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June 12 martyr honoured by Nigerian government, Buhari names stadium after Abiola

President Buhari said it was aimed at “correcting injustice” by previous Nigerian governments

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June 12 martyr honoured by Nigerian government, Buhari names stadium after Abiola
President Muhammadu Buhari waves to Nigerians in show of appreciation for his re-election during the first edition of the National Democracy Day on June 12 in the country’s capital, Abuja. Top dignitaries across Africa and the world witnessed the ceremony. Photo: State House

Nigeria has a new national democracy day, June 12, as the country formally honoured Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election with the day; naming the national stadium in the country’s capital, Abuja after him.

In a bid to boost national reconciliation and healing, President Muhammadu Buhari, at a colourful national parade to celebrate his re-election in Abuja on Tuesday, said it was a move aimed at “correcting injustice” by previous Nigerian governments.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari delivers a speech during celebrations to mark Democracy Day in Abuja, on June 12, 2019. -(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

“Correcting injustice is a pre-requisite for peace and unity. As part of the process of healing and reconciliation, I approved the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day and invested the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Babagana Kingibe with National Honours, as I did with the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. The purpose was to partially atone for the previous damage done in annulling the Presidential elections of that year.” Buhari said.

“Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called Moshood Abiola National Stadium,” President Buhari told a packed audience which had several African leaders and representatives from the global community in attendance. Many applauded the move.

Abiola had been elected 26 years ago but the military junta led by General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the result of the election via an orchestrated court order once it became obvious that then presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was coasting home to victory.

“From this moment, a new Government of National Unity is in power throughout the length and breadth of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, led by me, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, as President and Commander-in-Chief…I call upon the usurper, General Sani Abacha, to announce his resignation forthwith, together with the rest of his illegal ruling council,” Abiola had said on June 10, 1994 while declaring himself president. “We are prepared to enter into negotiations with them to work out the mechanics for a smooth transfer of power,” Abiola concluded.

Moshood Abiola, presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election conducted on June 12, 1993 but annulled by the military regime headed by General Ibrahim Babangida. (File photo)

General Sani Abacha, another military head of state who had, through a palace coup, succeeded Babangida’s Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonekan denounced the self-declaration and went on to incarcerate Abiola for declaring himself president.

Both Abacha and Abiola would die in 1998 thereby entrenching a new dispensation of democracy that began in 1999 and remains unbroken for twenty years now. A first for the country since its independence from Britain in 1960.

Buhari had since 2018 offered a formal apology from the Nigerian government to the family of the late Abiola after hosting them at the presidential villa in Abuja, honouring the deceased posthumously and sent in a bill to the National Assembly to formalize June 12 as a national holiday. He assented to the bill on Monday.

Related: Muhammadu Buhari launches his second term with a defence of poll outcome in Nigeria

Nigerians were enthusiastic about the renaming of the national stadium and other efforts taken by the government to bring a closure to the June 12 fiasco.

“June 12 is at the soul of our democratic struggle, a threshold in our national life.” Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Vice President and Buhari’s major opponent in the February 2019 presidential polls said in a statement to mark the day.

In a tweet later, Atiku said “Nigeria voted for democracy against the jackboot notion of oppressive totalitarianism (on June 12).” Atiku almost became a Vice Presidential candidate to the late Abiola in 1992. He is currently challenging the results of the 2019 polls in court.

“In my first term, we put Nigeria back on its feet. We are working again despite a difficult environment in oil on which we depend too much for our exports. We encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want ‘change’, But ‘change’ has come, we now must move to the ‘Next Level.’” Buhari concluded in his address to Nigerians at the maiden June 12 National Democracy Day celebration.

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Ethiopia plans ban on motorbikes in Addis Ababa to curb crime spree

“Exceptions will be made to those conducting licensed businesses with motorcycles.” -Addis Ababa Mayor

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Ethiopia plans ban on motorbikes in Addis Ababa to curb crime spree

Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa plans to ban motorcycles in the city from July in a bid to curb a spree of muggings and robberies, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Addis Ababa mayor, Takele Uma said motorbikes had been used in recent crimes and the city would prohibit them from July 7 though people using bikes for business may be exempt.

“Exceptions will be made to those conducting licensed businesses with motorcycles as well as those who use motorcycles as postal carriers and motorcycles affiliated to embassies,” the mayor told reporters.

Addis Ababa, a city of an estimated five million, is generally considered safe for residents and foreigners. But a growing number of violent crimes involving suspects on motorbikes or in cars has caused recent alarms.

The mayor said the proposed ban came after a study of criminal activities in the city found a significant number were carried out using motorcycles.

Takele said the Addis Ababa municipal administration will also impose a ban on trips by most freight vehicles in the city during daytime to alleviate traffic congestion in the capital. 

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Two police officers killed in attack on police station in Niger

It is the closest attack to the city yet in a long-running insurgency by suspected jihadists.

