•Nwosu writes Buhari, excuses self from event
Moshood Adebayo; Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye; Aidoghie Paulinus; Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja; Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
As President Muhammadu Buhari confers honours on the heroes of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission (NEC) that conducted the poll, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, has written to excuse himself from the event.
He told the president in his letter: “Certainly, the scheduled event on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, (today) will rekindle the national consciousness of all Nigerians for a better nation. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I will not be present at the investiture ceremony as I am outside the country.”
He, however, commended Buhari for recognising June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day and for honouring the memory of Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the election.
There have been calls for the inclusion of Nwosu in the list of those to be honoured on account of the annulled presidential election.
The letter released yesterday in Abuja by the Director, Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), Lawrence Ojabo, read: “Indeed, June 12, 1993, marked a turning point in Nigeria’s tortuous journey towards a democratic polity. It is an honour to the very hardworking men and women of the defunct NEC under my leadership at this long awaited recognition. I humbly commend this action by the president.
“Undoubtedly, the democratic system of governance is the best, especially for the multi-ethnic nation like ours. I thank you for building on the foundation, which my team and I laboured strenuously to establish and actualise on June 12, 1993. 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.”
Meanwhile, Senator Victor Umeh, representing Anambra Central has described Nwosu as “the actual hero of the 1993 general elections.”
Speaking to newsmen in Awka shortly after being made the ‘NUJ Man of the Year 2017’ by the Anambra State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Umeh stressed that though it was commendable on the part of the president to honour Abiola, his running mate Babagana Kingibe and Gani Fawehinmi, doing so without the man who took the risk to ensure the election held in the freest and fairest manner ever and declared result, was another act of injustice and marginalisation of Igbo.
“Nwosu conducted the 1993 elections and defied all manner of pressures. He was also in the process of announcing the results of that election when the soldiers stormed his office and whisked him away with the results of the election.
“When they called him on phone not to announce the result, he refused and was already announcing the results state by state and was on course to getting to the final declaration when the soldiers stepped in, put gun on his head, stopped him and whisked him away.
“So, celebrating those who were presumed to have won the election and forgetting the person who ensured that that election took place and conducted it in the freest and fairest manner was a grave omission on the part of the Federal government,” he said.
However, former National Chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Tony Anenih, says he stands by his views on June 12, as expressed in his book, titled;
“My life and Nigerian politics.”
Abiola was the candidate of the SDP in the election.
When asked to comment on the pronouncement of June 12 as Gemocracy Day, the Iyasele of Esanland and former Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said: “Have you read my book? Ok, go and read it.”
The former minister of works had in his autobiography alleged that Abiola kept the leadership of the SDP in the dark while entering into an agreement with General Sani Abacha to overthrow the Interim National Government (ING) headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan on November 17, 1993.
He said Abacha was the Secretary of Defence when Abiola entered into the agreement with him, claiming that Abiola mistakenly sealed the agreement with the hope that Abacha would hand over power to him after sacking Shonekan.
He said the agreement was phoney and hollow, adding that it was an agreement, which was inexplicable and inexcusable in its folly and terrible in its consequences.
Anenih said if Abiola had brought the agreement to the notice of the leadership of the SDP, he would have been well advised.
“When the Abacha take-over was announced, there was jubilation by all those who knew of the ‘agreement’ between Abiola and Abacha.
“The Nicon Noga Hotel (Abuja) was in celebration mood as all those senators who had a pre-knowledge of the so-called agreement and who anticipated that Abacha would handover to Abiola the next day or immediately were shouting MKO! MKO!! Presido! Presido,” he said.
“I wish he had listened to my advice not to declare himself president of this country. If he did, I believe he would, in all probability, still have been alive today. Frustration arising from the collapse of his scheming drove him into the extreme step which, in the end, set up a chain of events that ultimately cost him his life.”
In another development, the PDP, yesterday, said the December 31, 1983 coup that brought Buhari to office as a military leader was responsible for the fate that befell Abiola. A statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the coup, which destroyed democratic structure, set the stage for the circumstances that led to Abiola’s travails.
The opposition party also accused the Presidency of using the event of today to score cheap political points.
Reacting, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has warned against what he called a consistent pattern of departure from constitutional due process to tendencies of authoritarianism.
He said in a statement marking the 25th anniversary of June 12, that “there is a growing culture of arbitrariness in some of the institutions of government at all levels that is contradictory to the notion of inclusiveness and fairness that a democratic society guarantees.”
He espoused that the foundation of a democratic society “is 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 is the exclusive responsibility of the state through the various security organisations to see to the protection of these fundamental rights of the people. But it becomes an anathema in a democracy if institutions of government begin to act in negation of these noble objectives.”
He recalled the recent campaign by youths across the country against the brutality of the anti-robbery unit of the Nigeria Police, noting that up till now there has yet to be a fundamental reform in the operations of that unit.
“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 criticise politicians in government positions. There are even suggestions in some quarters that civil servants should be barred from signing to social media networks.
“Opposition politicians are regularly being hounded on wanton criminal and civil prosecutions. All of these narratives have become a consistent pattern of behavior that is antithetical to an open and democratic society.
“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.
“At this point, we need to remind ourselves that the democracy which we enjoy today did not come 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.”Former chairman of Mushin Local Government, Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Odele, also hailed Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, adding that the honour done to Abiola is well deserved.
Meanwhile, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, has demanded public disclosure of proceedings of the meeting that Abiola participated and died in the proceess.
Bamigbetan, who spoke during this year’s International Archives Day celebration organised by the State Records and Archives Bureau at Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos yesterday, said the public disclosure would help put in proper perspective the activities that led to the death of Abiola thereby confirming or disabusing the claim that he died after taking tea during the meeting.
“The declaration of June 12 has often support a long running investigation into that circumstance. And all concerns should come forward and reveal what actually happened in the process of that circumstances,”