June 12, Democracy Day and other matters

FILES, NIGERIA – JUNE 11: Nigerian main opposition leader and presidential candidate Moshood Abiola votes in Lagos in a 12 June 1993 file photo. Abiola, the presumed winner of the elections, was placed under house arrest by police 11 June, one day before setting up a government of national unity. The 1993 vote was annulled by then military leader Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. PHOTO: FRANCOIS ROJON/AFP/Getty Images)

Finally, June 12 as a historically iconic date is official. It is no longer a mere symbol of what could have been.

It is now encoded as a take-off date for the resurgence of the democratic experience in Nigeria after the many years of brutal military rule.

And the credit goes to President Muhammadu Buhari, a man whose comrades-in-arms had vitiated the peoples’ will in 1993.

Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola aka MKO (GCFR) will now be added to the pantheon of natural deities who once led the nation at the national level.

Ironically, he never ruled; not even for one day. He was denied that privilege by high level chicanery.

For winning an election and claiming his mandate he was jailed and killed by insane forces of the military junta.

But his spirit has remained alive somewhat.

It was pushed into the abyss for over two decades. However, like the Kashimawo in the spirit of the mythical Abiku, he is back. And in full glory too!

Justice denied while he lived has been restored in death. An irony indeed!

God did not give him the grace to rule physically for reasons unknown to us.

Who knows what kind of ruler or leader he could have been in the treacherous polity of the Nigerian geographical space?

Perhaps he was meant to be a sacrificial lamb, a moral statement that ultimately truth will overtake lies.

Whatever it was and is, there is now a restoration. But the restoration is indeed not for him.

It is for us, the living. It is for the nation.

For, as long as June 12 remained a denied truth, the nation was in the abyss of rottenness, like Denmark in Shakespeare’s Hamlet after the assassination of the elder Hamlet the king by his callous and usurper brother.

The nation needed to be purged of evil at the highest level, in Aso rock, to keep the spirit of disunity and destruction at bay.
   
Of such stuff are fairy tales or fables made – restoration of or restitution for a wrongful act after many years or decades of denial.

Abiola was a most unlikely candidate for President.

He was a business man, a legendary one whose wealth did not disconnect him from the ugly realities of his environment.

He was ready to share his wealth with anybody and everybody and he could have gone on to make more billions.

He made friends across the nation and across the world.

He made friends of the mighty and the ordinary folks.

This was his mystique – a modern baron with the common touch.

He decided that the time had come to transfer his personal generosity, his generous heart into the instrumentality of government.

He made friends with the military establishment.

This friendship gave him access to the top. But it sadly became his undoing too.

The very friends in the military swore that he would not occupy the highest seat in the land. And they succeeded – until now.    
   
Indeed, Abiola had remained an icon of the years of injustice, the kind of injustice that a nation cannot run away from.

It haunts, it stultifies and it finally kills the spirit of growth.

It is the kind of injustice that a nation must atone for, whether now or in the future.

Perhaps we have been too close to the macabre drama of what transpired in 1993 to appreciate the depth of national depravity which followed the victory of June 12 and the attempt to brutally annihilate it from the historical consciousness of the people. 

All nations pay for such anomalies for full restoration to be achieved.
   
President Buhari’s announcement took everyone by surprise. Positive elements of surprise are good for the people.

It shows somebody is listening, reading the mood of the nation correctly.

It shows that somebody has a sense of history and that except we deal with the past we cannot cope with the present or handle the future.

That the announcement came after May 29 this year suggests that it was an afterthought or the suggestion came after the 29th. The gesture healing as it is to many is very political.

With the erosion of the influence of the Jagaban in the South West and with the rising disenchantment with the administration the Buhari government needed a fillip.

It needed a booster to its image that could reduce resistance in the populous Yoruba nation. It remains to be seen how far this will go beyond tokenism.
   
The National Assembly has not found this whole exercise of recognition funny.

They have gone ahead to request for a release of the entire results of the elections which MKO was reported to have won but was never declared.

This is indeed an option the Buhari administration should consider.

Before now we had always said that Abiola was ‘the presumptive winner’; now we want to be able to say that he won the elections and has been so recognized by the government of the day.

In addition to MKO recognition has been extended to the human rights activist Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the rebel par excellence who tormented military dictators as long as he lived.

He would now be conferred with the GCFR national honour.

It is on record that he once rejected a national award by the Federal Government because he could not reconcile himself with the contradictions of the government of the day.

   
The recognition of June is a tribute to all the men and women who fought for the cause on the streets of Lagos and in the Diaspora.

The Beko Ransome-Kutis, the Bolaji Akinyemis, the Pa Ajasins, Anthony Enahoro, Frank Ovie Kokori and the rest need to be recognized and honoured.

It is also a message to unprincipled people who occupy office – tenacity pays. Someday, a Moses will arise that will right all the wrongs in the land, including the political aberration that was military rule.
   
President Buhari needs to be reminded that all acts of injustice in the land need to be corrected now that he has the power and the goodwill.

The Niger Delta remains a sore point in the nation’s history.

The International oil Corporations have not moved their headquarters to the region.

Infrastructure development is still weak in the land.

The paltry 13% of oil resources which goes to the region is inadequate.

As the President has made glad the people of the South West, let him turn his attention to the Niger Delta, pardon Ken Saro-Wiwa, declare him a national hero and massively develop the region.

Let him cancel all the oil well allocations to the rich and the powerful individuals in the country.

Some of the wells should be allocated to the States in the region for a minimum of 20 years for the purpose of transforming the region before crude oil becomes obsolete.

Until the Niger Delta receives the full attention of the Federal Government, June 12 will still leave some ash in the mouth of the suffering people of the oil-bearing region!  

 

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