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Two police officers killed in attack on police station in Niger
An armed policeman stands guard at the police checkpoint where two policemen were killed and four injured by armed men during an overnight attack on June 18 at the police station at the northern entrance to Niamey, the first to happen at the gates of the capital of Niger. (Photo by BOUREIMA HAMA / AFP)

Two policemen were killed late Tuesday when gunmen attacked a police station on the northern edge of the Niger capital Niamey, a security official said.

It is the closest attack to the city yet in a long-running insurgency by suspected jihadists.

“The toll is two dead and four wounded, two of them serious,” the security source said Wednesday.

“We heard gunfire coming from the station at 11:00 pm (22:00 GMT),” a witness told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The police station is at the northern entrance to the city, on the highway from Ouallam, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.

Police investigators were on the scene on Wednesday morning, a reporter saw.

Niger, a large state in the heart of the Sahel region, is grappling with attacks by jihadist groups in the west of the country, and raids by Boko Haram Islamists in the south, near the border with Nigeria.

Eighty-eight civilians were killed by Boko Haram in March alone, and more than 18,000 villagers forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

On June 8, a US military vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device as it entered a firing range near Ouallam for a joint training exercise.

Niger hosts an estimated 800 US troops, the largest American deployment in Africa.

The scale of the US presence came to light in October 2018, when four US and five Nigerien troops were killed in an ambush by fighters affiliated to the so-called Islamic State group.

Security is tight in Niamey, with high-profile deployment of the military and police checkpoints on the highways into town.

The city is due to host a summit of the African Union (AU) on July 7 and 8.

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Morsi gains popularity after death, supporters confer martyr status

Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”.

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Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
A portrait of former President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi as people attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Unpopular in power and deposed after huge protests, Egypt’s ex-president Mohamed Morsi could be humanised in the eyes of many Egyptians after his death in court Monday.

“It is sad, from a strictly human point of view”, a trader in central Cairo said of the former head of state, who had been imprisoned since his 2013 fall from power, and was buried on Tuesday.

“He was old and ill. Whatever one thinks of the political situation, his death while the court was in-session shows that those who judged him were not good people”, the trader said, on condition of anonymity.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
People attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 19, 2019. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt and he was appealing a 2015 death sentence, making both the man and his organisation extremely sensitive topics in the country.

While Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”, Egyptian authorities appear keen to avoid a wave of empathy from citizens, who largely favoured the uprising that deposed him.

His rapid burial on Tuesday morning took place extremely discreetly and under heavy surveillance, while the public and the press were forbidden from attending.

‘Death symbolically important’ –

Morsi came to power in 2012 in elections that took place the year after a popular uprising that deposed president Hosni Mubarak, who had headed an authoritarian regime for three decades.

Spurred on by mass demonstrations against Morsi’s own rule, the army ousted him on July 3, 2013 and Egypt declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation”.

Ever since, the government has cracked down heavily on opponents, especially on members of the Islamist organisation.

The official narrative, regularly broadcast by Egyptian TV channels — which are all behind the regime — is that the Brotherhood are “terrorists” who harm the country’s interests.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Since Morsi’s death was announced, some channels have hosted “experts” denouncing the “violence” and “lies” perpetrated by the group.

On Tuesday morning, pro-government newspapers only briefly mentioned Morsi’s death, without referencing his status as a former president.

TV channels devoted most of their airtime to a visit by current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — Morsi’s former defence minister, who ultimately toppled him before being elected head of state in 2014 — to Belarus.

“As a president, Mohamed Morsi was not very popular among Egyptians — in fact he was unpopular, he was seen as uncharismatic, indecisive, very unsteady,” said Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

But “his death in a courtroom will humanise him in the eyes of many Egyptians” who do not support the Brotherhood, Gerges added.

While Morsi was not a great leader for the Brotherhood, “his death will be symbolically important” and could drive radical elements of the group to take up arms against the authorities, Gerges said.

Radicalisation –

Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has faced numerous waves of repression by Egyptian governments, which have been dominated by the military since 1952.

Morsi’s death adds to a long list of what the Brotherhood call martyrs, including the group’s founder Hassan al-Banna, who was assassinated in 1949 by Egypt’s secret police.

Another key figure, Sayyed Qotb — one of the movement’s main ideologues and an inspiration behind its radicalism — was executed in August 1966 by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime, which fiercely repressed the Brotherhood.

But for Zack Gold, an analyst at the CNA research centre in the United States, it is “unlikely Morsi’s death will result in any immediate rise in the security threat to Egypt”.

Jihadist movements — sympathetic or not to the Brotherhood — are already very active in Egypt, particularly the Islamic State group in North Sinai, the Middle East security expert said.

Since 2013, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, police and also civilians have been killed in attacks.

“In the long term, it would be concerning if the government pre-emptively arrested large numbers out of concern for street protests or other outbursts in the wake of Morsi’s death,” Gold said.

Conditions in Egypt’s prisons “have a track record of radicalising individuals”, he noted.

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