How best to honour Abiola, by Tinubu
Former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has suggested ways the Federal Government can honour the late Chief Moshood Abiola.
He suggested the naming of a national monument in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) after Abiola, his posthumous declaration as president and the setting aside of a day in his honour.
He contended that though the President’s decision to rename the University of Lagos (Unilag) after Abiola was welcome, it falls short of what is required.
Tinubu spoke in Lagos on Wednesday while receiving protesting students of the university. Numbering about 100, the students, who handed a protest letter to the former governor, said they were in his Freedom House, Victoria Island office to express their displeasure over the renaming of their school.
Tinubu said: “We must congratulate the president for attempting to do it, but we say: do it right. MKO was elected by the entire country, not just by the Yoruba. He was arrested and taken to Abuja.
“He was tried, incarcerated and eventually died in very controversial circumstances in Abuja under the custody of federal agents. Abiola’s mandate was a national mandate which he tried to reclaim.
“But we must be careful not to localise or sectionalise MKO. Without Abiola, without June 12 elections, we would not be enjoying this democracy now or even the freedom we now have. The seed for what we enjoy was sown by Abiola’s victory on June 12 and millions of Nigerians who voted.
“There are preliminary options for President Jonathan. There is a pending resolution by the National Assembly that recommended that the National Stadium be named after Moshood Abiola.
“Let the President go ahead and name the Abuja stadium after Abiola- a pillar of sports and political icon. Then we will celebrate and respect that.
“Before now, various excuses were given over the inconclusiveness of the elections. Some of us were incarcerated and suffered during the June 12 struggle. Since then, the various actors, especially the umpire or head of the Electoral Commission, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, in his book declared the result of the election and that Abiola duly won.
“The President can on the basis of this go to the National Assembly to declare him winner, enter it into record and posthumously declare Abiola as the democratically-elected president of Nigeria. We will support the President on this and recognise this.
“I won’t stop saying the truth. I won’t stop supporting and promoting the democratic ideals I believe in; we must depart from doing things by fiat as if we are under the military.”
To the protesting students, Tinubu said: “You have the right to air your grievances over this matter. Let me speak to you as a mentor and a leader. Though I am in support of your position, but do not criticise the government without giving it alternatives.”
Tinubu urged the students to find a constructive way to tell the President what options are open to him. He cited the National Stadium, Abuja, National Hospital Abuja (where Abiola died), Eagle Square and the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Some of the student leaders said they were not against the move to immortalise Abiola, but were opposed to the motive behind the renaming of their school.
They argued that the President’s decision was not informed by his belief that Abiola should be immortalised, but an attempt by his government to trivialise Abiola’s name and gain political relevance in the Southwest.
The Coordinator, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D, Adeyemo Monsuru Tunde, said: “The President is not immortalising Abiola because he loves the Yoruba, but he is doing so to gain his lost political relevance across the geo-political zones in Nigeria, particularly in South West of Nigeria,”
A former Senate President, Unilag, Agbabiaka Ahmed, said the renaming of their school will not only destroy the brand name it had grown and maintained for 50 years, it was also capable of demoralising the students.
Ahmed, who later handed Tinubu the protest letter written on behalf of ‘concerned University of Lagos alumni, students and youths of Lagos State,’ wondered why the Federal Government failed to consult the school’s Executive, Governing Council and other relevant stakeholders before taking its decision.
The daughter of the late Abiola, Mrs. Hafsat Abiola-Costello, welcomed the honour.
In a statement yesterday, Mrs. Abiola-Costello described her father as an icon of democracy.
Praising President Goodluck Jonathan for the honour, she said the best way to immortalise her father was through transparent, free and fair elections, obedience to the rule of law, due process and banishment of injustice, poverty and want.
She urged the Federal Government to revisit the circumstances surrounding the death of her father to effectively close that dark period in Nigeria’s history and prevent a recurrence.
Mrs. Abiola-Costello said: “It was the sacrifices of pro-democracy activists, the supreme price paid by my father and other martyrs that led to the current civil rule.”