They were invited,but they did not come.former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former military leader Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who annulled the election, sent regrets for their inability to attend the ceremony.
Obasanjo said he was away in Norway for a book presentation. Babangida gave health reasons for his absence. The electoral umpire, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, said he was overseas.
Before a select audience of dignitaries and pro-June 12, 1993 activists, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday apologised for the annulment of the election, which the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola won.
“On behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of the June 12 struggle, “the President said at the investiture in Abuja of Abiola, his running mate Amb. Babagana Kingibe and the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi with national honours.
The apology was applauded.
Buhari said the country would “no longer tolerate such perversion of justice.” “The decision … is not an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong. Nigerians, of their own free will, voted for the late Chief MKO Abiola and Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe, the presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 1993 elections,” Buhari said, adding:
“The government of the day inexplicably cancelled the election when it was clear who were going to be the winners.
“We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings; recognise that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of free elections.”
The President conferred the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) posthumously on Abiola, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on Chief Fawehinmi, the activist-lawyer who was one of the vocal voices against the annulment of the election, and decorated Kingibe with GCON.
Abiola’s award was received by his eldest son, Kola. Fawehinmi was represented by his wife Ganiat.
The government invited eminent Nigerians who participated in the struggle for the actualisation of the election, many of them hounded into exile or jailed by the military government.
Buhari added: “This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country.
“Our decision to recognise and honour June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25-year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12th elections. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divide to accept it in good faith.
“Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12. The June 12, which restates democracy and freedom.
“The June 12 that overcome our various divide and the June 12 that produced unity and national cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation.”
“I honestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divides to accept it in good faith. Our action today is to bury the negative sides of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustration and agony.
“What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive sides of June 12.
“The June 12 which reinstates democracy and freedom, the June 12 that overcomes our various divides and the June 12 that produces unity and national cohesion.
“This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation,” he said
He then asked for a minute silence in honour of Abiola and those who lost their lives in the struggle for the actualisation of June 12.
Master of Ceremonies was Peter Dama