President Muhammadu Buhari Yesterday, Wednesday renamed the Abuja National Stadium after late Moshood Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 Presidential election.
President Buhari made the announcement while addressing the nation on Democracy Day celebration in Abuja, noting that while alive, Chief MKO Abiola gave immense support to the development of sports in Nigeria and Africa so much that he was named and honoured as Africa’s Pillar of Sports.
He recalled that Chief Abiola formed the Abiola Babes Football Club, which was based in Abeokuta and was one of the big teams that dominated soccer in the country between 1982 and 2001 before it was disbanded.
Buhari decried what he described as “injustice” meted to the winners of the 1993 Presidential Election, and assured that his administration would continue to correct injustices in the society.
“As we all know, correcting injustice is a pre-requisite for peace and unity.
“As part of the process of healing and reconciliation, I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with National Honours as I did with late Gani Fawehinmi.
“The purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the Presidential election of that year.
“Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called Moshood Abiola National Stadium,’’ he said.
On development of infrastructure, Buhari highlighted that dedicated agro-industrial processing zones would be developed on Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) basis to increase farming yields, agricultural productivity and industrial output; and added that the over 2,000 kilometers of ongoing federal road and bridge projects across the country will be completed to reduce journey times and the cost of doing business.
“As I mentioned earlier, critical feeder roads will be built to facilitate easier transportation for people and goods from rural areas to major roads.
“We are at advanced stages of securing investments to modernize and expand our transmission and distribution infrastructure, ensuring that electricity is available and affordable for all Nigerians.
“Several rail, seaport and airport projects are at various stages of completion. We will open the arteries of transportation nationwide.
“It is a fact that Nigeria has more gas reserves than it has oil. Over the last four years, we have become a net exporter of urea, which is made from natural gas.
In his own contribution, the All Progressives Congress National leader, Senator Bola Tinubu has dedicated the maiden Democracy day celebrations to activists and students, particularly, the late Dr Beko Ransom-Kuti, Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) and many students that sacrificed their lives for the nation to have history.
Speaking at the at the Eagle Square, venue of Democracy Day celebrations in Abuja, Tinubu posited that the victory of MKO Abiola, at the June 12, 1993 presidential election defied tribe, ethnic and religious sentiments and the day marked the beginning of transparent and open democratic system.
According to him, the supreme sacrifice Abiola paid after his monumental victory at that particular period of history is the freedom of democracy we are enjoying, noting that democracy is the most difficult system of government to manage.
“I highly value human commitment to freedom and democracy, we did that and it took 20 years to recognize our efforts,” he said.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Mr Ita Enang stated that the June 12 was not only to celebrate democracy, but to call attention to the sacrifices made by Abiola. The significance of June 12 to Enang was the recognition of the day the first freest election was conducted in Nigeria.
“For the next generation of Nigerians, let the day be a history for them and let them know that civilian government is still better than authoritarian government,” he said.
In Yenagoa, former Bayelsa Governor Timipre Sylva on Wednesday described June 12 2019 Democracy Day as a moment of deep significance in Nigeria’s history.
Sylva indicated this in a statement by his Media Adviser, Mr Julius Bokoru, noting that Nigeria has made significant progress over the years in spite of the daunting challenges.
“Nigeria’s democracy, though still fledgling, has been hard fought and steep to come by.
“It has come at the wake of sacrifices from patriots, extraordinary selflessness from statesmen and above all, unflinching resolve in Nigerians to yearn and strive for a country tall and brave in justice, equity and fairness
In the meantime, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Chief Gani Adams, on Wednesday urged Nigerians to imbibe the lessons of June 12 struggle by not giving up on the nation’s democracy.
Adams made the call at the commemoration of June 12 Democracy Day in honour of Late Chief MKO Abiola, organised by the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), in Lagos, while speaking on the theme: “The Mantra of June 12 and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria.”
Adwms said the actualisation of June 12 as Democracy day showed there was hope for a better Nigeria.
“Chief MKO Abiola died for democracy to be sustained in Nigeria and the June 12 struggle has been on for 27 years, but we thank God that our struggle ended in victory.
“One of the lessons of June 12 is that you do not give up on a course or a struggle and I urge Nigerians not give up on our democracy.
“With continued struggle, our needs and yearnings as a people will be met someday, just as June 12 has been eventually declared as Democracy day in Nigeria.
“Nigerians must continue to demand for good governance and social justice. In fact, that I’m an Aare Onakakanfo will not stop me from fighting for the rights of Nigerians.
“This is because I’m an Aare with a conscience,” he said, commending President Muhammadu Buhari for recognising June 12 as Nigeria’s rightful Democracy day.
He also urged him to take a step further in honouring the memory of MKO Abiola by recognising that restructuring was the way out of the country’s current challenges, stressing that if Nigeria is restructured, terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen crisis and insecurity will become history.
Also speaking, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Centre for Change Initiative, urged the Federal Government to make a posthumous declaration of MKO Abiola as a past President of Nigeria.
Okei-Odumakin said that entrenching the ideals of June 12 was the only way to properly immortalize MKO Abiola.
“When we have not restructured and decentralised powers in Nigeria, when we have not conducted free and fair elections, when there is insecurity of lives and property, when Nigerians are yet to be taken out of poverty, then we cannot say we have immortalized Abiola”, Okei-Odumakin concluded.