Precisely, Democracy day when President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan announced the renaming of the prestigious University of Lagos (UNILAG) as Moshood Abiola University , Lagos (M AULAG) as a part to immortalize the great democrat who fought massively to see the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria. But the ill- informed pronouncement of Jonathan elicited the University of Lagos students to embark on peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Lagos to express their stakes on the change of name of the institution. Though the University authorities claimed not to be informed of the President Jonathan's decision. Many political observers still believe that June 12, 1993 is the best day of Democracy to be celebrated in spite of many security challenges facing the country.
It is obvious that the federal government have started recognizing the efforts of the late M.K.O Abiola at the eleventh hour. He stood for democracy until his demise. Even other higher institutions have been renamed after great Nigerian heroes and heroines of the country. University of Lagos is one of the best federal universities which was established in April 1962. After all M.K.O Abiola was a world leader not a local one who needed world recognition and nothing else. He spent larger part of his life and businesses in Lagos, Even though he was from Ogun state. The federal government had said no going back to their decision. Students of University of Lagos have since returned to classes in spite of the sudden two weeks suspension of lectures and the demise of their VC. President Goodluck Jonathan needed to be commended for such brilliant remarks during his speech on democracy day. M.K.O Abiola has been named after a polytechnic before, but needed to be recognized internationally. Democracy is all about political reflection of the past and present leaders.
June12, 1993 still goes down in Nigeria's political history as the day that Nigerians defied the odds to take part in a election that was widely adjudged to meet the international standards of transparency and won by the late chief M.K.O Abiola in Nigeria on Sunday June 12, many commemorated the poll which was, however, annulled by the former Military regime and the winner of the election, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola who died after being held in prison in 1994 under the orders of then Military ruler, late Gen. Sani Abacha. Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was born August 24, 1937 and lived accomplished life until death took him away. M.K.O Abiola was a popular Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, astute politician and aristocrat of the Egbaland. He received several chieftaincy titles and awards to his credit. M.K.O Abiola was an international politician with repute in all ramifications. He ran for the presidency in 1993 and won absolutely, but remained President-elect without fulfilling his presidential mandate till death, as he was denied mandate when election results were annulled by the preceding military president Ibrahim Babangida as the then Nigerian maradona.
Late chief M.K.O Abiola 's memory is celebrated in Nigeria and abroad as June 12 remains indelible and a public holiday in some western states in Nigeria, there are also remembrance events arranged across Nigeria. Abiola's involvement in politics started early in life when he joined the NCNC at 19. In 1979, the military government kept its word and handed over power to the civilian government. As Abiola was already involved in politics, he joined the ruling National Party of Nigeria(NPN) in 1980 and he was elected the chairman of the party, Re-election was done in 1983 and everything look promising because the president re-elected was from Abiola's party and based on the true transition to power in 1979, Abiola was eligible to go for the post of presidential candidate after the tenure of the re-elected president expired. However his hope to become the president was shortly dashed away for the first time in 1983 when a military coup d'etat swept away the re-elected president of his party and ended civilian rule in the country.
After a decade of military rule, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) came under pressure to return democratic rule to Nigeria. After an aborted initial primaries, Abiola stood for the presidential nomination of the Social Democractic Party (SDP) and won Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, Former SFG and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice president of Nigeria to secure the presidential elections.
for June 12 ,1993 presidential elections Abiola's running mate was Baba Gana Kingibe. He overwhelmingly defeated his rival Bashir Tofa of the National Republican convention (NRC). The election was declared Nigeria's freest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponents home state.
President-elect Abiola won on the national capital Abuja, the military polling stations and over two-thirds of Nigerian states. However, the election was annulled by IBB , a political crisis that ensued which led to late Sani Abacha seizing power later that year. In 1994 president-elect M.K.O Abiola declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island. After declaring himself president. He was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of the military. Late Gen. Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody. M.k.O Abiola has been referred to as Nigeria's greatest statesman. Abiola was detained for four years, largely in solitary confinement. He died under extremely suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of Sani Abacha.
Lastly, Some avid observers believe that June 12 should be alternated for May 29 as democracy day and nothing else. There is no gainsaying that 13 years of uninterrupted democracy has helped Nigerians to realize their political dreams and freedom from military brutalization and unholy assassination. Jonathan' s administration is full of experimentation and observation of the mindsets of the Nigerian masses . M.K.O Abiola courageously emancipated democracy together with our forefathers of great democrats. The Military regimes never made it possible for this great politician to make his political marks in the sands of time. June 12 should be declare as general public holiday in Nigeria and discard May 29. It should not be south west affairs but Nigeria as a whole. Even Kudriat Abiola , the wife of democratic martyr and pro-democracy activist was murdered on 4th June 1996 by the military junta in name of democracy which activists still remembered her for the political support and others. M.K.O Abiola built 63 secondary schools and 41 libraries. He deserved to be name after University of Lagos. It is time for Jonathan to continue to immortalize our veritable hero in the person of M.K.O Abiola.
By Godday Odidi,
Public Affairs Analyst,
20 Oro Street, Ajegunle Apapa, Lagos.
Mobile: 08063458693, 08058124798.