Soyinka told the president to drop his professional loyalty to Abacha.
Abiola was the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election in what is described as Nigeria's freest and fairest election. After then-military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, annulled the election, Abiola refused to concede his mandate and was imprisoned in 1994 by Abacha who had taken over government. Abiola died in custody under suspicious circumstances on July 7, 1998, a month after Abacha himself died mysteriously.
President Buhari recently announced his decision to confer the post-humous award of Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on the late Abiola, and formally did so during an investiture ceremony at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
During his speech, President Buhari condemned the annulment of the election as a perversion of the free will of the electorate and urged Nigerians to accept the recognition of the events trailing June 12 in good faith.
When he took to the podium, Soyinka praised the president for his recognition of the June 12 struggle but also advised him to drop his professional loyalty to Abacha.
The president has made recent public statements that have appeared to praise Abacha's regime despite that he was noted for overseeing widespread violation of human rights as well as looting of the national treasury.
Referring to Abacha as Nigeria's worst dictator, Soyinka told Buhari that it's impossible to hold Abacha and Abiola in the same high regard.
He said, "I'll like to make a request, Mr President, that you manage to stop creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians. It is not possible to honour MKO Abiola in one breath and then admire his tormentor in another breath.
"Loyalty is all very well, but it can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual if he were alive today would be before the international court of crimes against humanity; one who broke the laws of Nigeria and international law, pauperised this nation, and committed crimes against humanity.
"It is confusing if professional loyalty is carried so far as to be accorded to such an individual."
While the president was speaking on Tuesday, he apologised to the family of the late Abiola, on behalf of the federal government, for his death in the struggle to hold on to his mandate.
Buhari said, "On behalf of the federal government, I tender the nation's apology to the family of late MKO Abiola who got the highest votes and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of June 12 struggle."
The president asked everyone in the Conference Hall to stand for a one-minute silence in honour of MKO Abiola and all those who lost their lives in the aftermaths of the annulled election.