EDITORIAL: Nigeria fails to honour Nwosu, who midwifed historic June 12 election
Today, Nigeria is conducting the investiture to the hall of fame for the players in the 1993 presidential election: late Moshood Abiola, Babagana Kingibe and late Gani Fawehinmi. Nigerians, particularly the people from South-West Nigeria are happy that President Muhammadu Buhari has declared June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day and has directed full honour to the key players mentioned above.
It is a great day in the history of the country given that the people of the South-West Nigeria who had sought for appeasement for losing an illustrious son and his mandate in such a political melodrama have finally found justice. All South-Western states are marking public holidays today.
25 years after the election and its annulment, President Muhammadu Buhari revived the matter and did what majority of Nigerians have called the right thing though some Nigerians still believe there are some rough edges to Buhari’s declaration.
President Buhari in a statement on Wednesday directed that effective from 2019, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, marked every May 29 for the past 18 years, be shifted to June 12 to honour Moshood Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election in the country. Buhari said Abiola actually won the election.
The President also pledged to award Nigeria’s highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, on Abiola. He also announced the award of the second-highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, on Gani Fawehinmi, a pro-democracy campaigner, rights activist and legal practitioner. Fawehinmi passed on in 2009 at 71. The same GCON honour was also announced for Mr Abiola’s running mate in 1994, Babagana Kingibe.
No place was the name of the man who conducted the widely acclaimed election mentioned. Humphrey Nwosu, the Chairman of the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) has not been given any National Honour or recognition before.
It is instructive to note that Nwosu is one of the major players in the theatre and he is supposedly the most important person in the story. He is not supposed to be left unsung.
Although Nwosu has not showed any appearance of displeasure, it is worthwhile for the country to note that it takes courage to conduct a credible election. The man who conducted the 2005 election, Prof. Attahiru Jega would have a story to tell in this respect.
Nwosu, in a letter on to Buhari on Monday commended Buhari for recognizing June 12 as Democracy Day and for honouring the memory of Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 election.
Nwosu, in a letter to Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapha, said the conferment of national honours on Chief Abiola and his running mate, Amb. Babagana Kingibe “will rekindle the national consciousness of all Nigerians for a better nation.” The letter read: “I thank His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government of Nigeria for recognizing June 12 as Democracy Day and also honouring the winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
“Indeed, June 12, 1993 marked a turning point in Nigeria’s tortuous journey towards a democratic polity. It is an honour to the very hard-working men and women of the defunct National Electoral Commission under my leadership at this long awaited recognition. I humbly commend this action by the President.
“Undoubtedly, the democratic system of governance is the best especially for the multi ethnic nation like ours. I thank you for building on the foundation which my team and I laboured strenuously to establish and actualise on June 12, 1993.
“Certainly, the scheduled event on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 will rekindle the national consciousness of all Nigerians for a better nation. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control I will not be present at the investiture ceremony as I am outside the country”, Nwosu said in a statement.
Analysis of the election materials showed that Abiola, from South-West Nigeria, won the polls but the then Military government led by General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election and he was never formally declared winner nor sworn in the office.
Ahead of next year’s commemoration of Democracy Day on June 12, all six states in the South-West geopolitical zone are today jointly commemorating the day as a public holiday.
In Lagos, activities marking the day are expected to centre at the Ikeja, Lagos, residence of Abiola where civil rights activists are expected to congregate. Following prayers at his residence, a remodelled statue of the late politician is to be commissioned at the old Toll Gate leading into Lagos. The event is being put together by Lagos State government. A lecture to mark the event, jointly organised by Lagos State chapter of Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, and Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, will also hold today.
It was learned, yesterday, that politicians, including those who were active and not active in the crusade for June 12, are warming up to take advantage of the popularity of the late Abiola by identifying with the celebration, Vanguard said.
Whatever that is good for the goose is also good for the gander, an old idiom says. We note that Nwosu should be given his right place in history. He is not supposed to be left unsung.
Although Nwosu has not showed any appearance of displeasure, it is worthwhile for the country to note that it takes courage to conduct a credible election.