Enlist Abiola as Former Head of State, Carrington Tells Buhari  

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  • Oshiomhole: June 12 more important than May 29

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Bayo Akinloye in Lagos

A former United States of America Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, has called on the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to immediately include the name of the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Moshood Abiola, among the list of Nigeria’s heads of state.

He made this call on Sunday evening following THISDAY’s inquiry as regards how he viewed the federal government’s honouring of the late Abiola with the country’s highest national award, GCFR. Carrington said: “From this day forward any listing of Nigeria’s Heads of State must include the name of Moshood Abiola, because on June 12, 1993 he clearly and decisively won what was then universally hailed as the freest and fairest election in the country’s history. On that day when Abiola swept even the home district of his opponent (Bashir Tofa, who had expressed his reservations about the award bestowed on Abiola), Nigeria was more united ethnically, religiously and regionally than it had ever been before or has been since.”

The former US envoy, who was involved in the struggle to help Abiola realise his mandate and get him released from prison under the regime of Gen. Sani Abacha, accused the military leaders of that time of masterminding the cancellation of the presidential poll results.

“But then, before the results were officially announced, the election was annulled. The mandate the whole country, North and South, had bestowed upon the president-elect was suddenly stolen from him at the behest of military leaders who feared that he would return them to the barracks where they belonged,” the diplomat added.

Meanwhile, Carrington, who is married to a Nigerian (Dr. Arese Carrington), has congratulated Nigerians on what he termed as the first national recognition of June 12 as a Democracy Day.

He said, “Arese and I wish we could be with you on this first national acknowledgement of June 12 as Democracy Day. Its future celebrations will remind generations of Nigerians yet unborn of the sacrifices their ancestors made.

“The names of MKO and his beloved Kudirat and all who joined them in martyrdom will be forever remembered along with those of their countrymen and women who lived to carry on the struggle that led to the restoration of civilian rule.

“I am heartened that, at long last, Nigeria, in the stirring words of its national anthem, honours the labours of these heroes past and recognises that they (the labours) have not been in vain. A century ago the philosopher, George Santayana, admonished us that ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Years later, at Barack Obama’s first inauguration, the poet, Maya Angelou, reminded us: ‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, and if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Also speaking on the declaration of June 12 as democracy day, former Edo State governor and a front line national chairmanship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, said June 12 was of more significance to Nigerians than May 29.

Similarly, Senator Abubakar Gada has said that former President Olusegun Obasanjo ignored an opportunity to honour his kinsman, Abiola, whom many Nigerians see as the sacrificial lamb for the present democracy when he was in office.

Addressing journalists shortly after opening his campaign office in Abuja, Oshiomhole said Buhari had exhibited good statesmanship by recognising June 12, which was the day the sacrifice for democracy was made in the country.

“I think we should salute the president for his statesmanship. There are many things he has done over the past three years that are outstanding in terms of finding the political will and demonstrating statesmanship,” he said.

Oshiomhole who used the opportunity to present his campaign director, Farouk Aliyu, said he was banking on a solid support base to pick the APC national chairmanship job.

“In a boxing match, you do not ask a featherweight to go into the ring with a heavyweight. It is going to be a very interesting convention. I think for all of us who believe in democracy, it is to be expected,” he said.

Speaking in an interview with THISDAY on Sunday, Gada said history would record the president as having taken a fundamental decision that has corrected the ills of the past and capable of making more Nigerians feel harmonious and to feel like one family.

The senator who acknowledged that Buhari’s honour to Abiola and the recognition of June 12 had political undertone, said that no one deny the fact it was a popular decision.

“What is important is that by political decision you do things that will serve national interest. Whatever perspective you may take from it, it was a political decision to annul the June 12 election, it is equally another political decision to restore it. So it is not a financial decision and anybody who will not want the politics of it will get it wrong but what is important is that by political decision you do things that will serve national interest,” he said.

In the meantime, as part of the preparations for its June 23rd national convention, APC screening committee yesterday commenced the screening of aspirants for various positions. Those screened yesterday included aspirants for National Secretary, National Woman Leader, National Youth Leader and Deputy National Chairman.

National chairmanship aspirants would be screened on Tuesday.

The chairman of the screening committee and governor of Katsina State, Bello Masari, told journalists that 179 aspirants would be screened.