One community in Lagos Island, Epetedo, got into public reckoning because of the action of one man, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola on June 11, 1994 and yesterday, 24 years after, the community gathered to not only relive the historic Epetedo declaration, but also eulogized the life and time of their hero, who across the country today would be remembered for the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Abiola, who won the election that was later annulled, declared himself the president of Nigeria at the Eleganza Sport Centre, in Epetedo on June 11, 1994, after waiting a full year for his mandate to be restored.
That momentous event, which eventually led to Abiola’s journey to prison where he never came out from alive, has forever placed Epetedo community on the world map and would never be divorced from Nigeria’s history and democratic experience.
When The Guardian visited the small-town community yesterday, residents took turns to delightfully relive how their appointment with June 12 history has been of great benefits to the community.
They described Abiola as a messiah who would have turned things around for not only Lagos State, but Nigeria as a whole.
Mr. Funsho Kass, a community leader and activist, said: “I was in my final year at University of Lagos when the push for this journey of democracy started, I made sure I was involved in every aspect of it.
Abiola is a man of honour and deserves the recognition by the president, Muhammadu Buhari, has accorded our hero as the father of modern democracy in Nigeria.
He was a man who fully had the interest of the people at heart and would have pushed Nigeria to a greater height in the comity of nations, the same way he pshed his many businesses.”
Kass added that he still benefits from the history that was made that day till date. “I remember going to an event sometimes ago, I was allowed entrance immediately I mentioned I was from Epetedo. This community will soon turn out to be a tourist attraction and will aid the community’s future development.”
Another witness of the June 11 speech, Mr. Raymond Afolabi, said “that day is one of the greatest of all in the history of Nigeria.
A lot of people came out to honour Abiola, he was brought here by Dr. Wahab Dosunmu, the NADECO leader then and Ademola Adeniji Adele, who was the chairman of SDP in Lagos.
He didn’t go to one of those big events center but he came down here to deliver his speech, which was a great honour to us.
We are eternally thankful that the president has honoured Abiola and we believe Epetedo will also be transformed because we will push for Abiola’s annual anniversary to be moved to this community, as this was where he made history and we know the community will be more recognised and transformed.”
Mrs. Molara Funsho, a resident said she witnessed the historic day 24 years ago.
“I saw him for the first time that day, he came along with his wife and they promised us a lot for our country, our state and our future.
That man deserves the honour and he will forever be remembered.
No one like him has come around and it will take a very long time for his like to be born in Nigeria again.”
Mr. Wahab Gbadegesin said “the first and only election I ever participated in was the Abiola’s election and I was disappointed at the stalemate due to the annulment of the election.
That 1993 election was the most free and fair election ever in this country.
A lot of us came out to choose an uncommon man who was ready to take our country forward.
Abiola had men of common interest in his cabinet but they weren’t given opportunity to work but we still appreciate that day till date.”
According to Mr. Femi Agboola, one of the youth leaders in the community, June 12 can never be forgotten in years to come and after Abiola has been honoured, he will forever be remembered alongside Epetedo.
“Abiola came in through Third Mainland bridge that day to the Eleganza Sport Centre.
That was the longest motorcade and convoy I have ever seen in my life. We all celebrated him that day.
It was after he left that soldiers arrested him, it wouldn’t have been possible if they came during his declaration, because we would have stopped them.”