June 12, 2009

So it’s June 12?

By Ikeddy Isiguzo, Chairman, Editorial Board
DON’T panic if you did not remember that today is June 12. You should not be ashamed either, if you are among those who are asking what June 12 is about. You are not alone.

Politicians, who were ultimate beneficiaries of June 12 have exhausted its political mileage, they have moved to other things. You should not blame them too.

Answers are not available. Today only a few state governments would remember June 12: Lagos, and likely Ogun, home state of MKO, they declared public holidays.

Answers are not available. Today only a few state governments would remember June 12: Lagos, and likely Ogun, home state of MKO, they declared public holidays.

They have always told us that in politics there are no permanent friends, foes or fixtures (also known as issues).

The only thing that matters is interests, their interests.
June 12 was constricting the interests of some politicians, they dealt with it expeditiously, in the manner all matters that obstruct the free flow of largesse are treated, when they excised the presidency to the South-South for eight years.

Sixteen years ago, Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola, famously known as MKO, with Babagana Kingibe, booked their places in history with victory in the presidential election that came three years after it was promised.

They ran on the unimaginable muslim-muslim ticket, making the point that religion was not really an issue for Nigerians.

The military government of General Ibrahim Babangida stopped the announcement of the results midway, claiming the election went on though a high court judge Mrs. Bassey Ikpeme had halted it.

The decree that ordered the election had a provision that no court could stop it from holding.

A telling part of the intrigues was that the court ruling was given at night, outside regular court hours, with the learned judge (now dead) relying on illumination from a lantern to conclude the urgent matter.

Nigeria went into a spin after the government’s position on June 12, which was made public on June 23, after the subterfuges to stop the election failed. Many reasons, mostly unofficial were given for the decision that destabilised Nigeria for six years – more twice the number of years it took to stop the civil war.

Nigerians did not bother with the government. The result was in everyone’s hand, newspaper vendors sold copies and free copies became available as generous supporters of June 12 made them available to the public.

The military did not reckon with the reactions that followed. It fail on its members to explain the cancellation of the election – still judged the freest and fairest ever held in Nigeria.

Some said it was rigged, others claimed some unnamed military officers would not support the MKO government and then the authorities said they had evidence that voters were bribed, the military would not permit a tainted democracy in Nigeria.

When all these failed, one more spin surfaced – the election was illegal since a court order stopped it. Professor Humphrey Nwosu, Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, NEC, was whisked into detention.

The country was awash with stories of the indignities he bore as pressures on him to change the result or confirm the election as rigged failed.

June 12 rapidly metamorphosed into a phenomenon. Rioters filled the streets asking that MKO be declared winner of the election. The military rolled out the tanks, put n interim government in place when General Babangida stepped aside. The battle with June 12 activists continued for the next five years until civilian rule from 1999 vitiated it.

Barely three months after, a Lagos High Court ruled the interim contraption illegal. The major beneficiary of this legal masterstroke was General Sani Abacha, who grabbed power and took Nigeria through more than four years of the most authoritarian government in our history.

June 12 campaigners fled abroad, especially after the arrest and detention of MKO, who declared himself president in 1994, on the occasion of the first anniversary of June 12.

He was to die in detention four years after. General Abacha preceded him in death a month earlier.

Politicians who discarded June 12 have their point. They squeezed it dry of the patronage it once produced. They had to seek new horizons after 16 years. Some are holding to it, in the absence of anything else.

The biggest loss of June 12 is that Nigeria’s history books are being written without facts on what occasioned the cancellation of an election that could have changed the face of Nigeria, if the result stood. Who cancelled the result? Why was it cancelled?

Answers are not available. Today only a few state governments would remember June 12: Lagos, and likely Ogun, home state of MKO, they declared public holidays.

Professor Nwosu surfaced last year, 15 years on, with a book that woefully failed to unveil what he should know about the fate June 12 suffered. Apparently, the lid on him is still on, particularly as he attempted to exonerate those the public found guilty.

The prescribed irrelevance of June 12 would soon make the day only faded memory.

Hope for institutionalisation of June 12 may lie in some crafty politician who wants to inflate his enormous ego, discovering that June 12 was actually his birthday. Again, that would depend on if he thinks it is now politically correct to celebrate June 12.

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