The most acclaimed martyr of Nigeria’s democracy, late Bashorun MKO Abiola has been immortalised by the federal government, which on Wednesday named the nation’s national stadium in Abuja in his memory.
Though the arena has been largely abandoned and unkempt in recent years, it might get a face lift along the line, after President Muahmmadu Buhari renamed the edficie as Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
Buhari’s declaration in honour of the well-acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election came on the first ever official commemoration of June 12 as Democracy Day and national holiday in Nigeria.
June 12 will now be Nigeria’s official Democracy Day every year, after Buhari signed an enabling bill to that effect into law at the start of the week, as he took major steps to formally recognised the heroism of Abiola, who won the 1993 election based on available results, but the process was cancelled by then military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida.
Abiola then unilaterally declared himself president at a public rally in Lagos, after which he was arrested by the defacto military government of late Sanni Abacha, and later died in prison.
Buhari had in 2018 initially recognized Abiola’s mandate by conferring on him the country’s highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), which is reserved only for presidents.
Before now, since 1999, Democracy Day was celebrated on May 29, which was the day when former military rule, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo became Nigeria’s second ever elected executive president, following the death of Abacha and subsequent handover by his successor, General Abdulsalam Abubakar (rtd).
However, this Wednesday, June 12, 2019 became the first time Democracy Day would hold on the iconic date that has become ever so memorable as a watershed in the annals of Nigeria’s 20-year democracy.
In his speech to mark Nigeria’s years of uninterrupted democracy, Buhari said the national stadium in Abuja will now be known as Moshood Abiola Stadium, though a venue in the capital of the martyr’s home state, Ogun, already has a similar name – MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta.
“I declared June 12 in memory of late Abiola and gave honour to him … and I have also named the Abuja Stadium after Late Moshood Abiola,” Buhari affirmed.