it. If we must have democracy, we must free all our people, and ensure the right to life is respected, we must obey all court others.”


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