By Denrele Animasaun
That old law about ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
The 12th of June 1993 anniversary was commemorated this week as the time when many believed Nigerians conducted and participated in the only free and fair election in Nigeria’s political history. On that day, 24 years ago, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola was the anticipated winner of the presidential election. As figures came in, it was clear that he was in overall lead in fourteen states. With the rest of the world watching, the Nigerian populace were eagerly awaiting a real change to take place in Nigeria. The Military regime under the command of IBB had a different agenda and it put an abrupt stop to the landslide when it cited the outcome as “manipulation of elections” of the primary results by the presidential candidate. The independent International and national election monitors confirmed the contrary; that in fact this was the most free and fair election in the country’s history.
The public outrage was one of disbelief and anger and it immediately created mass unrest across the southern part of Nigeria. Of course, Chief MKO Abiola rightfully indignant that the election was transparent and fair so there was no reason to have the election annulled. MKO was convinced that common sense would prevail and that in time, he would be handed the mandate. Instead, he was arrested, detained, charged with treason against the state.
The powers that be, made him a deal that they thought, he wouldn’t refuse; to accept the annulment and stop stoking the political flame, that he was robbed of the mandate. As a wronged Egba man, he refused, and so they locked him up. During that time, his wife, Kudriat, campaigned tirelessly and bravely for the release of her husband and for that, she was assassinated.
MKO was resolute and had faith that justice would prevail and he would be vindicated; he believed that Nigeria was worth fighting for and that was what he did to the very end.
He was poisoned a day before he was to have been released. His children lost their father, his siblings lost their brother, friends lost a dear friend and the country, well, we will never know, we weren’t given the chance to. Democracy, in the true sense, died that day. Not only was the victor robbed, imprisoned and died but, millions of Nigerians were robbed by the government.
Nigeria continues to live with the dire consequences and is enmeshed in crisis upon crisis. They say, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We cannot go back and mend the past but we can ensure the future by not repeating the past.
Former Governor Fashola, once expressed this hope so succinctly, when he said: “I like to remind us that we should tell those people who say that we cannot stand together irrespective of our tribes that they are lying; I like to remind those who say that we are so religiously divided, that we cannot have a second voice, that on June 12 we stood together”.
Nigeria has a lot to mend and is desperately in need of restorative justice. So in the spirit of the unity and togetherness, Nigerians should strive to uphold that belief that MKO fought for, that Nigeria is worth fighting for, and that in unity lay our collective strength.
“And gradually they’re beginning to recognize the fact that there’s nothing more secure than a democratic, accountable, and participatory form of government, but it’s sunk in only theoretically; it has not yet sunk in completely in practical terms.” -Wole Soyinka
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom, and deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning.”- Frederick Douglass.
Of fire and brimstone
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” – Martin Luther King Jr
There seem to be something in the waters in Europe, there is an awakening, not of Arab spring kind but one of common sense and hope over fear and intolerance. The people of France refused to yield and they voted in Macron, now the UK have made a bold decision in the last general election that Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, though not an outright winner gave the conservative party a political bloody nose and robbed them of a clear mandate to govern. The establishment did not see that coming, they weren’t banking on Corbyn’s appeal to the young, poor, marginalised and working class. Corbyn won 72% of the young people’s vote; this is unprecedented in modern times. Many first time voters inspired to vote en-mass for hope, tolerance and unity over division. The people wanted a change, for so long they have been disenfranchised and marginalised but, no more, Corbyn appealed to them on the platform of ‘for the many, not the few’. People exercised their constitutional rights as they should. They have left the sitting PM Teresa May scrambling to form a government with partnership of political allowance with a fringe political party. This development has left a bad taste in the mouth of political pundits who did not see that coming because they underestimated the power of the people. There is a new sheriff in town and there is feeling of real change in the air.
Right in the heart of London, a 24 storey tower building housing 120 properties was a burning inferno in the middle of the night on the 14th of June. In the midst of this tragedy, the stories of the community spirit came through clearly. Many lives some said were saved due to their Muslim neighbours who were observing Ramadan, they were the one who noticed the fire spreading and roused their neighbours to escape with their lives, within minutes, the whole of the building was gutted to the ground. Despite the bravery of the fire brigade, there are fatalities and it is expected that the death toll will rise as there are many unaccounted for and presumed perished in the fire.
The Muslim community rallied round and again in mosques around the capital, Muslim volunteers were at hand collecting the essentials; water, food and clothing for the fire victims. This goodwill gesture spread and many Londoners regardless of religion or race showed their generosity of spirit and donated space, food, clothing, money and their time.