By Emmanuel Aziken
SIXTEEN years on, the June 12 1993 presidential election remains an issue with Nigerians. The memory of that election which produced Bashorun Moshood Abiola as winner is a legacy even hardened political enemies of the late businessman turned politician would not contest.
Though Abiola died in the captivity of the military usurpers, his sacrifice is partly credited with the democracy Nigerians are observing today. On this anniversary of that historic election Vanguard sought the views of some Senators who besides being stakeholders in the present democracy project, were also actors and flag bearers of the democracy that Abiola died for.
Senator Chris Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East) who perhaps paid the harshest price among any of the 109 serving Senators did not respond to Vanguardâ€™s request for comment on the anniversary.
Senator Anyanwu, a practicing journalist in the mid nineties was imprisoned by the military dictators supposedly for alleged complicity in the phantom coup plot of 1995, but remotely for her pro_democracy inclinations.
Senator Uche Chukwumerije (PPA, Abia North) who stood on the opposite side of the battle for the actualization of the June 12, 1993 election was not available to make comments on the issue as he was in a meeting when Vanguard sought a telephone interview with him on the issue.
The three who commented on the legacy of June 12 in contemporary Nigeria were Senators Olurunnimbe Mamora (AC, Lagos East), Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta (PDP, Niger East) and Osita Izunaso (PDP, Imo West).
June 12 is the real Democracy Dayâ€” Senator Olurunnimbe Mammora
Senator Mamora may not have been a visible light in the democracy movement in the nineties but since his coming into the Senate he has raised the banner of the progressive movement which Abiola died advancing.
We would be deluding ourselves if we think we could just wish away June 12.Â Whether we like it or not it has come to stay in the political psyche of this country and I continue to hold and firmly too to the fact that it will remain the authentic Democracy Day in this country because June 12 was that dayÂ when Nigerians and indeed all lovers of democracy trooped out to give true meaning to the concept and principles of democracy which essentially is the freedom of choice.
It was one day that Nigerians came out in their large numbers putting aside the North_South dichotomy, putting aside ethnic dichotomy, putting aside religious dichotomy, putting aside all primordial sentiments to vote for one man they believed in, and that was the late Bashorun MKO Abiola. And it represents one day in the history of this country when we can truly and honestly say that we had a free, fair, transparent and credible election.
We have never had it so good in the history of this country, so it is a day that no matter what anybody does, it just cannot be wished away and in fact, it will be a disservice to history for anyone to try and rubbish June 12.
It was a missed opportunityâ€” Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta (PDP, Niger East)
Senator (Comrade) Kuta was a member of the House of Representatives in the Third Republic and was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) from Niger State that won election into the House in 1992.
It is very significant to us because that was the first time we had free and fair elections and after that we have not had anything of that sort again and that was the first time that we had a two party system that was ready to work for Nigeria and for Nigeria to be a peaceful place.
And June 12 actually showed that Nigerians can live together as a people and that anybody can stand elections whether he is a Muslim or a Christian and for the first time we were able to see people contesting election on a Moslem-Moslem ticket and yet getting all the support.
It was an election not based on sentiment, so I think it was an opportunity that we missed. It will take a very long time for us to regain that opportunity again.
I am saying that June 12 should find a place in our political history.
ItÂ cannot be wished awayâ€” Senator Osita Izunaso (PDP, Imo) a former journalist
Senator Izunaso was a journalist before his advent to politics.
It is history that can never be wished away. It is the bedrock and foundation of democracy we are enjoying today.