The declaration of June 12 as the new Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari 25 years after the annulled presidential election, is an indication that democracy has come to stay in the country.
This was the submission of dignitaries, who spoke yesterday in Akure, the Ondo state capital, on the commemoration of June 12, 1993, presidential election presumed to have been won by late Chief MKO Abiola.
The June 12 anniversary celebration and Town Hall Assembly organised by the state government and held at the International Culture and Event Centre, The Dome, has "June 12: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" as its theme.
Dignitaries who graced the ceremony include; Senator representing Ondo South Senatorial District, Senator Yele Omogunwa, Members House of Representatives, Hon Mayowa Akinfolarin and Hon Stephen Olemija.
Others are: Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Rt Hon Bamidele Oleyeloogun, Secretary to Ondo State Government (SSG), Hon Ifedayo Abegunde, Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Olugbenga Ale, Head of Service, Barr Toyin Akinkuotu other members of the state Executive Council and Local Government Caretaker Chairmen.
President, Ondo State Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Folasade Aguda-Taiwo, Chairman of SUBEB, Princess Oladunni Odu,
Also at the event were; Olowo of Owo, Oba Victor Folagbade-Olateru Olagbegi, Alani of Idoani, Oba Olufemi Olutoye, Deji of Akure, Oba Aladetoyinbo Ogunlade Aladelusi, the Olubaka of Oka-Akoko, Oba Yusuf Adebori Adeleye, Olugbo of Ugbo, Oba Frederick Akinruntan, Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti who was represented by Bashorun Seinde Arogbofa and Chairman, League of Imams and Alfas in Ondo State, Southwest and Delta State, Alhaji Ahmed Aladesawe.
During an interactive session, one of the panelists, Mr Dare Babarinsa, a renowned journalist, said June 12 is a national event which all Nigerians participated in.
"Today, Abiola is being honored. So many people were killed then and today's event showed that the struggle was not in vain," he said.
Another panelist, a Professor of English and Literature at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Professor Bayo Aborisade, said June 12 was not only symbolic but significant in the struggle for democracy in Nigeria.
"Abiola was the symbol of that significance. Most Nigerians went to vote to see the back of the military. They had thrown us into distress and it was enough to see them back to the barracks
"It was a free, fair, credible an a very peaceful election where Nigerians trooped out enmass and voted for Chief MKO Abiola as President because they were tired of the military rule", he said.
Aborisade enjoined Nigerians to critically assess and look at the track records of past performances of politicians aspiring for political positions before electing them into offices.
He further enjoined Nigerians to use their votes to elect representatives that would continue to wrestle the country from suffering.
The third panelist, Human Rights Activist for Campaign for Democracy, Mr Ifeanyi Odili, said the experiences during June 12, 1993 were not palatable to some supporters of Abiola.
"I was in detention during that time. My wife deserted me after the third day I was arrested and since 1994 till now, I haven't set my eyes on her," he said.
In his remarks at the occasion, Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), advised Nigerians to strive to remain united and abstain from anything that would bring division and disunity to the country.
Represented by his Deputy, Hon Agboola Ajayi, the governor explained that the diversity of Nigerians should also be their strengths like other countries, and not a source of disunity.
"The greatest service we can give to Abiola is to ensure the unity of the country he fought for and to imbibe his values and programmes," he said.
Akeredolu further expressed his heartfelt gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for his well thought-out decision to honour the late Abiola with the highest award in Nigeria along side some notable advocates of June 12.
"We as a government of the people, wish to support the action taken by Mr. President in conferring highest honour on Chief MKO Abiola posthumously.
"Even though he is not alive to physically receive this award and the accolades, we hold that Mr. President has used this action to restore his dignity.
"We equally acknowledge the extension of this award to our own son, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN who devoted all his life to the cause of democracy and justice in Nigeria," he said.
Chairman of the event, Prince Olu Adegboro, described the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12,1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola as a successful industrialist, a great entrepreneur and above all, one of the greatest philanthropists Nigeria has ever had.
He said his spirit of philantropism made him more popular all over the country and endeared him to the hearts of many Nigerians which enabled them to vote massively for him during the election as President of the country.
Adegboro, while speaking further, described the state governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) as a social activist who was very much involved in the agitation of June 12.
He added that the Governor's gesture towards the June 12 issue, was responsible for his reason for renaming the popular Democracy Park as MKO Abiola Democracy Park.
The chairman stated that the lesson inherent in the June 12 struggle is that politicians should endeavour to live up to the expectations of what late Chief MKO Abiola stood for, which was reducing poverty, empowering the needy, so as to prevent bloodbath and future revolution.
He however, appealed that tested and credible people should be elected and given the mantle of leadership to steer the ship of the country.
In their separate remarks at the well attended event, the Speaker of the Ondo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Bamidele Oleyelogun; Ondo state Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Yusuf Ogunleye and the Erelu-Iyaloja of Akure Kingdom, Chief(Mrs) Mercy Adekanye explained that June 12, 1993, was significant in the Nigeria history of democracy hence the day should be set aside as Democracy Day.
Oleyelogun said June 12, 1993 presidential election widely adjudged the freest and fairest was a watershed in the democratic history of Nigeria, noting that the day is not only for late Abiola but for entire Nigeria and her progress.
The Speaker specifically applauded President Buhari for achieving a landmark feat by declaring June 12 as new Democracy Day and immortalising late Chief Abiola and others, saying that the President has right the wrongs of the past as a patriot and leader who is committed to the socio-political and economic development of the country.
He argued that if late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election had been declared winner and allowed to rule the country, he would have brought to bear his cognate and very deep experience in the business world to transform the economy of Nigeria.
"Chief Abiola would have set the template for a prosperous Nigeria; he would have brought the hope he promised Nigerians. He would have utilised our oil revenue to transform Nigeria as a Chartered Accountant and he would have changed for the better Nigeria's course of history.
"I believe denying Chief Abiola his mandate caused Nigeria a great and monumental setback. Today, 25 years after, the annulment of that mandate is still haunting Nigeria. June 12 is an outstanding memoir in Nigeria's history. A date Nigeria was holy, sincere, corrupt free and truly united to speak with one voice throughout the federation", the Speaker said.
While calling on the president to also honour other heroes of June 12, Oleyelogun equally suggested that those who annulled the election and are still moving freely and should be made to face the full weight of the law to serve as deterrent for others.
Also, Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Yusuf Ogunleye lauded President Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, saying the day will remain fresh in the memories of all.
He stressed the need to always allow the wishes of the people to prevail in any election for the development of democracy.