Afenifere Welcomes Declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day

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*Says govt must reflect spirit of June 12 in Ekiti election

From Paul Obi in Abuja

Yoruba apex socio-political group, Afenifere, Thursday welcomed the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and the conferment of national honours on late Chief MKO Abiola by President Muhammadu Buhari, but said that would not influence the voting pattern of the South West in 2019 election.

Abiola was presumed to have won the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, which was annulled by military president Ibrahim Babangida. Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as democracy day and the conferment of national honours on late Chief Abiola; his running mate, Babagana Kingibe; and human rights and pro-democracy activist, late Chief Gani Fawehinmi were seen in some quarters as political strategy to appease Yoruba voters who were at the forefront of the June 12 struggle.

Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said South West voters would not be influenced by the development.

He said: “We accept the declaration of June 12 as a public holiday and Democracy Day. It’s what we have asked for over the years. Even though we are not unmindful that we are in a political season where all kinds of gimmicks will be in the air to woo various constituencies. There’s no wrong in doing something that is right, that is the right decision, that is the right decision to be taken.

“However, June 12 as Democracy Day has thrown a real challenge to the government because Democracy Day is not just about a day we remember, it should be a daily life experience.

“And from Ekiti, July 14 to February next year general elections, that will be an acid test for this administration, for us to know whether that’s lip service to June 12 or genuine commitment to democracy, depending on, if those elections are able to conform with the spirit of June 12, which is free, fair, peaceful and elections with integrity. That is the challenge the government has thrown to itself.

Odumakin further stated that, “the South West voters are too sophisticated to be bought over by such a cheap gesture. The enlightenment here is higher, people can separate issues. Yes, Abiola has been honoured, but the people of the South West will know that the spirit of June 12 is different, and that it’s about harmony.

“Today, there are herdsmen killings everyday, everywhere, without anybody calling them to order, it’s a free rein of killings, everyday, killings are going on both left and centre. That’s not the spirit of June 12.

“You cannot say because you have named June 12 after Abiola, then, Yorubas are going to continue to vote for another round of killings for another four years, that’s not going to happen.”

Odumakin added that the South West would not vote for any political party or candidate who is opposed to true federalism and restructuring.

He argued that notwithstanding the gesture by the government on June 12, the clamour for restructuring would also be a critical factor in next year general elections.

“There is also the larger issue of restructuring, South West voters are literate, politically sarvy, therefore, cannot be bought by such a cheap political gesture,” Odumakin submitted.