1. The Government and people of Anambra State rejoice with all Nigerians on the second anniversary of June 12 as Democracy Day. Chief Moshood K. O. Abiola, the winner of the June 12 1983 presidential vote, is richly deserving of the honour of having a national holiday in his memory. The June 12 election was, indeed, historic. Nigerians spoke with one voice on this day.
2. Chief Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) defeated his sole rival, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC), in the latter’s home state of Kano. Chief Abiola ran with a fellow Muslim, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe. Yet, they defeated Alhaji Bashir, whose running mate, Dr Sylvester, is from Imo State, even in places like Anambra State which regards itself as the bastion of Christian faith in West Africa.
3. Anambra State had no difficulty identifying with Chief Abiola because our state has always been very progressive. What is more, Chief Abiola was all his life a proud Zikist, that is, a disciple of the Great Zik of Africa. He followed Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe to become not just a pan Nigerian but also a Pan Africanist. In other words, he was never a prisoner of parochialism or primordial considerations. Though a proud Yoruba Muslim, Chief Abiola gave generously to all faiths and employed Nigerians, including those from Anambra State, without regard to their ethnicity or religion. He was a Zikist through and through. It is not surprising that he was a given a resounding national mandate on June 12, 1983. We thank President Muhammadu Buhari for not just declaring a national holiday in memory of this great man but also naming the National Stadium in Abuja for him. Chief Abiola was a sportsman through and through, that is, literally and metaphorically.
4. The second anniversary of the declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day should also be an opportunity for national introspection which should enable us to identify key national gaps and take concrete steps to correct them. One of the gaps is the failure to have a national holiday in honour of Dr Azikiwe, the man who led Nigeria to independence on October 1, 1960.
5. The Great Zik of Africa inspired generations of African nationalists and freedom fighters, including Chief Abiola. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, referred to as a sage by his followers, wrote in 1980 that he was inspired into great public life after watching the Great Zik speak at a meeting in Yaba, Lagos. He even decided to study law as an adult in London in order to be knowledgeable and eloquent as Zik. No wonder, he established his Nigerian Tribune newspaper on November 16, 1949, in honour of the Great Zik who was born on November 16, 1904. Needless to add, Zik also inspired pan Africanists like Kwame Nkrumah who was to lead Ghana to independence on March 6, 1957. He discovered Nkrumah’s promise while serving as the editor in chief of African Morning Post in Accra, Ghana. He advised Nkrumah to study at his alma mater, Lincoln University, the first historically black university in the United States.
6. It is a supreme irony that the Ghanaians have a national holiday in honour of Kwame Nkrumah, just as the Tanzanians have in honour of Julius Nyerere and Kenyans in honour of Jomo Kenyatta, Nigerians have yet to give such an honour to the man who led them to independence. History beckons President Muhammadu Buhari to do the right thing, and so move Nigeria closer to national integration and cohesion.
The people and government of Anambra State wish all Nigerians a most rewarding second anniversary of Democracy Day.
C. Don Adinuba
Commissioner for Information & Public Enlightenment.