President Muhammadu Buhari, Tuesday, in Abuja conferred National Honours on three distinguished Nigerians who contributed immensely to the enthronement of democratic governance in the country.
MKO Abiola was awarded GCFR, the higest title in the land, while Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe and Chief Gani Fawehinmi were awarded GCON.
However, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Military Head of State, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB, did not attend the event.
Full text of Buhari’s speech below:
“Today, I am very happy to be present and to preside over the Commemoration and Investiture, marking the formal official Federal Government recognition of June 12 as National Democracy Day.
The decision and this event is not meant to be and is not an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong. Nigerians of their own free will voted for Late Chief MKO Abiola and Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe, the Presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 1993 elections. The Government of the day inexplicably cancelled the elections when it was clear who were going to be the winners.
We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings; recognize that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of free elections. Nigerians would no longer tolerate such perversion of justice.
This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country.
Our decision to recognize and honour June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25 year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12th elections. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across all our national divide to accept it in good faith.
Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12. The June 12, which restate democracy and freedom. The June 12 that overcome our various divide and the June 12 that produced unity and National cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation.
Accordingly, on behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of Late MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the cause of June 12 struggle.
At this juncture, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like everybody present to stand and observe a minute silence in honour of the memory of Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Fawehinmi and indeed all those who lost their lives in the struggle of June 12 1993.
Thank you all and God bless Federal Republic of Nigeria”.