June 12, 2009

The Lamentations of June 12

By Okey Ndiribe
PRO-DEMOCRACY activists in different parts of the country have already lined up various activities to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the June 12 1993 presidential election which was annulled by the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Among groups that would celebrate the day are Centre for Constitutional Governance ( CCG) which will organise a symposium in Lagos to mark the day.

In the past  week, many pro-democracy and human rights  activists around the country have expressed sadness over the manner  the date- despite what it represents-  has been ignored by Federal Government since the inception of democratic rule in 1999.

Commenting on the situation, the Founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) Dr. Fredrick Fasehun told Vanguard in a telephone interview that the Federal Government’s continued silence on the status of June 12 actually depicts the lack of true democracy in the country.

He maintained that June 12 rather than May 29 represents the nation’s true democracy day since it was on that date that Nigeria conducted the most successful election in its 49 years as a country.

He maintained that democracy wasn’t yet in place in Nigeria.

“How can you say democracy is in place in this country when there are still electoral disputes for an election that held over two years ago?” he asked.

He fired a second question: “How can we say we have democracy when people are still agitating that the Federal Government should implement the recommendations of a panel it set to introduce electoral reforms?”.

In his own comments the Chairman of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Comrade Moshood Erubami observed that a government that truly appreciates the essence of democracy had not yet been in place since the restoration of civil rule in the country 10 years ago.

Said he: “Those who are holding political offices today are accidental and anti-democratic leaders who can’t appreciate the importance of democracy as a system of government”.

“In fact some of  those who annulled the election are  still at the helm of  this nation’s affairs today”

“How do you expect such people to recognise the importance of June 12” he asked rhetorically.

Erubami observed that the 1993 election marked a watershed in Nigeria’s political evolution as both Christians and Muslims trooped out in their thousands to vote for a Muslim-Muslim ticket not minding the religious factor adding that it was the agitation for the reversal of the annulment of that election that actually led to the transition from military rule to civil rule.

Like Faseun, Erubami insisted that June 12 is the true democracy day. He said  it was for this reason that pro-democracy  activists would continue to celebrate the day.

Erubami therefore called on President Umar Musa YarÁdua to immortalise the name of the winner of that election- the late MKO Abiola – by taking  the following actions: Renaming the Presidential Villa at Abuja, “MKO Abiola Villa”; Declaration of June 12 as a national holiday; Conferring the highest award in the country on Abiola posthumously; Assisting the Abiola family so that the businesses left behind by Abiola can survive and sustain the upkeep of his household; Taking practical measures to reassure Nigerians who voted on that day that there is still hope for democracy in the country.

In his own remarks, during a telephone interview he granted to Vanguard,  the Publicity Secretary of Campaign for Democracy ( CD) and Alliance for Democracy (AD),  Mr. Popoola Ajayi shared some of the views expressed by Dr. Faseun and Erubami.

He maintained that June 12 had been ignored by the top political echelon in the country because “Most of those who were involved in the agitation for the restoration of democracy are not yet holding political offices”.

He continued: “ In fact, many of those holding political offices in Nigeria today were among those who annulled the June 12 election, killed Abiola and many other Nigerians along the streets of major cities across the country.”

He advised Nigerians not to relent in the struggle for the attainment of genuine democracy “since the journey is a long one and our destination is still far”.