Ogun, Abiola family trade words over June 12 as holiday
Abiola, others pay supreme price for democracy
Ogun State residents, especially politicians have expressed disappointment that yesterday was not declared a public holiday to mark the celebration of the June 12 anniversary.
Those who spoke to The Guardian argued that even though the day fell on a Sunday, they expected the government to declare yesterday a public holiday to convince the people that the government still appreciates the important role Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO) played in enthroning the present democratic system in the country by paying the supreme sacrifice.
To them, the government’s action is a veil indication that the initial importance it attached to the day is gradually fading away.
This is coming as the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Mudashiru Obasa, has said late MKO Abiola and all others who died in the course of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election paid the supreme price for the unfettered democracy being enjoyed today by all Nigerians including those who attempted to sabotage the election.
Obasa made this remark yesterday at the Assembly complex while speaking on what he described as the uncommon patriotism displayed by Abiola when he decided to lay down his life for the common good and an assured future for the Nigerians.
The speaker described the June 12, election as the fountain from which the present democratic dispensation derived its source.
Late MKO Abiola’s junior brother, Alhaji Muhammed Muritala Olanrewaju Abiola said: “I don’t want to raise eye-brow but as at today I am aggrieved that Sunday was not declared a public holiday despite the fact that the State House of Assembly have passed a law, declaring June 12 of every year a public holiday to mark the day.”
He added: “On Saturday when we went to Oke-Mosan (Governor’s office) we heard that because the day falls on Sunday, there was not going to be a public holiday, it means the Ogun State government has broken the law because if October 1st happens to fall on Sunday, the government will declare public holiday on Monday. I believe we don’t have leaders, we have opportunists.”
But the government, in its reaction yesterday, said it did not flout any law by not declaring a public holiday in commemoration of the anniversary, the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Adejuwon Soyinka, said a telephone interview.
He insisted that Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s administration did not breached any law as far as the issue is concerned, stressing that only the Federal Government has been empowered to declare a public holiday.
He, however, explained that the day was not declared a public holiday because it fell on Sunday.
“There is an extant law in the state that provides that every June 12 be declared a work-free day. We cannot declare a public holiday. Only the Federal Government has the power to declare a public holiday.
“The law says work-free. State governments can’t declare public holiday. Since this year’s celebration fell on a Sunday, traditionally it’s work-free. So, the government felt there was no need to declare another work-free day on Monday.”
Soyinka noted that the state government had often in the past-celebrated June 12 with work-free day to enable civil servants, government functionaries and other members of the public to participate in the activities marking the celebration.
According to Obasa, without June 12 election and the struggle to actualise it, the country could still be wallowing under military dictatorship. “June 12 opened our eyes to the beauty of democracy and the need to achieve it.