June 12: Nigerians misconstrued my views on Abiola’s posthumous honour – Melaye

Following the controversy that trailed his views on posthumous honour bestowed on late Chief MKO Abiola by President Muhammadu Buhari, the senator representing Kogi West District, Dino Melaye, has clarified that contrary to insinuations, he was never opposed to the recognition of the late business mogul.

Buhari had on Wednesday declared that June 12 will be the real ‘Democracy Day’ over the struggle of late business tycoon, Abiola in 1993.

He, however, conferred the highest honour – GCFR on him – a title reserved for President in Nigeria.

Abiola was generally believed to have won the 1993 presidential election, which was annulled by then military government.

Apart from Abiola, his running mate at the 1993 presidential election, Babagana Kingibe and famous human right activist, late Gani Fawehinwi, got the GCON title, in recognition of their role to the transformation of the country to civil rule.

The president’s decision attracted diverse reactions from Nigerians, who either welcomed the development or played down the pronouncement of Buhari as ‘political’.

In the midst of those reactions is that of Melaye, whom reports quoted disagreed with the president’s action as he queried that late Abiola was ‘no longer a Nigerian’, which drew criticisms from some Nigerians.

Apparently troubled by the criticisms that trailed his comment on Abiola, Melaye in a statement on Sunday, said his view on the issue was misconstrued, saying the action of the president was in tandem with his long-held beliefs on Abiola’s contributions to the country democracy.

Melaye, a controversial lawmaker, who said Abiola was deserving of the honour bestowed on him, however, observed the legal debate the issue had evoked, which he said may throw blemish on the honour.

“For the avoidance of doubt, my views and belief on the sanctity of June 12 and the place of the late Chief MKO Abiola in Nigeria’s democratic history, have not changed and will not.

“Hence, in my view, the decision by the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to honour the late business mogul was deserving and long overdue save for the attendant legal issues raised,” he said.

Melaye, who said he had advocated for a similar honour years ago, urged the federal government to do the right thing by removing any legal loophole that could be explored by any successive government to withdraw the title.

“It is a verifiable fact that I have canvassed for this recognition for Chief Abiola over the years, and granted interview to Channels Television two years ago, where I advocated for same,” he recalled.

“Let me make also it abundantly clear that while both Chief Abiola and the late legal luminary, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) deserved more than the GCFR and GCON Honours respectively to be bestowed on them posthumously next Tuesday, it is however important that the right thing being done in their memory should not have any blemish in the guise of the current debate for legality or otherwise of the historic Honours as we are witnessing now.

“I urge the Federal Government to do the needful and display sincerity of purpose by officially recognising Chief Abiola as President-elect and cause the official results of the June 12, 1993 presidential election to be released by INEC since President Buhari himself had admitted in the Presidential Order designating June 12 as Democracy Day, the most freest and credible election, and then the GCFR title will therefore have a meaning.

“If the right thing is done now by the Federal Government by proposing amendment to the National Honours Act 1964 to accommodate the current developments, no government in future will reverse the decision. This is my stand as a lawmaker.”

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