Key stakeholders in the struggle for the revalidation of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Chief Moshood Abiola, on Tuesday expressed joy that President Muhammadu Buhari decided to revisit the issue, 25 years after.
They spoke with State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja venue of the post-humous investiture of Abiola as Grand Commander of the Federal Republic; his running mate, Babagana Kingibe as Grand Commander of the Order of Niger and later human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi, also as GCON.
Those who spoke with journalists included Chief Frank Kokori, Chief Olusegun Osoba as well as Fawehinmi’s wife and first son, Ganiat and Muhammed respectively.
Kokori, who is a former General Secretary of the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, said Buhari was the least person expected to honour Abiola.
He said the general expectation was that former President Olusegun Obasanjo would have done it considering the pressure put on him and his administration on the matter.
He said, “If this is coming 25 years later, it means one day your country will remember you because some of us felt used when we came out of Abacha’s gulag and we were not recognised, I just felt what sort of country is this?
“Like my personal experience as one of the most famous prisoners of conscience in the world, I saw that my country did not even appreciate the four years I spent in one of the worst cells in the world. And we did all these for our country and the country did not recognise us.
“So, now we are happy and we are very grateful to our President, the least president we expected who should have done this, Muhammadu Buhari.
“We thought people like Obasanjo should have done that for us long time ago. There was so much pressure. Not Muhammadu Buhari, we least expected it, so in doing it for us, he has a great soul and we appreciate it.”
Osoba, a former governor of Ogun State and an All Progressives Congress chief, said with the decision, Buhari demonstrated that he is courageous to do what others could not do.
“I was just telling Chief Kokori that the fact that the two of us are alive to witness the event of today is a thing of joy because Kokori became the last man standing when everybody was taken and I was wrongly accused which is not true.
“So I am happy that we are all alive today. The significance of what we are doing today is that the President has the courage to do what others failed to do.
“Secondly, he has shown tremendous courage in recognising Abiola as late President of this country because I hate the language ‘the presumed winner’of the annulled June 12 election.
“This declaration of honour of GCFR, which is reserved for President and GCON for Vice President and other eminent Nigerians, shows that the President has answered our appeals over the years and I thank God I am still alive,” he said.
Mohammed Fawehinmi said his late father would have accepted the award because June 12 was actualised and Abiola recognised as President-elect.
“I feel very elated, I feel very proud, my family feels very honoured that all the suffering was not in vain and that the Nigerian people have a chance of better governance in future,” he said.
On the assumption that his father would have rejected the award if he was alive, he said, “I know he would have taken it, I know my father more than anybody.
“There are two reasons why he would take it. One, because June 12 was actualised. Two, because MKO Abiola was recognised as President-elect. And you can see from the suggestion at the Senate that they are going to eventually declare the election result and he is going to be given all his benefits after 25 years which he has lost.
“So, for that reason, it is victory for him because he went through hell and high waters to make sure that June 12 was actualised.”
Fawehinmi’s wife, Ganiat, also expressed joy that she was alive to witness the honour.
She said, “I was a bit disturbed. Every time the security will come, turn our house upside down, even his (Fawehinmi’s) office was broken into, they took away many files during IBB regime and they were not returned till date.
“So I just thank God that I am alive to witness today and I know that my husband will turn in the grave for this June 12 that is being actualised because he really fought and died for it.
“I believe God has a purpose for it. I believe that is how God wants it because you can’t run a race ahead of God. So, God has a purpose of actualising it today which is exactly 25 years after Hope ‘93 when Abiola wanted to be the President.”