Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, CFR was born on August 14, 1937 and died under suspicious circumstances on July 7, 1998.
A popular Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Yoruba Egba clan, he is often referred to as MKO Abiola.
He ran for the presidency in 1993 and was widely regarded as the presumed winner of the election which was annulled by former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Across Nigeria, at least the six states in the southwest had been celebrating June 12 a public holiday and are holding ceremonies in Abiola's honour until President Muhammadu Buhari officially declared the day as Nigeria's real democracy day.
The president on Monday, June 10, signed the Public Holiday Amendment Bill into law.
The new law, according to the president's senior special assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Ita Enang, allows public holiday to be declared on June 12 every year, while May 29 is to be a handing-over date and working day.
In this piece, Legit.ng presents major facts about the historic June 12 and the unforgettable events surrounding it.
1. Several of those involved in the election are dead
MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the election, died in detention in 1998. Also, Justice Bassey Ikpeme, who gave the controversial order stopping the election, died in 1997.
Clement Akpamgbo, the attorney general and minister of justice who was involved in the legal tussles, died in 2006.
Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, the then second-in-command to General Ibrahim Babangida, who famously said Abiola could not be sworn in as president because government was owing him a lot of money, died in 2011.
2. The celebration lasted only two hours
Following the election victory, most Nigerians celebrated in the streets. However on that fateful day, 26 years ago, the celebrations were short-lived as two hours later, the military declared the election results annulled.
3. No Hausa or Fulani politicians featured on the tickets
Strangely, the 1993 elections had no person of Hausa or Fulani extraction picked as presidential or vice-presidential candidate.
Alhaji Bashir Tofa, who contested against Abiola, is a Kanuri from Kano. Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, a Kanuri from Borno state, was Abiola’s running mate. However, after the annulment, the Hausa/Fulani bore the brunt.
4. Abiola won the election
This is not surprising, but it is quite important to know that he won the election, fair and square. Abiola scored 58.36% of the 14 million votes cast.
His rival, Tofa, polled 5,952,087 votes, representing 41.64%. Only three states each returned more than one million votes, all southern: Lagos, Rivers (now Rivers and Bayelsa) and Ondo.
5. Abiola received the highest votes in Lagos state
Abiola received his highest votes from Lagos state. He smiled home with 883,965. Ondo state (now Ondo and Ekiti) delivered a total of 883,024 votes, which gave Lagos a good run for its money.
6. The southwest were solidly behind him
Abiola scored more than 80% in each of the five southwestern states: Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Osun and Ogun state. Osun’s 87% was his highest percentage nationwide. His 78% in Kwara was his highest outside of the southwest.
7. His rival scored poorly
Tofa did not score up to 80% in any state. He came close to that in Sokoto where he got 79%. Incidentally, Abiola scored his worst percentage in Sokoto (20%). Tofa, however, did not score up to 70% in any other state after Rivers.
8. June 12 should be a national holiday
Many Nigerians are of the opinion that June 12 should be a national holiday. The date is celebrated in honour of an annulled presidential election in June 12, 1993. However, only some Nigerian states were actually celebrating it until Wednesday, June 6, when President Muhammadu Buhari surprised the whole nation by declaring June 12 the new Democracy Day to replace May 29.
9. Babangida's role
The election was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida because of alleged evidence that they were corrupt and unfair, a development that ushered in a political crisis that led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.
10. Abiola declared himself president
In 1994, Abiola declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island, an area mainly dominated by Lagos indigenes, after he returned from a trip to solicit the support of the international community for his mandate.
After declaring himself president he was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of military President General Sani Abacha who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody.
11. Abiola's death
Abiola died on July 7, 1998 on the day he was due to be released from incarceration under suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of General Abacha. The official autopsy stated that Abiola died of natural causes but Abacha’s chief security officer, Al-Mustapha, alleged he was beaten to death.
12. The fairest election till date
The election was declared Nigeria’s freest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponent’s home state. June 12 is, thus, a day to remember chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as well as other democracy martyrs.
Legit.ng earlier reported that a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, commended President Buhari for granting a post humous national award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Chief MKO Abiola.
Falana also said the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day was an end to the hypocrisy of celebrating it on May 29.
According to him, it “validated the integrity of the fair and free election that was criminally annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida junta”.
He said the Muhammadu Buhari administration has made history by conferring the post humous national award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Chief M. K. O. Abiola, who was the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election for his huge contribution to the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria.
Democracy Day: When Should We Celebrate It? | Legit TV