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TODAY IN HISTORY: MKO Abiola Declares Himself President And Commander-In-Chief Of Nigeria At Epetedo

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On June 11, 1994, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, delivered a historic speech declaring himself the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria. This declaration was a pivotal moment in the fight to restore democratic governance in Nigeria, though it ultimately led to Abiola's arrest, imprisonment, and death.

After a year of unsuccessful efforts to reclaim his annulled mandate by the military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, Abiola declared himself the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and announced the formation of a “new Government of National Unity.” He also “reconvened” the National Assembly, “reinstated” dismissed Governors, and “reconstituted” the state assemblies and local government councils. All these were to bring back the symbolic structures that would usher in democratic rule in Nigeria while at the same time allowing the military to peacefully leave the corridors of power.

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However, in response to his declaration, military head of state Sani Abacha charged Abiola with treason and ordered his arrest. Abiola was imprisoned for four years but he never made it out alive as he died on July 7, 1998, the day he was scheduled to be released. His death triggered tension and agitation in Nigeria even as it dashed the hope of the Nigerian people who had put their religious, ethnic, and other differences aside and voted massively for him hoping for a significant change in governance.

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The speech, known as the 'Epetedo Proclamation' due to its delivery location in Epetedo, Lagos Island, is remembered for its powerful message. In the address, Abiola, who was described by his son and many Nigerians as "the president who never ruled," expressed his struggles, efforts to reclaim his mandate, and the repeated humiliations he faced from the power-hungry military rulers. He faced all those ill-treatments in his quest to use peaceful means to restore democracy for the benefit of Nigeria and its citizens.

To enable you to read the exact words of Abiola's speech, feel his thoughts, and connect with how he felt during the struggle, read the full 'Epetedo Declaration' here as reproduced by ICIR.

 4 Other Key Events Today

(1) Margaret Thatcher was the first British Prime Minister in 160 years to win 3rd term - 1987.

(2) ⁠D-Day landing forces converged - 1944.

(3) Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, publicly burnt himself to death in protest against religious intolerance in Vietnam - 1963.

(4) Israel and Syria stopped fighting in Lebanon - 1982.

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