By MIKE IGINI
EVERY 12th day of June since 1993, a notion that has surprised the detractors of Nigerian unity has been, re-enforced and commemorated. On that day and for several months succeeding that date, Nigerians as a collective stood behind the notion of their sovereignty and its symbolism in the personification of Chief MKO Abiola.
Many, in times of quiet reflection may have wondered, how a quasi-bourgeois could command so much following from the masses. Some may have turned to the theories on leadership and the purposive use of power; reasserting Raven who posited that to compel others to see that one’s goals are attained, the leader must either have one or a composite of any of the following abilities: charisma, finance, coercive force, referential or expert knowledge, amongst others. But this does not totally explain the collective will which drove the crowds that forced the military into leaving Aso Rock, with a contrived government in charge, as the nation crumbled under a political impasse.
Again, we may seek explanations from the emotional quotient theory, having in mind the fact that as a leader, MKO Abiola was a man with panache and exceptional savvy in social interactions with people from all rungs of society, besides the fact that, as a human being, he had an abundance of the milk of human kindness, which his numerous social causes and sponsorship of academic chairs in many Nigerian universities can attest to.
It was a rare privilege working closely with him as a young man on account of so many things Gov. Odigie Oyegun, another great of character and integrity told him about me on the basis of which he requested to see me before the commencement of his campaign for the June 12 election. He loved ideas and scholarship and always ready and happy to have men and women of such calling around him no matter how small you may be and irrespective of your background.
This great man despite his oylmpia height of achievements in life and the fact of being a president-elect came to UNIBEN to visit young men like us and described in his speech as ‘trusted and dependable trustees of the future of democracy in Nigeria that should not betray our future’. This part of his speech on that fateful day has remained ingrained and ever-green in my memory. Even, after MKO’s death we shall not betray the cause of democracy for which he fought and died.
For this great man, a deeper and more enduring explanation lies in the fundamental question long answered by Plato, that states or nations are the result of an economic imperative for individual and collective posterity. On that day in June 1993, economic pain and long-suffering, a collective phenomenological reality for all Nigerians, removed the scales of deep anthropological biases, where Nigerians previously stuck reflexively to tribal, religious and sectional interests to that hitherto June 12 undermined their collective developmental needs, voted massively for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. It was a vote, no doubt, for the unity of Nigeria, though regrettably aborted by forces of retrogression.
That awakening on June 12, could be termed the initiation process for the assertion of the sovereignty or collective will of Nigerians and by corollary the sociological birth of the Nigerian state, because by the reason of our collective phenomenological experience rather than political machinations of the colonialist, Nigerians reposed their mandate behind a dream of economic hope.
That hope was not betrayed; and the determination which MKO Abiola displayed in keeping that hope alive, in not wheeling and dealing away that hope, in sustaining that hope despite forced incarceration and even to death, exemplifies the leader who knows the meaning of a higher calling. The calling of leadership demands many obligations, chief of which is the obligation to deny and defer self-gratification for the common good.
MKO Abiola could have sold the hope and mandate of the Nigerian collective will for many pecuniary returns, he could have avoided exile, jail and even death by accepting many comforts, but he deferred all such gratifications, he denied himself the comfort of his luxurious home and loving family, and died defending the hopes of Nigerians for economic benefits from their leaders and the fatherland they cherish deeply. By this deed he ignited the fire of the collective will in the public and Nigeria having been initiated will never mandate any leader who belies this notion.
As an Electoral Commissioner, a midwife of the process for selecting leaders to answer the higher calling for collective development by Nigerians, I use this medium to salute the notion for which MKO Abiola died, the notion that public leadership is about the collective progress and prosperity of Nigerians.
And I use the notion behind June 12 to remind our leaders in all spheres that Nigerians celebrate June 12 to remind all of us, that the hope of the Nigerian for a country which offers better economic prosperity, through public developmental benefits remains the chief reason why we are a nation.