June 12, ‘abiku’ that refuses to die
By Bisi Olominu
In every nation, there are moments to cherish and relish either by experience or bitterness associated with them. Also, there is a day that is always unique, historical and having political contents.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous black nation, have had such encounters when after two disrupted republics of democratic rule, set sail to embark on another political journey, which is now known as the botched ‘Third Republic’ or June 12, 1993 debacle.
The date and month was the day Nigeria was on the brink of transiting from military rule characterized by oppression, intimidations, cajoling of the masses, excessive harassments, killings, maiming, clamping down on the media and dictatorship of the military imperialist, Gen. Badamosi Babangida.
Obviously, every Nigerian in 1993, explored the possibility of democracy and believed that Babangida would relinquished power as he promised. Alas, he failed Nigeria, Nigerians and the whole world.
The two party system, that led to the emergence of the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), was competitive and formidable.
Ideologically, the NRC was the conservative and to the left, while the SDP was progressive and democratic in nature.
Before the election, the two Presidential Candidates, Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa of the NRC and Business Mogul, Chief M.K.O Abiola of the SDP, engaged in series of debates, toured the whole country canvassing for votes.
Rallies and campaigns were interesting as both candidates moved across the country, no thuggery, no ballot snatching and stuffing, no killings and maiming. It was indeed a democracy in action. Nigerians were not only happy to participate in the election, indeed it was the first time they would throw their ethnicity and religions away and voted for Muslim/ Muslim ticket. There is no election that has united the country together, as the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
The whole narrative of the election, in summary is that it is the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history.
There are still ongoing debates as to why the election which produced the late Chief M.K.O Abiola of the SDP as the widely believed winner, was annulled by Gen Ibrahim Babangida. The dramatic personnel and Annular had said at various fora that the Military Supreme Council members were against Abiola ruling the country. This is not justifiable as those who are not up to fifty people cannot decide for Nigerians.
The cancellation has caused a serious setback for the country and also for the Cerebral Political Science scholar Prof Humphrey Nwosu, the then Chairman of National Electoral Commission (NEC).
Two decades later, Nigeria is yet to have credible elections that are true reflection of the nigerian people.
June 12, 1993 election stands tall, it has no comparison. Why this election cannot be compared to any in the country?
First, in 1993 the SDP fielded Chief M.K.O Abiola a muslim from the South and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe also a muslim as running mate from the North. Christians and Muslims voted the SDP based on ideals, ideology, values and philosophies of the leaders, not religious sentiments as we see today.
Second, both candidates (Chief Abiola and Alhaji Tofa) appeared for incisive debates as we see in the US, UK, France, Germany and other modern democracy in the civilised world.
Unfortunately ever since 1999, Nigeria is yet to witness an engaging debate between Presidential candidates.
Third, unlike in 1993, where we had stability in membership and focus of party members on the principles of their parties and low cases of cross-carpeting, the situation is rampant now as major Political Parties, People’s Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress, have their members decamping and even have to re-track after a while, depicting a clueless political class in the country.
In all, the major lesson is that both the NRC and SDP had strong value for internal democracy, something the PDPs and APCs can learn from.
Despite what successive administration did to wipe out June 12 from the political lexicon of Nigerians, it has refuses to die.
Former president Olusegun Obasanjo suppressed the day and did everything to subvert it, yet June 12 election refuses to die. The then President Goodluck Jonathan after many campaigns wanted to name University of Lagos, UNILAG, after the late winner of the election, Abiola, but he was rebuffed, condemned and met with litigations.
But Jonathan described June 12 as a unique day that changed the political history of Nigeria. He said that though the Federal government was yet to recognise the day as a public holiday, some state governments had done so.
Twenty seven (27) years after the annulment, June 12 has been recognised by the government of President Mohammadu Buhari as Democracy Day in Nigeria.
Joe Igbokwe, the Publicity Secretary of All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos State said ” For 27 years we struggled, spoke, appealed, begged, asked and called for attention of the powers that be since 1999, that May 29 former President Olusegun Obasanjo chose as Democracy Day is a fraud, null and void, and of zero consequence. We said so because nothing significant was attached to the date by those who sold the idea to Obasanjo. Till date we are yet to find out why that date was chosen and the reason for the decision.
“Chief Obasanjo did what he did not apparently to mock and get at the late Abiola and the family he left behind. He did not want the name of Chief MKO Abiola to be remembered or to be attached to anything he is doing. He pretended as if June 12, 1993 never existed.
“The late former President Musa Yar’Adua came and died in office after 2 years and nothing was done to remember Abiola for making the supreme sacrifice. Former President Jonathan came and for 6 years in office and simply toed the line of his predecessors and ignored the demand for June 12 to be recognised as Democracy Day and Chief MKO Abiola immortalised.
“Now entered President Mohammadu Buhari in 2015. The same pressure was mounted and sustained for more than two years until he did the needful. He recognised June 12, 1993 monumental events and gave Abiola the highest honour in the land, GCFR, the honour reserved for former Heads of State. Consequently, he pronounced June 12 as Democracy Day and the National Assembly has put a stamp of authority on the historical date by passing the bill into law.
“Are we where we are supposed to be in this country? Have we learnt a great lesson from the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election? Is the country better after the June 12 election?
One significant thing from the “Hope ’93 election is the campaign slogan of MKO Abiola, “MKO is our man ooo”. No food, no light, no portable water, no house, no means of transportation”.
This is indeed song of lamentation. What Abiola was trying to wipe out in Nigeria is still living with us in the country. We are not yet in the promise land but where we were in 1993 is not where we are today. Those seeking for office in Nigeria should listen to the jingle and draw inspiration from it. It is glaring that Nigerians have not gotten the real dividends of democracy yet. Yes, we have glimpses of performances all around, but not yet Uhuru.
We owe this democracy to Abiola and all the fallen democrats who laid the foundation of the present democracy with their blood. Nigerians should remain the main focus of our democracy.
What we are celebrating today are Nigerians who through ” Option A-4″ voted massively for MKO Abiola.