By Charles Adingupu
Though the realisation of June 12 lies in the forgotten past, the vestiges of the agitation by political activists and pro-democracy operators still linger on. For the former General Secretary of Afenifere and NADECO, Chief Ayo Opadokun, June 12 cannot be wished away even though Nigeria is currently enjoying civilian rule but not democracy. In his characteristic manner, he said the activities chronicle the woes of Nigeria and posited that May 29 can never be an accepted date for the celebration of democracy in Nigeria.
For him and his compatriots, May 29 only reminds them of the day the Igbos were massacred in the north and Dr. Majekodumi was foisted on the Westerners as administrator. In this interview, he listed two conditions that will make June 12 a chapter in Nigeria’s political history. Excerpt.
Ideology behind June 12
June 12 was in the annals of our national history. It was a day Nigerians spoke with one voice. By their votes, they buried the various ethnic national divide, North North, South South, Christian, Muslim and other dubious elitists concepts that were used to run Nigeria down. Inspite of the fact that the then military junta did not release money to INEC to construct the polling units.
God was so kind to Nigeria that the election went without violence. The election (June 12) of Late Chief MKO Abiola was the first Pan Yoruba mandate that anybody who contested for presidential election got. Hitherto, the NPC government of the First Republic never won any election outside northern region except that of Macford Okilo.
In the Second Republic also, the election of Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari were all concentrated in the northern states of the country except that of Macford Okilo again, and that of former Governor of Central bank, Clement Isong. In all these, it was a Pan Yoruba mandate that was effective. Abiola defeated Alhaji Bashir Tofa in his own state, Kano. That election was a kind of bond of Nigerians who ignored that fact that it was a Muslim Muslim ticket.
However, the military decided that Abiola will not be the President. One of them is currently presiding over the Nigeria parliament.
In the person of …….
You should know him, David Mark. He was a very strong factor in the annulment of June 12. So, the opportunity for Nigerians to have a nation was again thwarted by that wicked act of theirs. Again, as they normally do as overlords, the Hausa-Fulani did not allow the Yoruba nation to have their own nominee.They imposed General Olusegun Obasanjo on them. The election that brought General Obasanjo to power was fraudulent. In the frontage of General Obasanjo’s house at Otta, he never won. He was not nominated there.
It wasn’t the general elections?
Yes, the real general election of 1999. Unfortunately for them, General Obasanjo has paid the Hausa-Fulani people in their right coin.
The ideology behind June 12
For us, as the General Secretary of Afenifere then and General Secretary of NADECO, we made our position clear and that was why we received absolute support from both local and international development partners. The position of NADECO and its objectives had not been realized. The first objective was that there must be a national restructuring of this country. The current structure is evil. It’s distorted and cannot allow for any development neither can it allow for running government efficiently. It is because of the current structure of this country that corruption is so wild, so endemic.
We were concerned that that was the first thing to do. So, I think MKO Abiola was so interested that he told us then that if we work along with him to regain his mandate, the first thing he would do in office was to set up a management committee for the convocation of a sovereign national conference and we accepted. The meeting held at General Adeyinka Adebayo’s house at the GRA Ikeja.
Is June 12 beyond MKO Abiola?
I’ve stated this earlier. I said the two objectives, the first is national restructuring, the second, campaigning for the de-annulment of MKO’s presidential victory.
Is it the fear of the realisation of those objectives that made northern oligarchy to annul June 12 election?
Well, I don’t know their thinking. So, I can’t say this was the problem they have. But what they have done really was to undermine the collective interest of the country. If they were responsible and they wanted progress and development of Nigeria, they would have allowed the man who won the election to govern.
Can we separate the ideology of June 12 from the personality of MKO Abiola?
That’s impossible. As long as June 12 remains our national nemesis, it will continue to be relevant. Since 1999, successive Nigerian government refused to accord him his rightful place. We have kept on reminding them that they cannot get away with such action.
Can you say that the Fourth Republic has captured the whole essence of June 12?
Let me tell you what I do know, the current political operators are a disappointment. For us who laid down our lives for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, we thought that after that sacrifice with the return of civilian regime, things would be better for all of us.
But that’s not what obtains today. To make matters worse, the more petrol dollar they earned, the greater the poverty nature of our country emerges. In other words, the more our leaders earned more money which ordinarily would have made life better for Nigerians, the more the people suffer poverty. Our politicians are becoming worse for reasons best known to them.
Certainly, this current dispensation has not captured the whole essence of June 12. Let me remind you of something you already know. In 1999, when Obasanjo came into power, the power supply was at one thousand six hundred mega watts (1,600 megawatts). When he left office, despite the huge hard currency and Nigerian naira he spent on that sector, power supply was not up to fifteen thousand when he left. What has happened? Every now and then, the government under Obasanjo would announce billions of naira contract awarded. Yet, nobody ever saw those contracts executed.
Obasanjo gave three hundred billion naira to the then Works Minister, Chief Anthony Anenih but he never commissioned any road throughout his administration. To make matters worse, look at Nigeria today, when General Sani Abacha struck in 1994, he said our hospitals have become mere consulting clinics. The hospitals are worse today. There are Nigerians who are dying because they cannot afford five hundred naira worth of drugs. But our leaders, whenever they are sick, sometimes, they used air ambulance to take them to abroad for treatment. They go to Britain, India for treatment. Yet, they refused to equip our hospitals with adequate modern facilities. We have more money than India. Why is it that we cannot establish better hospitals in Nigeria.
