By Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Sheriff Balogun in Abeokuta
Relations, friends and supporters of the late presumed winner of the 12 June, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola, yesterday commemorated the 23rd anniversary of the election reputed to be the freest and fairest in the nation’s history, but annulled by the then military president, Ibrahim Babangida.
Commemorators, including Abiola’s family and the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) called for the official release of the annulled election results, declaration of Abiola as the winner, his recognition as president and payment of all entitlements due to him as president to his family.
Abiola, the presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), was coasting home to victory against his main challenger, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC), when the Prof. Humphrey Nwosu-led National Electoral Commission (NEC) abruptly stopped the announcements of the results.
Although the electoral commission had announced the results of 14 out of the 19 states before the process was aborted, Babangida eventually cancelled the entire process on 22 June, 1993, sparking off a nationwide protest that saw him out of office in August 1993.
Gen. Sani Abacha, who took over from Babangida, refused to disannul the election, but rather took Abiola into detention. The presumed winner of the election never came out of detention and died on 7 July, 1998 the day he was scheduled to be released by the military government of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.
The annulled election, regarded as the nation’s symbol of democracy by many, has been commemorated every 12 June since 1994 by Abiola’s supporters, friends and relations.
Yesterday, the family asked the federal government to declare Abiola as the official winner of the election and pay all entitlements due to him as president to the family. His younger brother, Muritala Abiola, made the request in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
He said if the head of the Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, who held the position for only six months, still enjoys the perks of a former president, Abiola deserved even much more for dying for the enthronement of democracy in the country.
Muritala said: “First, we want the federal government to declare June 12 as democracy day. They should do even more than that. MKO was killed because of the election he won. It is you journalists or the Nigerian government that is calling him the acclaimed winner. He is not acclaimed winner, they should confirm him as slain president of Nigeria.”
He, however, commended the Ogun State government for keeping Abiola’s memory alive.
Berating the state government for not declaring Monday, 13 June, 2016, a work-free day since this year’s 12 June fell on a Sunday, Muritala said it was a negation of the law by the Ogun State House of Assembly declaring June 12 as a public holiday.
He, however, appealed to the state government to return the school established by the late Abiola, Salawu Abiola Comprehensive High School, Osiele, Abeokuta, to the family to administer.
Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who was represented by his deputy, Yetunde Onanuga, said everyone knew that Abiola was the adjudged winner of the 12 June, 1993 presidential election but was denied the chance to become the president.
He described him as the hero of the nation’s democracy. “We have been organising the democracy day walk and identifying with the Abiola family for the past five years that this administration has been in government,” he said.