President Bola Tinubu says MKO Abiola stuck to his principles and fought for justice to protect democracy.
Tinubu said Abiola sacrificed his life to defend the democracy Nigeria enjoys, noting that he refused to take the “easier choice” of forsaking his mandate.
Abiola was the winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election which was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, former head of state.
The election was adjudged as the freest and fairest poll in the country’s history.
On July 7, 1998, Abiola died under unclear circumstances shortly after the demise of Sani Abacha, former military ruler.
He had been jailed after declaring himself president despite the annulment of the polls. He was supposed to be released the day he died.
Speaking on Monday in his first Democracy Day speech as president, Tinubu extolled the virtues of Abiola.
We can easily recall the sacrifice and martyrdom of Chief MKO Abiola, the custodian of the sacred mandate that was so cruelly annulled,” he said.
“He sacrificed his life in unyielding, patriotic defence of the ideals of democracy as symbolized in his choice, by his fellow countrymen and women, as their duly-elected president.
“There was an easier choice for him. It was to forgo the justice of his cause and opt for the path of ease and capitulation in the face of the tyranny of power. To his eternal credit and immortal glory, Abiola said no. He demonstrated the time-tested eternal truth that there are certain ideals and principles that are far more valuable than life itself.
“Every day, on this day, down the ages we will recall the several other heroes of democracy such as Kudirat Abiola, wife of Chief Abiola, who was brutally murdered while in the trenches fighting on the side of the people.
We remember Pa Alfred Rewane, one of the heroes of our independence struggle and Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (rtd) who were silenced by the military junta while in pursuit of democracy.”
‘POVERTY IS MAN-MADE’
Tinubu said Abiola was convinced that poverty could be eliminated through proper social and economic policies.
The president said it was for this reason that Abiola named his campaign manifesto, ‘Farewell to Poverty’, in 1993.
“To the winner of June 12, democracy offers the best chance to fight and eliminate poverty,” he said.
“Thirty years ago, he christened his campaign manifesto, ‘Farewell to Poverty’ because he was convinced that there is nothing divine about poverty. It is a man-made problem that can be eliminated with clearly thought-out social and economic policies.
The democracy MKO Abiola died for is one that promotes the welfare of the people over personal interests of the ruling class and one where the governed can find personal fulfillment and happiness.
“That is the hope MKO Abiola ignited throughout our country in 1993.”
The president added that the heroes of Nigeria’s democracy “gave their yesterday for the liberty that is ours today”.