Former President of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) has described the posthumous award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) bestowed on Chief MKO Abiola as “a brilliant and fantastic political move” coming barely nine months to the 2019 presidential elections. Agbakoba, who was once the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), fought alongside other civil rights activists and the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) for the actualization of the presidential mandate given to Abiola on June 12, 1993.
In an exclusive chat with New Telegraph, Agbakoba observed that though there were legal and procedural errors in the award given to Abiola by the Federal Government, the award cannot be wished away because of its significance in the political history of Nigeria. “We know there is politics behind it, but you can’t blame a man who took advantage of a big opportunity. Some would say it was a fantastic move.
It was a brilliant political move and you can’t take it from him (President Muhammadu Bugari) because we’ve had President Ibrahim Babangida who annulled the election. He (IBB) called it the freest and fairest election, but he did nothing to reverse its annulment. He didn’t award anything; he didn’t name anything after him.
General Sani Abacha of blessed memory was there for five years and others have come and gone without doing anything about this matter. “Here is what we have been fighting for in the last 25 years and suddenly somebody whom we least expected to do anything about it coming to do something. We accept it in good faith. So, I know that there is the political undertone, but the important point is that the honour is well deserved even though belated.
“The point is that the political capital that the President wanted to gain, he has achieved it. But whether it will sway South- West support for him is a different ball game entirely. There is no question that the South-West, Afenifere, the Abiola’s family and the human rights community have received this award very warmly. So the intent by the President has been achieved,” he said.
On the raging argument in respect of the legality of the award, Agbakoba observed that more often than not, political moves taken essentially to exploit a political advantage cannot be free from procedural errors and controversies