The outgoing permanent representative of the United States of America to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador Susan Rice, has said that she will not make any comment on what transpired during the last moments of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, for personal reasons.
Rice was the assistant secretary of state for African affairs at the time Chief Abiola died on July 7, 1998.
Our correspondent had sought her comment over what happened before the late business mogul started gasping for breath after allegedly taking a cup of tea that was served by Rice. But after waiting for another three hours and no response was forthcoming, our correspondent called Rice’s number and her secretary said that the ambassador had said she would not be making any comments on the matter owing to her personal reasons.
Also, a former United States ambassador to Nigeria who was also with the former Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate on the day he died, Thomas Pickering, declined to make comments when our correspondent sent him an electronic mail.
Controversy had trailed the aftermath of the political impasse that followed the annulled June 12 election by the then Gen Ibrahim Babangida-led military junta as there were rumours that the late Abiola died as a result of a poisoned cup of tea that was personally handed to him by Rice in the presence of Pickering.
Information had it that the tea that Rice served Abiola had already been poisoned by agents of the then federal government of Nigeria.
Pickering’s aides stationed at his Woodrow Institute office, who refused to mention his name to our correspondent during a telephone conversation, initially promised to get a comment from him but later said that the former US ambassador would not like to speak on the issue due to security reasons.
The aide also refused to release Ambassador Pickering’s direct mobile numbers when pressed by LEADERSHIP on Wednesday morning.
Our correspondent also made several efforts to get the reactions of Ambassador Rice who has just been named as the incoming national security adviser to President Barack Obama but she did not make any comment on the issue when telephone calls were placed on her office lines at the United States Permanent Mission the the United Nations.
When our correspondent first called, the secretary of the United States Mission in New York, Ms Harrera Kathleen, said that the ambassador was not ready to partake in the telephone interview that was earlier suggested by our correspondent.
She advised that our correspondent should send an electronic mail consisting of the questions that Ambassador Rice was expected to answer to her personal e-mail address. But after the e-mail was sent, Ms Kathleen warned that our correspondent should not continue until a response was given by Rice.
June 12 changed Nigeria’s political history - Jonathan
In a related development, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday described June 12 as a unique day which has changed the political history of the country in some ways, saying it was a day that must be appreciated.
Speaking when he swore in the new Police Service Commission chairman, Mr Mike Okiro, and five members of the commission at the presidential villa, Abuja, Jonathan acknowledged the fact that, while the day in which the late Abiola was declared winner of the presidential poll said to be one of the fairest general elections in the history of the country has not been declared at the federal government as public holiday, some governors in their various states have made it a work-free day.
He said: “Today is also a unique day -- June 12. It is a date that has changed the political history of this country in one way or the other. In some parts of the country, some state governments have declared public holiday to mark today but at the centre it has not been formally recognised as a public holiday. We appreciate what happened on this day, that you are being inaugurated on this date. I think it is a unique date.”
MKO watered the seeds of democracy - Akpabio
Akwa Ibom State governor Godswill Akpabio also paid tribute to the late politician, saying that “Abiola watered the democracy we are enjoying today”. Akpabio also debunked allegations that he rigged election in favour a member of the National Assembly, noting that what is often referred to as rigging was indeed pre-primaries consultations and preparation of a suitable aspirant, which was done to protect the interest of the people of Ini and Ikono LGAs of the Ikot Ekpene senatorial district, who are in the minority with only two councils.
Akpabio made the declaration in a speech delivered at thecelebration of the 20th anniversary of the annulment of the June 12 presidential elections organised by the June 12 Movement at the Toyin Street, Ikeja, residence of the Abiolas. The event was chaired by a prominent Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo.
Represented by his commissioner for information and communications, Mr Aniekan Umanah, Akpabio declared that, “Abiola paid the supreme price. He died so that we may live and savour the joy of a free people. Freedom which is concomitant with democracy is not negotiable. It is an inalienable right of every human being. That is what Abiola fought and died for and we must not allow that death to be in vain. We must continue to engage our leaders until our collective dignity as a people are fully realised and restored. “
Some key personalities who graced the occasion were speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Bayo Ikuforiji; Hon. Abike Dabiri: Alhaji Yerima Shetima, president, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum; Comrade Joe Evah, coordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, among others.
Count Babangida out of MKO’s death – Abiola’s younger brother
Meanwhile, the younger brother to the late Abiola, Mubashiru Abiola, yesterday absolved former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida of any complicity in the death of Chief Moshood Abiola.
Abiola, who spoke with journalists at the family house at Oja Agbo in Abeokuta, Ogun State, said Babangida had been a very good supporter of the family.
He said, “There was a time Abiola’s daughter was having her wedding, Babangida was here with his wife right from Minna, he sat down with us; he left his wife to stay with us till the second day; she slept in the MKO’s house for the second day.
“That is the major reason I will always support him and I do not believe that Babangida was the one that killed MKO. No, that it is capital NO. Everybody knew that Babangida was not in the government then when MKO died. How could you say that somebody who is not somewhere that he did something?”
History will make immortalization of my father happen - Kola Abiola
The first son of the late Abiola, Kola, has stated that history will force the hands of those in authority to accord his father his due place in history.
Speaking in Lagos at a function organized by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) to mark the 20th anniversary of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, Kola stated that his father was a victim of conspiracy against him by those who felt he had something to offer Nigerians.
He said, “History will make it happen; the biggest problem that I see is that some people are trying to rewrite history. May 29/June 12 is a perfect example. For a while we had this ministry of African affairs that was set up to rewrite my father’s history.”
At the event tagged “Democracy Audit”, he stated for the first time since the event 20 years ago that some people in government were doing all they could to downplay the achievements of his late father but that his legacies have continued to endure.
Kola Abiola: “He (MKO) was a victim; a man who paid the price of being a man, who came ahead of his time. He was ahead of his peers and he paid the price for that in the interest of the country and its people.”
Democracy in Nigeria has lost legitimacy - Utomi
Also, a former president candidate of the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC) and political economist, Professor Pat Utomi, has said that democracy in Nigeria has lost its legitimacy over the years, insisting that people must be given chance to speak through the ballot.
He disclosed this as a guest lecturer at the special parliamentary session in commemoration of the second anniversary of the 7th Assembly and 20 years of June 12 held at the Lagos State House of Assembly yesterday.
In his lecture entitled “Democracy, the rule of law and role of the legislature”, Utomi said, “Our democracy has lost its legitimacy over the years. Unless we have a clear democracy where people speak through the ballot box, we cannot have the kind of legitimacy that we need. We are determined as a people; we can prevent abusers from leading us to where we are today”.
Utomi affirmed that June 12 should be a day to celebrate the passion, commitment and courage of a man, MKO Abiola, who won the 1993 presidential election.
He maintained that Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, who was the chairman of National Electoral Commission (NEC) in 1993, should also be remembered whenever June 12 is celebrated.
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