President Muhammadu Buhari has received criticisms over the decision to confer GCON on MKO Abiola’s running mate in the annulled 1993 presidential election, Baba Gana Kingibe, alongside heroes of the June 12, 1993, struggle, late legal luminary, Gani Fawehinmi and Abiola who will get the highest honor in the land, GCFR, albeit posthumously.
Afenifere, a Pan-Yoruba Socio-Cultural Organization, condemned the conferment of GCON on Kingibe, citing how he abandoned the entire struggle to take up ministerial positions — first as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and later Minister of Internal Affairs — in the then despotic government of the maximum ruler, late Gen. Sanni Abacha.
Speaking with The New Diplomat on phone, the spokesperson of the pressure group, Yinka Odumakin posited that honoring Kingibe whom he said is an ally of President Buhari might be one of the factors that influenced the president’s decision to roll out the honors.
Recall, Kingibe was said to have betrayed Abiola after abandoning the entire ‘June 12’ struggle and was later appointed a minister during the junta years of late General Abacha, who incarcerated his supposed boss, Abiola till he gave up the ghost on July 7, 1998. However, Abacha also died of suspected cardiac arrest, on June 8, 1998, a month before Abiola’s demise.
“When you look at the Kingibe issue you will discover he didn’t not only betrayed Abiola, he is also a traitor to himself. But more than that, the only person that is being honored here is Kingibe because now we heard Belgore talking about the fact that national honors are not bestowed on dead persons. So as it is, it means the intention was to honor Kingibe, while decorating the whole thing with the dead Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi.”
This comes as a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Alfa Belgore has said that the award of Nigeria’s highest national honour on late Abiola is illegal.
Belgore, who was CJN from 2006 to 2007, said the national honours cannot be awarded posthumously, let alone the GCFR, which is the highest honour in the land.
“It is not done. It is for people living.
“The only thing they could do is to name a place after him, but national honours award, no!” he said.
Odumakin also stated that the omission of Kudirat Abiola, allegedly assassinated by elements in the military regime of Abacha speaks volume, hailing her as a “herione of democracy.”
“She’s a herione of democracy, even if this government did not honor her, her honor will come one day and she’s honored in the sight of Nigerians.”
When asked whether the gesture meant Buhari has finally succeeded in cementing a place in the heart of Southwesterners ahead 2019, Odumakin rebuffed, saying: “No no no, Yorubas are more sophisticated than that. Recognizing Abiola by declaring June 12 as democracy is not enough to win the heart of Southwest. For as long as people are being killed all over the place. All over Southwest now we’re gathering dead bodies, people are being kidnapped by hersdmen and nobody is calling them to order. Fulani hersdmen are killing our people all over the place, so we cannot say because they named June 12 after Abiola, we should vote for another four years of Miyetti Allah killing?”
Expressing similar opinion, Achike Chude, the Deputy Chairman of the Joint Action Front, JAF, –a coalition of civil societies also told The New Diplomat that honoring Kingibe speaks “a lot about the nature of this award, that it’s dictated more by politics of expediency than altruistic reasons. Kingibe was a direct beneficiary of that election if it had stood. Now, he became the person who was Abiola’s jailer because he was the minister of internal affairs and he was the one under whom Abiola was jailed. That in itself is a paradox and a contradiction.
“Immediately he began to work in Abacha’s government, he has made a political statement that he had turned his back on the whole process itself. For him to be recognized, it tells you that there are some flaws about this decision they have taken and their target is not Abiola or wanting to believe in Southwest. It’s purely about 2019 election.
Frowning over the exclusion of Kudirat Abiola in the President’s announcement, Chude who is also the Media officer, Justice Development And Peace Centre, JDPC, Lagos Catholic Diocese, said it thus implies the state’s recognitions were “conceived in political mischief.
“Kudirat Abiola became an amazon in the struggle, she held forth on behalf of her husband with so much courage that a lot of Nigerian women will lack the gut and capacity to do. And for that she paid the ultimate price, she was killed. The fact that she was not recognized tells you something that this whole thing that has happened was conceived in political mischief to a very large extent and that it’s not altruistic.
“If there’s a downside to this announcement, it’s the fact that the tendency to look at it from a political perspective is always there which could have been motivated by political exigencies. But it’s good that Abiola is going to be recognized. This isn’t about Abiola alone, it’s about what that struggle on June 12, 1993, represented. A most unique and auspicious time in the history of this country.”
He noted that the political grandstanding of previous administrations on the June 12 debacle has been a misnomer, yet averring that the Wednesday’s announcement by the President has huge political undertones as Nigerians look towards the next year’s nationwide polls.
“Let it not be that it’s also an attempt to spite Obasanjo who had erroneously chose May 29 in my view as democracy day, because something fundamental happened on June 3, 1993. Yes the actual inauguration day of the President was May 29, 1999, but the fact that the fundamental role of June 12 wasn’t acknowledged by the Obasanjo’s administration was a flaw, yes there’s some politics in this because right now the APC government is under pressure.
“The Buhari phenomenon we saw in 2015 might not repeat itself in 2019, the President has been demystified one as a former soldier who can deal with any attempt to threaten the territorial harmony and security of the Nigerian nation. He has been demystified as a no no-nonsense general with the people thinking once he comes on board all of our security challenges will be gone. We have seen increase in the activities of the rampaging herdsmen. He has also been demystified as a truly pan-Nigerian person.
“That groundswell of opinions you saw in 2015 towards a Buhari presidency, you’re not going to see that this time and clearly the Southwest played a critical part in installing Buhari as the President of this country.
“So people who are saying this is an action borne out of political miscalculation might not be wrong and the people of Southwest will need to be very careful about this carrot that’s being thrown at them.” Chude said.