Kola Abiola, the eldest son of late winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, has revealed how the family pushed for his late father to be honoured, saying he welcomed President Buhari’s decision to do so although the honour was “very political”.
Speaking during a monitored television interview in Lagos Nigeria , Kola said: “President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, conferred my father with the nation’s highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) – an honour exclusively conferred only on presidents and former presidents.”
“While Mr Abiola was given a posthumous GCFR award, his runningmate, Babagana Kingibe, was awarded the Grand Commander of the Order of Niger (GCON).”
Also, late human rights activist and senior lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi, was awarded the GCON.
Election data from the June 1993 presidential poll showed Mr Abiola won but he was not formally declared president-elect and was not sworn into office by the military government of Ibrahim Babangida.
Mr Abiola was later imprisoned by the Sani Abacha military regime as he struggled to actualise his mandate. He died in prison in 1998.
Successive governments brushed aside calls for him to be honoured and for the federal government to recognise June 12 as democracy day.
Kola Abiola said the Buhari administration’s decision to honour his father was the right thing to do even though it was a political decision.
“I think it is very political,” he said.
“I have been through this before and I have seen the roles different people play when it’s about to be done.
“They come up with issues like, ‘it’s posthumous, it can’t be done. It can’t be given to dead people’… and so on,” he said.
He explained how past administrations shut down most if his father’s businesses. “They figured, if we don’t have the means, we can’t fight them,” he said.
Mr Abiola however said he was “a little silent” about the matter during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.
“After him (Obasanjo), I approached the late Yar’Adua but unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough. Maybe he would have done it.
“I started talking to people in Jonathan’s administration, but nothing formal came out of it,” he said.
He spoke about how former President Goodluck Jonathan unsuccessfully attempted to honour MKO Abiola by renaming the University of Lagos after him.