*Photo: Prof Sylvester Odion Akhaine*
As the battle for the primaries of the Edo State gubernatorial election gets hotter, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has made a case for one of the candidates, Professor Sylvester Odion Akhaine. The group contends that Odion Akhaine deserves the ticket because of his role as the General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) which was in the forefront of the battle to halt military rule in the 90s.
This was revealed in a statement issued on Friday, 19th January, 2024 by the Executive Director of the group, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The full statement reads:
“We are keenly monitoring developments in Edo State where party faithfuls are getting ready for the gubernatorial election which is billed for Saturday, 21st September, 2024.
“Of particular interest to us in the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is the candidature of Professor Odion Akhaine who is vying for the post of governor in the election.
“Though a non-Muslim, it is our wish to identify with him and give him solid solidarity in view of the momentous role he played during the struggle to free Nigeria from the vicious claws of military dictators particularly after the annulment of the results of the June 12, 1993 election.
“As the General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy (CD) in those days, Professor Odion Akhaine was in the trenches with the likes of Dr. Beko Ransom Kuti, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Professor Wole Soyinka, Femi Falana, Uba Sani and other pro-democracy activists. He also spent time in prison for confronting the military. Odion Akhaine is therefore one of the heroes of democracy in Nigeria.
“Unfortunately today, many of those who fought for our democracy and paid costly prices have been forgotten by those who are reaping the fruits of democracy.
“It is paradoxical that apart from President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State, we cannot find those who were actually in the trenches in the corridors of power today. In actual fact, there had been near total blackout of pro-democracy activists from the corridors of power from 1999 until the emergence of President Tinubu and Uba Sani in 2023.
“While Tinubu gave critical logistic support to both the CD and the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) in those days, Odion Akhaine was the engine room of the CD, a dynamic and articulate human rights group that gave the military tyrants sleepless nights by organizing civil disobedience throughout the country.
“It is therefore a matter of necessity for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to show interest in the candidature of Odion. The camaraderie of human rights activism should come to the fore when we come across those with whom we dodged bullets and those with whom we outwitted ‘tails’ either on the highways or in the streets in those tough days.
“It is for the same raison d’etre that MURIC deems it necessary to speak up for Odion Akhaine. We worked closely with him during the struggle for June 12 and we found him to be a man of character, a man of immense courage, a man of integrity and, above all, a great patriot.
“He may not be a Muslim like us but he is the face of equal rights, fairplay, justice, democratic rule and the rule of law. Odion Akhaine is the embodiment of humanity. We endorse him.
“It is true that MURIC protects Allah-given fundamental human rights of Muslims, but our focus goes beyond the promotion of the interests of Muslims alone. We will also go to great lengths to identify with and support men and women of valour, values and character. We will project humanity.
“As the youngest candidate from Edo Central that has only produced a governor who spent just 18 months in office while other zones in the state have produced governors who spent 16 and 8 years, justice and fairness and inclusiveness will be served by picking Odion.
“We therefore call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the leadership of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Edo and the good people of Edo State to support the candidature of Professor Odion Akhaine. He is the great treasure without measure that the party cannot afford to lose in Edo State.
“Let us reward those who sacrificed for democracy but have not benefitted from it even after 25 years. As we honour the fathers of the Nigerian nation like Ahmadu Bello, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, let us also honour the heroes of democracy, those who saved us from the wide open jaws of military totalitarianism. Give Odion Akhaine the chance to serve Edo State.”