The death of MKO Abiola on July 7th 1998 has been mourned and remembered by families and friends across the country, with the hopes what it represented would not be in vain.
That fateful Tuesday in 1998, the stakes were so high of a new beginning. It was already a month after the Commander-in-Chief, Gen. Sani Abacha, died in office and his successor, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, had raised the hopes of all Nigerians for a restoration of Abiola’s June 12, 1993 presidential election mandate.
Just few weeks in office, Abubakar had released political prisoners, including former president Olusegun Obasanjo, in batches and the whole nation looked forward to Abiola’s release and return to democratic rule.
But alas, the hopes of Abiola’s return was dashed when news filtered out late at night that Abiola had died of a heart attack while receiving some foreign diplomats as guests.
His death immediately sparked riot in Lagos that left at least 19 people dead.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari recognised June 12 as Democracy Day and awarded him the highest honour of the land, GCFR, with national stadium Abuja named after him. But many are still of the opinion that what he deserves most, is for the for the government to officially declare him president posthumously.
Speaking on the 21st remembrance day, Human Rights lawyer and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said Abiola is being celebrated today because of the supreme sacrifice he paid. He said today’s celebration marks the official recognition of June 12.
The Human Rights lawyer, however, hope there will be a day set aside to celebrate like it is done for Martin Luther Day.