Echoes of the June 12, 1993 presidential election reverberated at the National Conference on Thursday when a motion seeking national recognition for the presumed winner of the poll, the late Moshood Abiola, was moved at the confab.
The motion, which was moved by Orok Duke, saw the delegates divided along regional lines as those from the southern Nigeria favoured the motion while those from the North rejected it.
Those who were opposed to the motion, led by a representative of the civil society, Mallam Nasir Kura, were shouting “no!, no!”
The reaction led to a rowdy session, which attracted the attention of security men and others, even outside the plenary.
The mover of the motion, Duke, said that apart from Abiola, others that died as a result of the annulment of the election deserved to be honoured.
He specifically asked for the permission of the plenary to pay tributes to all those who died, including Abiola, who he described as the one who spearheaded Nigeria’s democracy.
Duke added that the conference should cause the authorities to always remember “June 12 as a watershed in the history of Nigeria.
“I suggest that a monument in tandem with what the conference had proposed for other heroes and heroines should be recommended in honour of MKO Abiola.”
His motion did not go down well with some delegates as they continued with the shouts of no, no. But for the quick intervention of the Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, the disagreement might have probably led to a free-for-all among the delegates.
The anti-June 12 delegates, which included Umaru Mohammed Hadejia, representing Jigawa State, continued their opposition to the motion, but Duke refused to be intimidated.
He argued that the country could not afford to carry on as if June 12 never existed, and further argued that many Nigerians died on that day.
“June 12 is a preamble as to why we are here today, it is for the continuation of an unfinished business of 1993 that we are here. Moshood Abiola paid that ultimate sacrifice and it is not something we can wish away and assume that it never happened to us.
“I was an active participant, and some of the delegates here were victims of June 12. If we forget history it will repeat itself as a tragedy. Those who fell for the sake of June 12 should be remembered today.”
Duke’s motion was supported by Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who said he was disappointed by the opposition from some delegates to the motion.
He said, “It is unfortunate that even members of this assembly, particularly those of us who were victims of Abacha, regard June 12, 1993 as a mere issue.
“I think the delegate who raised this motion should be praised rather than vilified. Without June 12 there will be no May 29. June 12 is the basis of our freedom and democracy and we should remember the day for what it is worth.”
The Deputy National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Issa Aremu, agreed, adding that the best way to remember June 12 would be to have a free and fair elections in 2015.
Aremu said, “What we are seeing today shows we have not learnt from what happened on June 12. Elections are still becoming a do or die affair with a lot of unnecessary and avoidable violence.
“The real memory of June 12 to be significant for all of us and for us to make it worthwhile is to reaffirm our commitment to free and fair elections in Nigeria.”
But Hadejia described the motion as “irrelevant” and an attempt aimed at wasting the time of the conference.