By Jude Atupulazi
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari caused a major political stir when he suddenly announced the decision of the presidency to award a posthumous award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, to the acclaimed winner of the 1993 Presidential Election, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. He also announced June 12 as the country’s new Democracy Day which would be observed as a public holiday from next year.
Abiola, despite leading comfortably as the results of that election were being announced by the Humphery Nwosu-led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, was stopped from actualizing his presidential ambition by the then military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who annulled the election midway.
Even though the full results would later be released by INEC, Babangida stuck to his guns and ensured that Abiola never came near Aso Rock. In a sequence of events that blew like a whirlwind, first, Ernest Shonekan replaced Babangida after he famously ”stepped aside”, and then Sani Abacha eased out Shonekan in a palace coup barely 82 days after Shonekan assumed office.
Abacha wasted no time in clamping Abiola into prison after Abiola had been earnestly fighting for the restoration of his stolen mandate. He would remain incarcerated for five years until the next sequence of events took place.
Abacha died suddenly and one month after this, Abiola also died in prison. This was after the man who took over from Abacha, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, failed to release Abiola from prison.
It will be recalled that since the annulment of Abiola’s victory, many concerned Nigerians, especially from the western part of the country, had been clamouring for justice. Since then, they had declared the 12th June of every year as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
But while this has always been observed in the western states, the rest of the country shunned it, obviously reducing it to a sectional affair, a development that stereotyped such happenings in the country.
It is instructive to note that the man who bravely conducted that election that was the first freest and fairest election in the country, Humphery Nwosu, went under the radar after reported threats to his life for probably daring the authorities by declaring the results.
Nwosu’s action at the time was the first time an INEC boss would go contrary to the dictates of his boss. It was an act of bravery, given that he served under a military boss. But after giving Nigerians the best election at the time, he was soon forgotten and forgotten for good.
This was further proved when Buhari announced those to be honoured for their roles in the June 12 saga. Apart from Abiola, Buhari also named the late legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, as one of those to be posthumously honoured.
While we do not quarrel with that, we join other people who believe that Nwosu should have been remembered in asking that he be honoured too.
While we are not going to be concerned with the perception of political undertones connected with the decision to make June 12 the nation’s new Democracy Day, the truth remains that without Nwosu’s action, there would have been no June 12 as we know it today. It was because he announced the results that people felt certain that Abiola actually won. Without that, whatever would have followed would have been mere conjectures.
We therefore insist that to effectively bury the ghost of June 12, Prof Humphery Nwosu should equally be given rightful place in history by being recognized as others have. That, and only that, will satisfy all sections of the country.