By; SUNDAY ODE, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday renamed the National Stadium in Abuja after late MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections.
Though the election was declared inconclusive by the Professor Humphrey Nwosu-led National Electoral Commission (NEC), Abiola, the candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) was presumed to have been winner.
Buhari renamed Abuja stadium in his address at the maiden celebration of June 12 as national public holiday and Democracy Day held at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
“As we all know, 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.
“Today, I propose the re-naming of the Abuja National Stadium. Henceforth it will be called MOSHOOD ABIOLA NATIONAL STADIUM, the President said”
The occasion was graced by many world leaders, including presidents of Niger, Togo. Ghana, Liberia, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Venezuela Rwanda, Sierra Leon, Tchad , Gambia, among others.
However, none of Nigeria’s former leaders were in attendance.
Colourful military parades and cultural displays also characterised the event.
Buhari had last year declared June 12 as a national public holiday and Democracy Day with effect from this year.
He signed a bill passed by the National Assembly to that effect on Monday, June 10th ahead of Wednesday’s commemoration.
The bill which is now an act of the National Assembly replaces May 29 with June 12 as holiday and Democracy Day. Nigeria had been observing May 29/as holiday and Democracy Day since 1999 when Democracy returned to the country.
President Buhari had also last year conferred the highest national award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Abiola, while he bestowed the award of Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON) on the likes of Late Human Rights Lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Abiola’s running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe.
Recalled that former President Goodluck Jonathan had in 2014 named the University of Lagos after Abiola but it was roundly rejected by students and lecturers of the university on the excuse that the institution had long history that could be distorted by name change.