Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, says there cannot be closure on the death of Chief MKO Abiola until some of the challenges and anomalies in the country have been addressed and eliminated.
Soyinka, who said this at a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the death of Abiola organised by Women Arise for Change Initiative at MKO Abiola’s graveside in Ikeja, on Sunday, also called on President Muhammadu Buhari “to lead by example by obeying the dictates of the law, so that other Nigerians can follow suit.”
According to the renowned scholar, Buhari’s refusal to obey the law is making a section of the country to think that they are above the law, thereby causing anarchy.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, died on July 7, 1998.
He was charged with treason in 1994 by the Nigerian government because he had declared himself the lawful President of Nigeria. He died in custody on the verge of being released in 1998.
Soyinka said, “This is the first gathering in honour of MKO Abiola after the formal recognition by the Federal Government that he was duly elected, and that he is a past president of this nation.
“And all we are waiting for is the formal actualisation through symbolic presence of his photographs among other presidents, even though he was never sworn into office.
“We cannot escape the past, but we can confront the challenges of the present, which of course very often arise from the past.
“We are inching slowly towards closure. One of these days when we gather, we shall be rejoicing.
“At that time, we would have progressed towards the elimination of some of the abnormalities and contradictions in our country.
“We have the issue of security, obeying the law, which is one thing that equalises all. President Muhammadu Buhari should lead by example by obeying the dictates of the law, so that other Nigerians can follow suit.
“It is this refusal to obey the law that has made some sectors of the populace to think they are above the law and are causing anarchy in the country.
“We have a responsibility as a people, and the government should address the issue of education, youth unemployment and insecurity.
“Just when we thought we were dealing with Boko Haram, then came these nomadic herdsmen armed with AK-47, and gradually, the kind of harmonious relationships that existed between various productive arms of this nation begins to disappear.
“We find ourselves on a daily basis being threatened, killed, our women being raped and other productive arms like farmers being driven off their own territories.
“These are critical issues that we need to deal with head-on and urgently, so that we begin to celebrate the memories of late Abiola and what he stood for,” Soyinka said.
He described the late Abiola as a true leader and an icon of inspiration to Nigerians.
“MKO Abiola is one of those that belong in that galaxy of stellar leaders who at the critical moments said, ‘No’. Nelson Mandela was one of them, Leah Sharibu is another young example.
“MKO Abiola, when he was given a conditional release in detention, said, ‘No’. This is an essential lesson,” he said.
Also speaking, a human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said a team of lawyers was being set up to reopen the matter on the death of Abiola at the international court, so that justice would be served.
Falana decried the high rate of poverty in the county, saying that it contradicted the legacy of the late Abiola.
In his address, retired Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, a former military administrator of Lagos State, said Abiola would forever be remembered for his principles and for believing in true federalism.
Also speaking, Alhaji Mohammed Fawehinmi, son of the late Gani Fawehinmi, commended President Buhari for being sensitive to the plight of Nigerians.
Fawehinmi urged Buhari to urgently constitute his cabinet for a better economy.
Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, convener of the event, said 21 years after the death of Abiola, he would continually be celebrated as a great son of Africa.
Okei-Odumakin urged the Federal Government to constitute a judicial commission of inquiry to unravel how Abiola died in custody.
Responding, Alhaji Jamiu Abiola, one of the sons of MKO Abiola, appreciated the Federal Government for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, saying it was an unexpected miracle.