Today is a special celebration of the anniversary of June 12. For us in Lagos State, where the struggle started, this year’s anniversary is a victory for democracy.
We all recall that a historic event happened on this very day in 1993 when Chief Moshood Kasimawo Abiola stood as a candidate in a presidential election adjudged to be the freest, fairest and most credible in the history of our nation. It was a day Nigerians demonstrated unity and put aside ethnic and religious biases to speak overwhelmingly with one voice.
Sadly, the aspiration of Nigerians expressed through the ballot was truncated by the military.
Since then, the struggle for democracy has been relentless, championed by progressive Nigerians, men of character and courage who challenged the military junta.
With the return of democracy in 1999, Lagos State, driven by our irrepressible and indefatigable leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, continued to celebrate June 12 and always recognize its importance in our democracy.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, you can imagine our delight when the President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, announced the recognition of June 12 as the authentic Democracy Day in Nigeria. This formal recognition is a crown of victory to the struggle that had taken the lives of so many nationalists and patriots.
Not only was June 12 recognised, the symbol of the struggle, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola is to be conferred posthumously with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic [GCFR], his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).
By this singular act, including the award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger on the fearless human Rights activists, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, President Muhammadu Buhari has written his name in Gold in the political history of Nigeria.
We salute President Muhammadu Buhari for demonstrating exceptional courage to stand by justice and the truth.
Today, we salute leaders of the struggle including Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ambassador Walter Carrington, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, Chief Frank Kokori, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Mr. Wale Oshun, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and other Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations, Trade and Labour unions.
We also pay glowing tribute to the beautiful memories of patriots such as Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Michael Enahoro, Chief Alfred Rewane, Dr Beko Ransome Kuti, General Adeyinka Adebayo and several others including innocent ordinary Nigerians, young and old who were murdered in cold blood on the streets of Lagos and in other major cities of Nigeria. Today, we declare that their sacrifice has not been in vain.
I reserve special recognition for my predecessors, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for his pioneering influence in declaring a public holiday on June 12 throughout his tenure in office, and Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for his steadfastness in upholding this tradition. Today’s celebration lays credence to the fact that our leaders were visionary.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the theme of this historic edition of June 12 celebration, “Restructuring: Antidote for Ineffective & Ineffective Politics”, speaks for itself. As a State and people, our stand on a restructuring process that will lead to fiscal federalism, devolution of power is very clear.
Our present democratic experience may still be far from ideal but we must all make concerted efforts to entrench fiscal federalism which is the only way to achieve true nationhood. We are absolutely convinced that it is the right way to go for us to realise the optimum potential and prosperity of the federating States and the nation.
On this historic day, I am convinced more than ever before that this ideal will be realized sooner than we can imagine.
I thank you all and wish all Lagosians happy June 12 victory celebrations.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Itesiwaju Ipinle Eko, lo je wa logun!