20 years after: It’s not too late to establish the cause of MKO’s death —Adebanjo, Balarabe Musa, Ukiwe, Okei-Odumakin
PRECISELY 20 years after the death of the presumed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late Chief MKO Abiola, prominent Nigerians across the country have continue to lend their voices to the call for a probe into the sudden death, on July 7, 1998, of the business mogul.
President Muhammadu Buhari had, on June 6, recognised the late Abiola as the winner of the presidential election and subsequently, on June 12, post-humously bestowed on him the highest national honour of the land, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
The action of the president renewed the clamour by Nigerians for a revalidation and declaration of the results of the 1993 presidential election, even as several of them have been calling on the government to investigate the cause(s), immediate or remote, of the death of Abiola.
Lending his voice to the renewed call, a leader of the pan-Yoruba organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, told Saturday Tribune that it was never too late to look into the circumstances of the death of Abiola.
The elder statesmen further said that it was a sad commentary on the government to come out to pronounce Abiola dead without going the extra mile to tell Nigerians the cause of his death.
“The government must find out whatever was the cause. It is not a good thing that the cause of Abiola’s death, whether through some unfair means, is yet to be confirmed. So, a probe into his death is worth doing, at least, to keep the record straight
“Abiola died for principle and that is why he is being referred to as the father of democracy for Nigeria. This is because he refused to compromise his principle and he will forever be remembered for that. If he had been a selfish person, he would have given up his mandate and he would have been released. But he insisted on his mandate and nothing else. That is why he will always be referred to as a man of integrity.
“It is never too late calling for a probe into the circumstances surrounding his death, even 20 years after. There is no end to criminal prosecution. If there is evidence that he was murdered or killed, there is no reason why the death cannot be probed. It is not too late to establish justice. It can take 30, 40, 50 years to have that evidence come to light. Then the court will open the case and ensure justice. So, it is never too late to establish the course of Abiola’s death,” he said.
Also speaking, the first civilian governor of the old Kano State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, said probing the death of the late Abiola was the most acceptable and best step that President Buhari can take to legitimise the honour he bestowed on the late politician and also act as a deterrent against a future occurrence.
“It is the next political, courageous and acceptable step that Buhari can take to make sure that what he did by bestowing a national honour on the late Abiola was legitimate. This is because if he did not do it, then the same thing can happen again. Those who annulled the 1993 election can do it again.
“So, there is no alternative. If he wants the right action he has taken to have a meaningful impact on the state of the nation, then Buhari must set up a powerful judicial commission of inquiry to find out who were responsible for the annulment: What is their objective?; How did they succeed in that annulment? What has that annulment done to the politics of Nigeria? And what appropriate punishment should be meted out to the perpetrators to act as a deterrent to others?
“It does not matter how long it would take; it can even take 100 years to probe the death of Abiola. This is an issue that is affecting the lives of Nigerians. The probe has to be done. It is not a question of time lapse. Look at Nigeria as it is now. The situation today is worse than what happened in 1993 when Abiola’s election was annulled.”
Also speaking with Saturday Tribune, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, who was the Chief of General Staff to former President Babangida, said, while the call for a probe into the circumstances of the death of Abiola cannot be wished away, he was more concerned with confusions and problems besotting the country.
“I am more concerned and more worried with the confusion going on now around the country, rather than going back yet to the late Chief MKO Abiola era. The confusion going on now is disturbing and I don’t seem to make anything out of it.
“This however does not mean playing down on the late Abiola issue; not at all. But all I am saying is that the confusion seems to continue, even years after Abiola had passed through all those terrible things he went through. The bad situation has not abated and one does not know where it will end. That is where I am focusing on now, rather than going back,” the former Nigeria’s number two man said.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, President, Women Arise and Centre for Change, was also not left out in the agitation as she noted that today marked the 20th anniversary “of the liquidation of President MKO Abiola, the man popularly elected by Nigerians as president on June 12, 1993.
“President Abiola was eliminated after over four years of incarceration and his blunt refusal to compromise his principled belief that a mandate given by over 14 million Nigerians cannot be overturned by one gap-toothed general and few aides in crime.
“President Abiola displayed uncommon courage, unparalled dignity and unusual candour in defence of the mandate reposed in him by change-seeking Nigerians who trooped out to vote for him in 1993 and engaged all the illegal regimes that held sway while the legal president was languishing in jail.
“20 years after his elimination, President Abiola still stands tall than all his adversaries and his murderers. He represents what Nigeria is capable of being but which we are not because of the machinations of a greedy cabal,” she said in a statement.
Okei-Odumakin enjoined Nigerians to, among others, insist that a judicial commission of enquiry be set up to unravel how the high treason was carried out in custody and also that the result of the June 12, 1993 presidential election be recognised given the fact that the late Abiola’s victory has been given official recognition with the recent post-humous award of GCFR.