Our education sector is in a terrible mess. What Nigeria offers today as education is deception. In 1964, UNESCO told the international communities that education is only one thing that turns around the function of our local environment. So, every country must devote twenty-six per cent of its total budget to education. Nigeria government failed to comply with this regulation. I’m sure they, the government only budgetted about one to three percent of her total earnings to education.
Reaction to the renaming of UNILAG
It was a Greek gift. President Goodluck Jonathan wanted to cause division among the Yoruba people. Though, I commend him for his bold decision but the thought process that led to it was suspicious. The whole idea behind it has created a regional champion of Chief MKO Abiola who won the June 12 election that was free and fair. Therefore, something of a national symbol should have been named after him. Abiola was more of a sports person while he was alive. He was a pillar of sports in Africa.
The national stadium Abuja would have been used to immortalise Abiola. Furthermore, there was no reason for what the President did. He would have weighed the pros and cons of his decision. Also, he would have consulted widely.
What the President did was an illegality in all its ramifications. There’s an Act upon which the University of Lagos was established, and it stipulates – that there is a tertiary institution which shall be known as the University of Lagos. President Jonathan is not a military president but guided by rule of law. The President can still make amend.
About few years ago, France produced an admirable electronic underground train that runs about three hundred and fifty kilometers per hour. That’s to say that from Lagos to Abuja is two hours . So, why do we still rely on trains that we refused to maintain. Trains carry heavy duty goods. For now, it has become difficult to truly evaluate the level of our transport system. Also, roads that were constructed to last for about thirty-five years cannot last for three years.
Now, look at what’s done in the case of electricity. They would lie to you. They will claim that there’s regular supply of electricity. So in all these, what I’m saying is that the current operators since the advent of this Fourth Republic had failed to deliver on promises they have made to the Nigerian people. They have even brutalised the psyche of our people by imagining that they are doing Nigerians favour. Nobody forced them to seek for power.
What should be the focus of June 12 Apostles?
It’s a wrong thing for us to imagine that the activists will continue to run over matters that connect you and me. What’re you doing in your own case? You’re a reporter, what stops you from creating your cells in your immediate environment? The idea of saying that activists will come and lead us doesn’t make sense. It is the collective responsibility of all of us.
For me, I know that most Nigerians are guilty of opportunistic collaboration. Are people unreasonably unfair to themselves? They collaborate with the people in government. As long as they feed from the grubs falling from the table of the rich, most of our people believed that it’s turn by turn that one day, they will have access to their own. So, in any given society where people are not determined to fight for their right, anything goes.
Is it right to say that the demise of NADECO, Afenifere has killed political activism in Nigeria?
Yes and no in the sense that the voice of Afenifere is not as credible as it was. We should stop this idea of transferring what should be your own responsibility to other organizations. Most of us grumble in silence. Grumbling is an overt act to show your displeasure. In every society, the middle level appears to be responsible in ensuring that people in government are accountable to the people.
They are the promoters of change development of the country. But the Nigerian middle class, most of them are pleasure lovers and fun seekers. We know something is wrong. We cannot mobilise our youths to go to government house to vent our anger against the government and why they cannot be allowed to remain in office. It is an error to let go the agitation for good governance. It is a wrong notion for some people to assume that we are the leaders.
As many organisations as possible can raise protest against issues that concern them. Our people are allowing some other people to fight their battles and many a time, those who were fighting their battles get tired. But if all of us recognise the fact that we have a role to play, then, we could not be looking for somebody to fight our battles for us. We will take our own destiny into our hands. That’s the matter. I’m not growing young. There were things I started as a youngman that I cannot do today.
In fact, I started political activism at a very young age to show my determination in ensuring a better for the ordinary people in our society. What I do mostly today is to lend my voice to make things better for the people. Nobody will go to the home of anybody to go and train them to do what we are doing. Nobody invited me. Again, we must understand that the Nigerian military were very dubious.
They did not want Nigerian leaders to impact anything to the younger one. Otherwise, why should they give power to their friends who are fellow collaborators and fellow loyalists?
How do you see the role of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu in trying to fit into the shoes of Obafemi Awolowo?
I would never respond to issues of that nature. I can say that he’s trying his possible best.
To bring the Yoruba people together.
I’m not sure about that. But I can say that he’s trying to provide leadership not only for the Yoruba people but for the progressive camp.
But are the progressives really together as at today?
It depends on who you’re talking to.
If the President had immortalised Chief MKO Abiola, perhaps with the national stadium, will it finally put to rest the June 12 saga?
One of the things the President should do to put to rest the June 12 saga is to admit that Chief MKO Abiola won the election and not presumed winner. Chief Abiola should be addressed and referred to as President-elect because of his martyrdom. The President can declare June 12 as a national holiday. It cannot die. It was a day Nigerians truly elected their leader despite our religious and ethnic differences.
Can it be possible for the President to declare June 12 as democracy day as against the May 29?
That’s our own campaign. We have never had anything to do with May 29.That date itself reminds us of the evil times we have passed through as a nation.
It was on May 29, 1966 that Igbos were massacred in the north. Again to make the date much more difficult for us to accept, it was on May 29 that the then NPC national government of Nigeria declared a state of emergency in the Western region and sent Dr. Majekodumi as an administrator to the Western region. That can never be our date of democracy.