Buhari had shocked the nation with the news of his award of the highest honour in the land, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), reserved for serving and former heads of state, to Abiola, signifying the president’s recognition of him as the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 election.
Abiola’s deputy, Babagana Kingibe, was awarded the second highest award, Grand Commander of Order of the Niger (GCON) reserved for the vice-president. The president also declared the day Democracy Day.
Despite the controversy that surrounded the legality of the awards and declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, the president is going ahead with the investiture today, Tuesday, apparently in the belief that whatever defects there were could be cured by remedial legislative actions.
But the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has not relented in its criticism of the presidential honour, berating the presidency for politicizing the posthumous national award to Abiola.
It said if there was any person to blame for his travails, it should be Buhari for being part of the military coup in December 31, 1983 that toppled the then civilian administration.
The party also accused the president of precipitating the circumstances that led to Abiola’s travails.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP alleged that Buhari overtly betrayed his political inclination in the article published by the presidency, which relegated the virtues of Abiola and dwelt on praise-singing of the president.
The opposition party noted that the presidency, in the article, relied on false performance indices and insinuations, ostensibly aimed to set up perceived political opponents of the current administration as Abiola’s traducers.
It said the publication also confirmed fears that Buhari was desperately seeking to use Abiola’s revered name and person to draw political capital ahead of 2019 general election.
It said: “The Presidency in its desperation went ahead to demean the exalted office of the president, as well as the import of the posthumous award, by sponsoring tweets to divert public attention from Chief Abiola and his virtues, to procure praises of President Buhari.
“If there is any person to blame for Chief Abiola’s travails, should it not be President Buhari who, on December 31, 1983, staged a military coup that destroyed democratic governance, locked up politicians without trial and set the stage for the deferment of democratic governance, which Chief Abiola paid the supreme sacrifice to restore?”
PDP also said that the presidency, by asserting that “detention without trial, even under the military was wrong” has directly indicted President Buhari, who, in 1984 clamped politicians into detention without trial; an injustice he recently boasted about.
Meanwhile, the man who conducted the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, widely presumed to have been won by late Chief Moshood Abiola, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for recognizing June 12 as Democracy Day and honouring Abiola.
Nwosu, who was the chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) that supervised the election, in a letter dated June 10, 2018 and addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, in which he regretted he would not be able to attend Tuesday’s investiture, thanked the president for the gesture, saying it was an honour to him and his staff that organized the election.
“Indeed, June 12, 1993 marked a turning point in Nigeria’s tortuous journey towards a democratic polity. It is an honour to the very hard-working men and women of the defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC) under my leadership, at this long awaited recognition. I humbly commend this action of the president,” he said.
Saying the gesture would rekindle the national consciousness of all Nigerians for a better nation, Nwosu thanked the president for “building on the foundation which my team and I laboured strenuously to establish and actualize on June 12, 1993”.
He added: “It is our hope that expanding the frontiers of democracy of which all the people of Nigeria, regardless of ethnic group, will provide economic, social and developmental benefits that will certainly make Nigeria a great nation not only in Africa but across the world.”
Nwosu, however, regretted that he would not be able to attend the investiture owing to prior commitments.
Also speaking on the 25th anniversary of the June 12 election, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar warned against what he described as a consistent pattern of departure from due process to arbitrary tendencies.
Atiku said in a statement that there was a growing culture of arbitrariness in some of the institutions of government at all levels that was contradictory to the notion of inclusiveness and fairness that a democratic society guarantees.
He said the foundation of a democratic society was the guarantee of fundamental human rights that gives the citizenry the freedom of speech, freedom of movement and the ability of the people to belong to any lawful association that they deem inclined.
He noted that it was the exclusive responsibility of the state through the various security organizations to see to the protection of these fundamental rights of the people.
“Today, across our major cities and even in the hinterlands, citizens, especially the youth, can hardly walk freely in open avenues without the police stopping them to search through the content of their mobile handsets. Civil servants now lose their jobs just because they choose to criticize politicians in government positions,” he said.
According to him, “In many of the states across the country, there is a reign of fascism with governors who have suddenly become overlords dealing ruthlessly with anyone who dares to challenge their ruthless foothold of intimidation and oppression.
“Perhaps at this point, we need to remind ourselves that the democracy which we enjoy today did not come at a cheap price. It came at the cost of supreme price paid by persons that included Chief MKO Abiola, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Maj-Gen Shehu Yar’Adua, Chief Alfred Rewane and Bagauda Kaltho, among thousands of other patriots.”