Some Nigerians are asking the Federal Government to swear-in the running mate to Chief Moshood Abiola, Baba Gana Kingibe as President if government was indeed sincere and not playing politics with the issue of June 12, declared Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Recall that the President had, yesterday conferred the highest honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Chief Abiola posthumously as winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, and the second highest honour of Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Mr Abiola’s running mate, Baba Gana Kingibe as well as late human right lawyer, Gani Fewehinmi.
The government also recognised June 12 as Democracy Day and not May 29. This action, our reporter gathered, is greeted with mixed reaction across the country. While some Nigerians are hailing the move as redressing the injustice done Abiola and Nigerians who voted for him, others say the move smacks of desperation to win the hearts of Nigerians, particularly the Yorubas.
Reacting to the debate, Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Gov Ben Ayade, Mr Linus Obogo, said since Abiola has been awarded the highest honour posthumously as President, steps should be taken to swear-in his running mate, Babagana Kingibe who is still alive.
“Why not bring back his former running mate and swear him in since the man is still alive if you recognise the fact that they won the election? For me, that will be applauded universally and will show selflessness.
“If the administration had done this on May 29, 2015 and pleaded with the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, to swear them in on June 12, 2015 instead of May 29, that would have been more significant than what they are trying to do now,” he stated.
Obogo described the recognition of Abiola as winner of the election as “a gesture born out of desperation,” positing that the action of the federal government, taken few months to the 2019 election, was “like pressing the panic button.”
He said, “If you call it a gesture, it is a desperate one aimed at clawing back its already bad image and the goodwill it has already squandered particularly from the signs emanating from the South West. If you talk about June 12 today, yes, it is in the annals of our history. But again, I don’t know how many people remember June 12 even from the Southwest though it wasn’t a Southwest affair.
“That a government can, after three years of celebrating May 29th, and then in the last lap of its first term in office, suddenly wake up and remembers June 12, for me it is a gesture that shows more of a panic button than being altruistic. I don’t think that the gesture is aimed at honouring MKO Abiola’s memory or even the posthumous award.
Another Calabar resident, Mrs Eno Edet Eminue corroborated, saying the world would stand still for the Buhari-led administration if Kingibe could be sworn-in, adding “you cannot say you are honouring someone and redressing the wrong done in the past without allowing that person to enjoy all entitlements as President and allowing him to physically occupy Aso Rock. The gesture is a smokescreen, it is a mirage propelled by desperation to get votes of the Yorubas in 2019.”
But a critic, Ifere Paul, disagrees. In his reactions, he commended President Buhari for at least redressing the injustice of the Ibrahim Babangida-led junta, adding that June 12 “was a day that Nigerians all over the world expressed their franchise by electing Chief MKO Abiola as President.”
He said, “Chief Abiola and Kingibe were duly elected even though they were not sworn in. Even though Chief Abiola died, I think Kingibe will be happy that justice has been done. I think they should be recognised as past President and Vice President and they should be given whatever both past Presidents and Vice get. Although MKO Abiola did not rule Nigeria, he remains a hero of democracy since his election was the freest and fairest in the country’s history.”