The Deputy Governor of Ondo State, the Secretary to the State Government, the Chief of Staff, the Head of Service, distinguished citizens of this country, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, let me stand, respectfully, on the established protocol and crave the understanding of all traditional rulers present to allow me proceed, with the knowledge that their royal presence is accorded full respect now as always. The Episcopal admonition of the clergy is valued by us deeply. You will all join me to appreciate the representative of the family of the only president elected but not sworn in the electoral history of the country, Chief M.K.O Abiola.

I must not fail to commend the members of my party, APC, for the impressive presence. I salute the courage, consistency and doggedness of members of the state executive, who strive to bring the party back to the path of rectitude to enable us serve the good people of this state truthfully.

I thank the guest lecturers, my professional colleagues, Femi Falana, SAN, and Jiti Ogunye, Esq. I extend my profound gratitude to activists who shunned other prior commitments to be part of this unique celebration. The President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, CDHR, Malachy Ugwumadu, Comrade Bello, Tope Temokun, all lawyers, and others present here, even at short notice, you are most welcome to the Sunshine State. I congratulate our students and the young ones, who are part of this expression of gratitude by our state and its people, to those whose unalloyed love for our fatherland continues to inspire hope.

Only a few, if any, of the young ones, will recognize the importance of this event. They must be wondering at the extent of veneration reserved for men and women, whose blood and commitment watered the democratic tree, setting us free from dictatorship. This event stands the risk of being tagged with an ostensible political coloration but deep understanding of the phenomenal essence of the June 12, 1993 presidential election as watershed in the history of the country, readily reveals, to those who reason deeply, the logic propelling seemingly endless celebration. We will not stop to flaunt these heroes and heroines of the struggle for the redefinition of the polity, especially now that some confused elements are heating up the polity to achieve parochial designs.

I have the greatest pleasure to welcome you all to this special occasion, the commemoration of resilience, equanimity, dedication and focus of peoples with a shared destiny. Discounting political rhetoric and empty grandstanding of politicians, on an occasion such as this one, I am extremely delighted that, as the current chief servant of the Sunshine State, basking in providential grace, it is my singular luck to be your chief host at this historic moment. Imbued with the understanding of the verdict of history, I perform a sacred duty to my state and, more significantly, posterity. Our children must be trained to appreciate the virtue inherent in sacrifice and altruistic service. I associate myself with the evocation of enthusiasm freely expressed here today.

Beyond uncontrolled revelry, usually associated with a convivial ambience, I believe this celebration should afford us the auspicious moment of introspection. We should pause to ponder on the journey so far. We should also leave the venue, rededicated to the cause of the total emancipation of the downtrodden from the shackles of poverty and the attendant gross privation. This has become more exigent now that the country faces serious identity crisis. This admonition becomes all the more compelling at this time when groups of brazen opportunists are bent on creating confusion, setting brothers against one another and turning neighbours, who have lived together in amity, to enemies.

This mindless rabble-rousing, of the vilest form, possessing centrifugal potentials, whose virulent capability may lead the country to implode, must be confronted, headlong, and neutralised. The divisive philosophy of difference, dubiously bandied as nationalism, seeks to undermine the gains of the June 12 struggle. All adults members of this audience will recall how the myth of ethnicity and religion, a twin weapon of deceit, employed by politicians and unscrupulous businessmen and women to control the people, was shattered to their discomfiture. The statement made with the 14 million votes of Nigerians to elect MKO and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe was, and still remains, the most authentic plebiscite conducted since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914.

The June 12 1993 presidential election, won by late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, unraveled many grandiloquent hypocrites. The struggle for its actualization, after the unjust annulment by the military junta led by General Ibrahim Babangida, equally threw up some persons who benefitted, materially, from the same oppressors whom they professed to be fighting. The spiritual essence of this phenomenon finds expression in the demystification of virtually certain personalities whose egregious outpouring of hypocrisy stood at variance with their deeds. The detention and the eventual death of the symbol of the struggle, MKO Abiola, exposed many of these self-appointed freedom fighters. This occasion is not for them. We shall have cause to revisit their nefarious activities later now that some elements have become more brazen, hoping to take us through the well- trodden path of equivocation and deceit, once again.

