So, yesterday was Nigeria’s new Democracy Day and the investiture ceremony in Abuja was marked with emotive and inspirational speeches by some of the Nigerian patriots who were called upon to speak. I watched the entire event on television and there were quite a few high points from the event that one should not forget in a hurry. So this morning, to empower an ongoing belief, that it is possible to think positive thoughts about Nigeria, and have strong conviction that yesterday’s event – the recognition of Nigerian heroes like MKO Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi, and others – can signify for all of us, the birth of a new Nigerian nation, one that expunges hate and distrust, and replaces it with brotherhood, unity and love for one another.
Let me share some of those great, empowering speeches. First the President, who said:
“Our decision to recognize and honour June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25 year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12th elections. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divide to accept it in good faith. Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12. The June 12, which restate democracy and freedom. The June 12 that overcome our various divide and the June 12 that produced unity and National cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation. Accordingly, on behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of Late MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the cause of June 12 struggle.”
~ President Muhammadu Buhari.
MKO Abiola’s daughter, Hafsat gave a very emotive speech. Listening to her, I couldn’t stop the tears from welling up. She said:
“By recognising June 12, you have awakened so many heroes and heroines of Nigeria’s struggle who have shown (because they stood firm on June 12) that money cannot buy them. You have called up your own new army for the defence of this country.”
~ Hafsat Abiola Costello.
Gani Fawehinmi’s son, Mohammed was very emphatic:
“June 12 is the foundation of democracy in Nigeria. Buhari is the first head of state to listen to his people and have acted accordingly. President Buhari is the first sensitive and reasonable Head of State we have had in Nigeria.”
On whether his father, were he still around would have accepted the award…
“I know he would have taken it, I know my father more than anybody. There are two reasons why he would taken it, one, because June 12 was actualised, two because MKO Abiola was recognised as president-elect. And you can see from the suggestion at the Senate that they are going to eventually declare the election result and he is going to be given all his benefits which he has lost, after 25 years.”
~ Mohammed Fawehinmi.
As expected, Professor Wole Soyinka still managed to shake a few tables:
“Today perhaps is also a day to inaugurate a hall of shame so that as we have a hall of heroes in one hand, we’d also have a hall of shame as a lesson to future generations.”
But, he also said…
‘‘…Your apology has been most touching and on behalf of the Nigerian people, I accept it and I am sure that most Nigerians will agree with me. It is a beginning; I do not agree that this is a closure to the events of June 12. Closure will come by responding to those traumatized individuals, the victims of unspeakable torture, some of who were compelled to watch their beloved ones being tortured on behalf of a man who is determined not just to demonize and dominate his environment but to dehumanize that environment.”
~ Professor Woke Soyinka.
Hear Frank Kokori, erstwhile leader of NUPENG during the June 12 crisis:
“Like my personal experience as one of the most famous prisoners of conscience in the world, I saw that my country did not even appreciate the four years I spent in one of the worst cells in the world. And we did all these for our country and the country did not recognize us. So, now we are happy and we are very grateful to our president, the least president we expected who should have done this, Muhammadu Buhari. We thought people like Obasanjo should have done that for us long time ago. There was so much pressure, Muhammadu Buhari; we least expected it. So in doing it for us, he has a great soul and we appreciate it
~ Frank Kokori
Former Ogun State Governor Segun Osoba was in the spirit:
“The decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to halt the deceit, and repair the damage by taking the symbolic step of recognizing the promise of June 12, the sacrifice of Bashorun Abiola and many other heroes of democracy-the artisans, human rights organization, students, traders, journalists, academics, various professionals, organized religion and the labour movement through this conferment of the GCFR award on Chief Abiola is welcome. So is the proclamation of June 12 as our Democracy Day. It is never too late to correct a wrong. We congratulate Mr President and members of his government for this historic action.”
~ Segun Osoba.
And Kola Abiola, who magnanimously handed his talking spot over to his kid sister, Hafsat, submitted his written speech instead. In it, he said:
“My late father used to say: “you can’t shave a man’s head in his absence”. Mr. President, I dare say, with this courageous posthumous honour award being bestowed today, you have just succeeded in shaving MKO’s head behind him.”
And, seeming to respond to queries about his political ambition…
“From different corners of our nation, there is a growing tribe of people who will stop at nothing to remind us of what makes us different. As a person, I have chosen to think and act otherwise. Our demographics may tell us that we are a nation of 250 ethnic groups and over 400 languages, but our survival in the 21st century and beyond, demands that we see ourselves as one tribe – Tribe Nigeria. This is the cause I have chosen for myself. I am committed to working with like-minded Nigerians to make this day count in the annals of our nation.”
~ Kola Abiola.
Many others spoke other kind words, but my personal best take away from yesterday’s event is that – it was interesting to have it confirmed at last that Abiola funded the coup that threw Buhari from power, and into prison. Babangida, the man Abiola helped enthrone will later treacherously set Abiola up for a downfall; while it will be Buhari who comes back to right the wrong. Truth indeed sets free…
Oh, by the way, the glaring absences were expected. All generals know when to fight, and when to retreat…!