Political activists have reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to honour Babagana Kingibe alongside late Moshood Abiola and Gani Fawehinmin with national awards.
Mr. Kingibe was Mr. Abiola’s running mate under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the June 12, 1993 election.
Although they won the election, it was annulled by the Ibrahim Babangida-led military government.
This led to a political crisis that enabled Sani Abacha, a general, seize power later that year.
Under the Sani Abacha military rule, Mr. Kingibe was Foreign Affairs Minister from 1993 to 1995.
On Wednesday, aside announcing June 12 as the new date for Democracy Day, the president also announced conferment of Mr Abiola with the nation’s highest honours of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
Mr. Kingibe and foremost pro-democracy activist at the time, late Gani Fawehinmi, were also conferred with the second highest honour of the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
These honours are mostly conferred only on presidents and former presidents. A ceremony is to be held at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Tuesday to honour the beneficiaries.
On the GCON honour to Mr. Kingibe, an activist, Mike Egini, said while he would not be specific about anyone in particular, Nigerians know all those who betrayed them during the struggle for democracy.
“All those who betrayed the Nigerian people, those who sold out on June 12 are well known by Nigerians, posterity has all of them recorded, posterity will judge all of them very very harshly,” Mr Igini, a National Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, said.
He also said the presidents’ recognition of Moshood Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi represents all those who supported June 12.
“We take it that we all have been represented by that of Mr. Abiola and Gani Fawehinmi,” he said.
He said that the fact that Nigeria has come out of a 25 year long self-denial of realising the injustice done to Mr. Abiola and the Nigerian people was a consolation for him.
He also said June 12 is also a day to remember journalists who either died or went through a terrible situation at the time where newspapers had to be published in neighbouring countries.
Liborous Oshoma, a lawyer and political activist, said the government’s conferment of the GCON honour on Mr. Kingibe was not based on the ideological significance of June 12 but on the date and actions of the day.
In his words, “there is a thin line between June 12 as a date with history in Nigeria, June 12 as an action that took place and there is the June 12 ideology.
“What this government has done is to reckon with the date and action of June 12, they have not touched the ideology of June 12 and so in reckoning with the date and history of June 12, irrespective of what Babagana Kingibe had done, you cannot remove him from June 12 as the running mate to the presidential candidate,” he said.
Explaining what the June 12 ideology entails, he listed transparent democratic processes, eradication of poverty, fiscal federalism or creating a balance in the appointment unlike sectional appointment and creating a country where hope can thrive.
“For me what the government is pursuing is not the ideology of June 12 and so it is only when you’re pursuing these ideologies that you can say Babagana Kingibe should not be reckoned with. If we were to discuss the ideologies of June 12, so many people including those mouthing June 12 now would not be talking June 12. So many people that rode on the crest of June 12 to fame and power would not be discussing June 12,” he added.
Still on the subject of Mr. Kingibe receiving a national houour, political activist, Nelson Ekujumi, said, “whatever late Moshood Abiola is getting based on the June 12 1993, the vice presidential candidate must also follow in line unless and until he voluntarily says he is no more interested, he is impeached by the national assembly, or by chance if he dies, but even if he dies he would be honoured posthumously”.
He added that people should stop making the error of thinking June 12 is about Mr. Abiola. He said the date signifies “the fact that 14 million people went to the polls on June 12 1993 to vote and a cabal of less than 10 on June 23 via an unsigned paper annulled that election.”
He added that the conferment of national honour on Messrs Abiola, Kingibe and Fawehinmi was a welcome development as it shows that gradually Nigeria is beginning to come back to reality in addressing the injustice done to the Nigerian people via the annulment of the June 12 presidential elections.