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 pastÂ week, many pro-democracy and human rightsÂ activists around the country have expressed sadness over the mannerÂ the date- despite what it represents-Â 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 Governmentâ€™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 nationâ€™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 wasnâ€™t yet in place in Nigeria.
â€œHow 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?â€ he asked.
He fired a second question: â€œHow 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?â€.
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: â€œThose who are holding political offices today are accidental and anti-democratic leaders who canâ€™t appreciate the importance of democracy as a system of governmentâ€.
â€œIn fact some ofÂ those who annulled the election areÂ still at the helm ofÂ this nationâ€™s affairs todayâ€
â€œHow do you expect such people to recognise the importance of June 12â€ he asked rhetorically.
Erubami observed that the 1993 election marked a watershed in Nigeriaâ€™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 saidÂ it was for this reason that pro-democracyÂ activists would continue to celebrate the day.
Erubami therefore called on President Umar Musa YarÃdua to immortalise the name of the winner of that election- the late MKO Abiola – by takingÂ the following actions: Renaming the Presidential Villa at Abuja, â€œMKO Abiola Villaâ€; 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,Â the Publicity Secretary of Campaign for Democracy ( CD) and Alliance for Democracy (AD),Â 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 â€œMost of those who were involved in the agitation for the restoration of democracy are not yet holding political officesâ€.
He continued: â€œ 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.â€
He advised Nigerians not to relent in the struggle for the attainment of genuine democracy â€œsince the journey is a long one and our destination is still farâ€.