What started as agitations designed to curry attention by some irritants, now threatens to tear this country apart if the government fails to rein in the excesses of the unscrupulous elements. College drop-outs, upgraded street urchins, semi-literate simpletons and all manner of cretins desperate for attention, issue ultimatums and threats. The attitude of indulgence and sometimes, encouragement, noticeable on the part of political leaders and the so called leaders of thought, and the deplorable nonchalant disposition of government at both the state and federal levels, has emboldened these hustlers in recent times. The proliferation of these groups with nebulous ideas is a security risk.

The June 12 presidential election laid concrete slabs on the grave of mendacity and treachery. Nigerians spoke with one voice. They opted for a promise of redemption from poverty. Despite all contrivance, devised and mounted to scuttle the process, most eligible voters trooped out to cast their ballots. From Lagos to Edo, Delta and all the Eastern States, it was MKO Abiola/Kingibe, Muslim/Muslim ticket. From the South South to North Central, the choice was the same. From North East to North West, the enthusiasm was electrifying. The country was ready to take a leap into an assured future as a nation. That was the dream that the military deferred with the active connivance of politicians.

We are gathered here today to remember the historic event. We remember the heroes and heroine of the titanic struggle, the consequence of which is the democratic governance of today. We retain fond memories of the dead and celebrate the living among them. We can never repay the debt of gratitude owed these icons. We can, however, show appreciation for their sacrifices by embracing rectitude in all our dealings. If the basis of most agitations has been to ensure that the mass of the people live well, the only evidence of an appreciative society lies in the quality of service to the people. This is the only reason which justifies the existence of government. The condition of living of the people should be a direct reflection of the quality of governance.

How can we ever forget the contributions of the likes of Alao Aka Bashorun, Gani Fawehinmi, SAM, SAN, Beko Ransome Kuti, Alfred Rewane, Kudirat Abiola, Frank Kokori, Chima Ubani, Prof Wole Soyinka and a host of others, too numerous to mention here? History has reserved a deserving space for them. The efforts of these patriots must not be allowed to go to ruins. We must impress it on the confused elements, who whined recently at the scarcity of rice and tomato from the same region they want excised, that it is in our interest that this country should remain united as one.

Must we also remind the simpletons who issued empty threats that nobody will be evicted from any part of the country? Is it not shameful that while we all condemn xenophobic attacks in South Africa and other places, we are unable to live with one another? In whose interest are the exigent calls for political restructuring without considering the economic potentials and inputs of virtually all regions that have been rendered parasitic and unproductive by an avaricious and untoward generation? What exactly, other than parochialism, propelled by greed, that is pushing certain characters to overheat the polity? How educated are we when we exhibit abysmal ignorance, confusing immediate location as evidence of origin? What is the foundation for our avowed religiosity, hypocritical display of piety, when, one hand we discriminate against ourselves and still regard the idea of emanation from one Demiurge, God, as valid?

It is not my intention to deliver another lecture. We have had exciting moments today. We will continue to face the challenges of nationhood. We will disagree. We will shout at one another. In the end, we must look for a middle way to strike the realistic balance for peaceful co-existence. No group of disgruntled persons must be permitted much leeway that encourages reckless outburst.

This country is too important to be allowed to drift towards anarchy. There are challenges, no doubt. Certain parts may feel excluded in some respects. There are genuine reasons for serious anxieties. But the solution to the multifarious problems in the land cannot be disintegration. Most of those who fan the ember of disunity were not born during the last civil war which claimed the lives of millions of our citizens. The mischievous elements who participated in the confusion of those days will not encourage their own children to take up arms.

We use this medium to call on the Federal Government to deal with this menace swiftly and decisively. All self-appointed groups, such as IPOB, MASSOB, AREWA, OPC, MEND among others, and as many as may be planning to engage in criminality, while arrogating to themselves the exclusive wisdom to determine what is in the best interest of various ethnic groups in the country, peopled by their betters, due to the current indulgence, must be sanctioned accordingly.

We have listened to eminent speakers at today’s gathering. As we round off this important ceremony, I have the uncommon honour, as the Governor of Ondo State, to announce the renaming of our Democracy Park in Akure as MKO Abiola Democracy Park, Akure. This is the least we can do to immortalize a man whose sacrifice bequeathed the current democratic order to us. As we all depart from this venue, I admonish us to think, deeply, about our country. We must engage her constantly but constructively. We must distance ourselves from anything that will undermine peace and harmony in the polity.

I thank you all for your attention.