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What’s it about June 12?

By Kunle Oyatomi

It’s almost a month since we celebrated June 12 as the watershed in Nigeria quest for democracy.
But beyond the shore of Nigeria, June 12 is beginning to have a similar significance for democracy especially in Iran and Turkey. June 12, 1993 was the day we celebrate the victory of a free and fair election in Nigeria as much as we mourn the tragedy of the abortion of that free and fair election.

Beyond that, is the sustained struggle which anointed democrats in the country put up to ensure that undemocratic forces did not have the upper hand. The Nigerian experience, we had thought was unique, but now, its uniqueness has been mellowed by the events in Iran and Turkey.

Perhaps, not many people will recognise that the Iranian election which was declared in favour of the incumbent president, Mahmaid Ahmadinejad actually took place on June 12, 2009.
In similar circumstances, that election result has sparked off chaos on the streets of Tehran and other cities of Iran.

The only difference from Nigeria’s situation is, rather than the election be annulled, it was purportedly manipulated in favour of the incumbent.
This event has torn Iran right down the middle with forces of the opposition taking to the streets against the full weight of Iranian Armed Forces.

The situation is still evolving and it will be anybody’s guess what the outcome will eventually be.
Not too far away from Iran, on the same June 12, 2009, in Turkey, the country’s political waters were ruffled by controversial and mysterious document purportedly written by a military man which seemed to undermine the Gullen Movement and the ruling AK Party. The document detailed plan to incriminate top members of the party and the movement with an intention to overthrow the popularly elected government of the party.
There was an instant furore of criticism from civilian population which made the military a bit uneasy.
The military could not immediately authenticate the source of the document but the civilians are angry that the military in Turkey interferes with the country’s democracy.
However, both the military and civilian government are anxious not to allow this development affect their bid for membership of the European Union.

The important thing though is that this furore has a link with the two cases of Nigeria and Iran where on June 12, a definitive clash between the military and civilians over democracy took place.
Well, for those who are unfamiliar with the significance of dates or who don’t take such coincidences as important, that these events happen on June 12, may be insignificant.  However, it is impossible to completely rule out the fact that June 12 is evolving into an uncomfortable date in which civilian and military interests crushed on the question of democracy and democratic norms.
In Iran and Nigeria, it was about flawed elections. In Turkey, it was about the military trying to undermine the democratic process.

In all three though, it was the conflict between the two sides as to which of them should be in charge of democracy.
In all advanced democracies, the military is under civilian authority.  But in developing countries where the military had intervened, there seems to be the urge for the military to want to dictate the pace as to how the democratic process should go.  June 12 has become the nemesis.

J.J. Okocha as synonym for Nigeria in Turkey

It is not a question anymore that football and footballers have become one of mankind’s significant events. For some of us, who were in Turkey for the first time, it was a lot interesting to know that the name of one footballer will be synonymous to that of a country.
We were pleasantly surprised anywhere we went when we introduced ourselves as Nigerians and Turks will respond with “J.J. Okocha”.

So popular is the footballer in Turkey that he has become the synonym for Nigeria. Introduce yourself anywhere in Turkey, and you will be greeted with J.J. Okocha.
Unlike anybody else, J.J. Okocha must get the credit for doing the most to make Nigeria popular in Turkey.
That’s one big credit we should give to football.


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