The former vice president said MKO Abiola deserves the award for his sacrifice to the nation.
Abiola was the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election that was annulled by then-military Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. He was imprisoned in 1994 where he died in custody under suspicious circumstances on July 7, 1998, four years after his arrest.
In a press statement released on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, President Buhari bestowed the highest honour of the land on MKO to symbolise his contribution to the nation's democratic history. He also disclosed that June 12, the 1993 election date, will replace May 29 as the official Democracy Day because it's a more symbolic date.
Buhari also awarded Abiola's running mate Baba Gana Kingibe with a Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), an award he also bestowed on the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) for his human rights agitation for the actualisation of the June 12th elections.
Atiku has added his voice to the many reactions that have trailed the announcement, taking to his Twitter account (@atiku) on Friday, June 8, to say Abiola deserves the honour while also commending Buhari for rewarding his sacrifice.
He posted, "I rejoice with the Abiola family over the recognition bestowed on its late patriarch, Chief MKO Abiola; my friend and political ally and acclaimed winner of June 12 1993 elections, better known as June 12. The symbolic honor done his memory and the struggle he died for is commendable."
Atiku was an aspirant vying for the presidential ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) before he lost out to Abiola who won the national election that was eventually annulled.
Since then, he served as Nigeria's vice president between 1999 and 2007, lost the presidential election in 2007, and lost in two presidential primary elections in 2011, with the People's Democratic Party (PDP), and 2015, with the All Progressives' Congress (APC), to Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari respectively, both eventual winners.
He has expressed interest to run for the presidency again and is the favourite to win the PDP's primary election as well as be Buhari's biggest opponent.