June 12, Abiola and Nigeria

MKO Abiola

Sir: Whenever I asked someone their birthday or any memorable date in their lives, if they said June, I will interject “I hope it’s not June 12.”

Some would catch my drift and say “no o!” Even with that date’s symbolic meaning, it’s hard not to associate it with shattered dreams.

The date became like room number 419, or the number 13 in most western cultures. Even for those who were not born when this event occurred there was still to them something about Nigeria that has remained unexplained.

In a history class it will be hard for the teacher not to fumble with the story.

Too many questions begging for answers and all of them starting with why, why, why. When on that June 12, 1993 Ibrahim Babangida annulled MKO Abiola’s election, it created a ghost that won’t find rest.

Whenever there was an inauguration of a new President ghost that won’t go away haunts Nigeria.

In fact, the ghost starts haunting Nigeria right from when the Independent National Electoral Commission releases timetable for elections.

It’s there at the campaigns, it’s there at the election proper.

Gasp, it’s there when results are being released! June 12 is a date like no other.

Like Sisyphus it seemed a struggle that can never be completed. Like Janus it looked forward and backward.

But, like Elpis it personified the spirit of hope. 

People have kept the June 12 hope alive, especially those from the South West.

But June 12 is not a Yoruba story, but a Nigeria story.

In fact, it tells the story of Nigeria more than anything can ever tell the story of Nigeria. Not even the Nigerian civil war can try.

In the war Nigeria was divided. But with June 12 it was one indivisible entity.

It might seem an election year strategy to woo the electorates, yet credit must be given to President Muhammadu Buhari for taking the initiative.

Whenever the injustice of June 12 is remembered, it will always be said that the man Buhari was the one who righted that wrong.

History will be kind to him in this regard.

I hope that this move will usher in even greater moves to right the wrongs with the entity called Nigeria.

Justice is served better when it does not have to be the will of the leader but the will of the people.

Everyone agrees that MKO Abiola has been wrongly treated. He suffered and died trying to get back what was truly his.

Till date, no Nigerian politician has the popularity the late MKO had.

I recall his visit to Sokoto when the Usmanu Danfodiyo University conferred on him a honourary doctorate degree, along with the then President of Cape Verde, Aristides Pereira.

All the students cheered him. Everywhere he went to in Nigeria he was welcome.

Tribe never mattered. Religion never mattered. When will this kind of thing happen in Nigeria again?

The answer blows in Nigeria’s wind. Perhaps, MKO Abiola will be remembered as the best president that never ruled Nigeria.

But even more than that he reminds us that we have lost mileage in our nationhood journey.

Dates don’t make themselves, people make dates. Nations don’t make themselves, people make nations.

Our country, Nigeria has been given a chance for a rebirth. Let’s seize it!

Dr. Cosmas Odoemena.

In this article:
June 12MKO Abiola
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