“MKO, SDP, Progress!” or so millions of Nigerians thought until a band of evil generals, in cahoots with unconscionable civilians happened. Hopes dashed, lives lost and a nation in turmoil.
I was less than 10 years old, but I recall the confusion, the hushed whispers and chaos as news spread like wildfire; Babangida had annulled Abiola’s election. The description of hell was probably better than Naija in the weeks and months following that decision. Major cities became epicentre of battles. Apocalypse descended on Nigeria.
Abacha stove, sawdust, bonfires, fighting teargas with kerosene-soaked handkerchief. The gunshots at intervals. My grandfather would load his Volkswagen beetle with sawdust then deliver to us in Iloro. So, we could cook. It had become dangerous to go out. I grew up with feminist men, bless them. May Nigeria never go into such abyss, ever again.
If you’re aged 25 or below, the symbolism of June 12 may be lost on you, especially with History as a subject discarded in schools. Do yourself a favour; read up.
The deliberate attempt to reduce this historic declaration by Papa Bubu to politically motivated tokenism is quite laughable. “It’s a political move, it’s because of 2019 elections, he’s trying to buy the South West” etc. LOL! Yes, it’s a political move, an ethical one. What informs a politician’s decision if not politics? We need no Einstein to recognize that. It’s not an epic discovery. You won’t win a Nobel Prize.
Buhari isn’t the reason previous administrations, despite several agitations, refused to acknowledge June 12 as a watershed in our democratic history. If Bu bu is receiving all the ‘accolades’ now, his political strategists are better than his predecessors’ who only have themselves to blame. One does not need to like or agree with Buhari’s person to applaud this master stroke. I call it ‘one blow, hundred die’.
A political move can be that, political yet justified. MKO’s decision to contest the 1993 Presidential election was political. IBB’s annulment of an election adjudged as the fairest and freest in Nigeria’s history is political. Abiola’s detention and eventual death while fighting for the mandate given to him across ethnic and religious groups remains political too. Has it ever occurred to the keypad activists of today that Abiola’s family, biological and political have yet to find closure 25 years on? Could this be the journey to healing at last? No, you only think of yourselves and your bias.
Those who started an ethnic battle on this declaration need help. Talmbout, he’s appealing for Yoruba votes. If you don’t! OBJ’s presidency was an appeal to Yorubas, if anyone must point that out to you in 2018, bleh! His presidency was made possible by June 12 and MKO’s sacrifice. You and I enjoy a semblance of democracy today because Hope ’93 happened. It’s a shame that the greatest beneficiary of MKO’s mandate refused to honour the man and the struggle. It’s however noteworthy that the election was annulled by a northerner/military dictator and is being recognised by another northerner/ex-military dictator. June 12 is bigger than MKO Abiola. It’s a testament to what we can achieve when we eschew politics of religion, ethnicity and violence. Not one Pastor/Imam protested the Muslim/Muslim ticket of MKO/Kingibe. Nobody sang ‘Islamisation or Christianisation’ agenda. In the words of Tundun, Abiola’s daughter “This yearly commemoration will remind us of who we were, Nigerians first. We were a nation that based judgements on competence, character and antecedents, not tribe or religion”. The many preachers who scream ‘agenda’ today were likely at bible school and ‘ile kewu’ in 1993. Na dem wear suits and robes pass now, preaching division!
If you want to wail or hurl vile epithets over declaration of June 12 as our Democracy day, please go on. When you are President, you can pardon the likes of Alams because “He was deposed. He was hounded, tried and jailed. What is wrong with giving pardon to a remorseful sinner?’’ and confer Centenary award of “Outstanding Promoter of Unity, Patriotism and National Development” on former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha. It’s your legacy, manage it however you deem fit. Let Buhari manage his.
If this move wins more votes for President Buhari in 2019, good for him. If it reduces his chances of winning, good for him still. At least, he will be on the right side of the June 12 history.
It would be a shame to find any one in 2018 whose decision to vote for or against Buhari in 2019 is solely based on his recognition of June 12. Between 2015 and now, if a person’s economic, security and political yardsticks of measurement can easily be erased by this single act, such a fellow never really knew what he/she wanted.
“Today when President Muhammadu Buhari gave an executive order to declare that June 12 was Nigeria’s Democracy Day; To confer on MKO the title of GCFR, an honour reserved for presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; To confer on Gani Fawehinmi, the dogged fighter for justice, and my father’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, the title of GCON, the second highest in the land; And in one day, demonstrated to my bruised heart that integrity, fairness, honour were alive and well in a country for which both my parents had sacrificed their lives. There are no words that can capture the depth of my gratitude nor the breadth of my joy. I thank God that I am alive to witness this day” Hafsat Abiola.
“Dearest Daddy, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, GCFR. Wonderful to finally be able to write this, 20 years on! Thank you President Buhari.” Wura Abiola.
“Your Excellency, as I wrote in my letter to you on June 12, 2016, in our minds, the award was the only befitting recognition of the importance of Chief Abiola’s fight for democracy for Nigeria which culminated in four years’ incarceration/solitary confinement and decimation of his business and financial interests, before the ultimate sacrifice, being his life on July 7, 1998, at the age of 60. Mr President, I thank you earnestly for heeding our plea where others before you did not, whilst conveying the assurances of my highest esteem.” Kola Abiola.
“This is to say that no matter how long injustice lasts, at the end of the day goodness and truth will triumph.” Frank Kokori.
“This is what Obasanjo should have done; when everybody went to beg him, and he said NEVER.” Muhammed Fawehinmi.
‘Succour’, ‘relief’, ‘placation’ are few of the feelings palpable in these lines. This in itself is enough. One national debt paid, even if nothing else is ever gained.
As far back as 2016, Pastor Tunde Bakare said in a sermon, “To God, government is a continuum. What one government does will affect subsequent governments. The democracy we’re enjoying today, MKO Abiola paid for with his life; yet only a section of the nation honours him. Until we bring a closure to June 12 1993, it will hang ominously on subsequent governments. Call his family and give him posthumous honours for the price he paid, otherwise everyone standing on red carpet is standing on his blood“
In the words of Funmi Adewola, there’s joy and healing everywhere it matters. We move!
The piece was first published on Omodayo Sanusi Blog.