GOVERNMENT HAILS BUHARI FOR NAMING ABUJA STADIUM AFTER ABIOLA URGES DECLARATION OF ZIK’S BIRTHDAY AS NATIONAL HOLIDAY
By Tony Nezianya
Awka, June 13, 2019 (MOI) The Anambra State Government has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for honoring the winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential polls, Chief MKO Abiola, with a national holiday.
The Federal Government renamed the Abuja National Stadium at Abiola.
This is contained in a statement released on June 13 in Awka by Mr C Don Adinuba, Anambra State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment.
In the statement, Gov. Willie Obiano described the renaming of the stadium as ``the icing on the cake in the steps taken so far at immortalising a national figure’’.
According to him he won the 1993 presidential vote fair and square but was denied victory and, more painfully, incarcerated in solitary confinement.
``We have watched with admiration how President Buhari first announced in the first week of June, 2018, his intention to make June 12 a National holiday and bestow on Chief Abiola Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, Nigeria’s highest national honour given to only heads of state.
``President Buhari followed it up with an appropriate bill to the National Assembly and then assented to it on passage, thus changing Nigeria’s Democracy Day from May 29.
``May 29 has been serving as commemoration day for the military handover the Nigerian national leadership to elected civilians on May 29, 1999.
``The June 12, is a remembrance the day for a historic election between Chief MKO Abiola, then, of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) was held.
``Frankly, no one expected the National Stadium to be named after the hero of the struggle for democracy. The renaming must have been the president’s personal idea and initiative.
``By the time Chief Abiola joined the presidential contest, there was no person who could rival his support for sports development in the Africa, which earned him the honour of `Pillar of Sports in Africa’ from the Association of African Sports Confederations and Africa Sports Journalist body.
``For example, he provided tremendous financial resources to his Abeokuta-based Abiola Babes, which enabled most of the players to escape from abject poverty to lead comfortable lifestyle.
``The players understandably became more dedicated.
``Abiola Babes scored the bull’s eye by winning within a few years of its formation the prestigious National Football Club League shield.
``Unknown to most Nigerians, Chief Abiola was a boxer, who was guided by an indigene of Nnewi, Anambra State, Dr George Akabogu, who was to become famous school principal and later an academic.
``Chief Abiola was a true Nigerian. He donated generously to worthy causes and championed quite a number selflessly.
``Apart from employing Nigerians generously in his organisations regardless of their faith, gender or ethnic origin, Chief Abiola established Udoka, an Igbo newspaper; Amana, a Hausa newspaper; and Isokan, a Yoruba newspaper.
``Abiola never left anyone in doubt that he was greatly inspired by the nationalism, patriotism and sportsman-like spirit of Nigeria’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, GCFR, PC. He remained an avowed Zikist up to his death.
``On the occasion of the first anniversary of June 12 as Democracy Day in honour of a great Nigerian patriot, it has become imperative to remind President Buhari of the request I made to him.
``I requested, on behalf of the government and people of Anambra State when he visited Onitsha to inaugurate the newly completed Zik Mausoleum last Jan. 24 that he declares Zik’s birthday a national holiday.
``Ghanaians observe the birthday of their first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, himself a Zik’s protégé. Tanzanians observe a national holiday in memory of their first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, as Angolans do in memory of Dr Agustiono Neto, their first president.
``The Great Zik of Africa was not just Nigeria’s first president or the man who led Nigeria to independence in 1960. He was Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor-General and the first Senate President.
``He was the first Nigerian to build a bank, thus inspiring his colleagues as regional premiers in the 1950s to establish their own banks.
``Azikiwe was also the first Nigerian to set up a university, and consequently challenged his peers to follow in his footsteps.
``A Nigerian nationalist of incomparable status and a man of letters through and through, the Great Zik of Africa had established as early as the 1950s newspapers in Ibadan, Zaria, Kano, Onitsha, Port Harcourt and, of course, Lagos to fight for Nigeria’s liberation from oppressive colonial rule.
``Zik inspired a generation of Africans, including the late President Nkrumah of Ghana, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr Nwafor Orizu, who became Nigeria’s second Senate President.
``It has, therefore, become a national scandal that a national holiday has yet to be declared in honour of this great African son.
``The people and government of Anambra State
once again call upon President Buhari to end this national blight by declaring
November 16 of every year a national holiday in commemoration of Dr Azikiwe’s