By Charles Adingupu
IN less than three days, pro-democracy activists and apostles of June 12 will again march to the streets of Lagos and Nigeria at large. For them, this show of solidarity for June 12 annulled election has become a ritual. Almost nineteen years after, the ghost of June 12 still haunts Nigerians.
This institutionalised festival has become an option for the activists and their allies to ventilate their ideals on what democracy should be.
However, the immediate cause of June 12 centred on the then military government of General Ibrahim Babangida, who braved the consequence of his action to stop and annul an election widely believed to have been won by Chief Moshood Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) without satisfactory explanations.
However, subsequent interim national government (ING) of Chief Earnest Shonekan who played the messianic role of delivering Nigeria from the catastrophic effects of the annulment failed as the late General Sani Abacha took over the reign of government. Admittedly, the constitutional conference by Abacha’s government equally failed in its quest for solution to the political imbroglio that Nigeria was enmeshed in.
Against this backdrop, it became apparent at this point that no degree of primordial hatred against the Yoruba race or Abiola as a person would erase the glaring fact that MKO Abiola contested and apparently won an election carried out by over 14 million eligible Nigerians in that dark year of 1993.
However, there were incidentally some shortcomings in the way and manner Abiola’s camp fought doggedly to right the wrong of that illogical decision. It began by Bashorun deserting his teeming supporters immediately the annulment was announced.
In his bid to reclaim his mandate, the late Chief Abiola traversed the globe, drumming support from world policemen to invade and possibly annihilate the “diabolic” military administration. Unknown to the Bashorun, his supporters were no better than a leopard who changes its skin at will. His hitherto allies became jittery and in the process changed tune without any formal notice.
However,the military junta eventually agreed to “step aside” after much painstaken persuasions as a ‘personal sacrifice’. Chief Ernest Shonekan was then saddled with the inglorious task of managing a doomed transitional government.
In a manner typical with Nigerians, Abiola had allegedly settled with General Abacha to take over from Shonekan with the hope of de-annulling June 12 election. That agreement was never realised. Abacha in his various speeches shortly afterwards maintained the military was determined to enthrone a long lasting democratic government in Nigeria. That promise, implied absence of a hidden agenda.
Abiola left in the cold.
In a bid to actualise his ‘hidden agenda,’ General Abacha immediately appointed Chief Ebenezer Babatope and Alhaji Lateef Jakande as ministers in his junta’s cabinet. That unwholesome gesture, threw members of the Abiola’s camp into disarray. Perceived soldiers of June 12 went through the back door of the Abacha’s government to seek for contracts and overtly identified with the government. Even some of the Yoruba elders began to speak with both sides of their mouths.
Not a word of their mouth could be trusted anymore. Their heart was full of mischief. Their tongue flattered with deceit.
The pan Yoruba group was torn asunder. It became difficult to determine the role played by most elder statesmen of the Yoruba extraction. It was like the arrow of God fell on them and things fell apart and the orchestrated struggle was no longer at ease. Till date, the legion of June 12 apostles has depleted either due to the affront of old age or they have compromised with the government that be.
Professor Akin Oyebode of the University of Lagos, in his recent lecture titled Future of democracy and rule of Law pointed out the attitude of these soldiers of democracy better when he observed that “We’re living at a period of false pretences, false promises and false achievements when our so-called leaders are soaked in hypocrisy, primitive accumulation and reckless disregard for the national interest and popular hopes and aspirations.”
As things stand, the self acclaimed apostles of June 12 today believed that the concept surrounding the struggle has been overtaken by events. Their focus, they said should be centred around the enthronement of genuine democracy which will allow for the convocation of a sovereign national conference where all ethnic nationalities will deliberate their future. But how far have they gone in this journey has become another ball game for the military who only “stepped aside.”
Again, the varsity don, Professor Oyebode captured the essence of the above scenario as he stated that “aside from the fact that ballot box democracy was an anathema to the military dictators, the self proclaimed saviours of the masses felt perfectly free to suspend the cherished values of free choices, federalism and respect for the sanctity of due process which had served as the lubricants of democracy and the rule of law.”
He further enthused that Nigeria’s leaders envisaged no genuine desire for restoration of democratic rule until revolutionary pressures compelled them to foist what an observer described as an endless transition in the country.
As Nigerians continue to ruminate upon June 12, true apostles of that struggle can never be forgotten. These included people like Chief Frank Kokori, erstwhile chairman of NUPENG who refused to quit prison until Chief MKO Abiola’s mandate was restored. Other heroes of that struggle included the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, General Cornelius Adebayo and others who we hoped that their struggle for the restoration of true democracy in Nigeria would not be in vain .
It must remain relevant — Akin
Relevance of June 12
June 12 will always be relevant and remains important because it is an expression of an elected president we never had. The election took place but the results were annuled. There’s nothing like annulment. You can only agree or disagree with the results. Hence, it will continue to remain relevant. People will always record it as a historical event.
Apostles of June 12?
They were together always in ideology. Though as at today, they may not be together physically. Some of them might have died, some might have changed attitudes but what brought them together was basically to do away with military government. And they truly succeeded. That will always bring them together. Well, now that democracy has been achieved, the apostles of June 12 should now engage in the consolidation of democracy. It is very much consistent with the democratic nationalism we are talking about.