AS laudable as the presidential pronouncement regarding the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day, and its decision to bestow National Awards on winners of the election – MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, along with the erudite lawyer, the late Gani Fawehinmi – may have been deemed a welcome development, the failure to recognise and give special recognition to the laudable and selfless role played by the late Pa Alfred Ogbeyiwa Rewane could be described not only as lopsided, but also smacks of insensitivity on the part of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Pa Alfred Rewane was a crusader and true hero in the battle for the soul of June 12. While many Pro-Democracy activists left the country to prosecute the war in exile, he lived to his nickname, Osibakoro, as he was among the few, even at 79 years of age, who fought the Abacha junta gallantly and paid the ultimate price.
Pa Rewane’s battle for democratic governance was legendary. He made huge financial contributions to NADECO and spent millions of naira on media campaigns for the restoration of June 12 mandate.
Restoration of June 12 mandate
He was murdered in cold blood in his bedroom on Friday, October 5, 1995 by suspected agents of the Abacha junta because of his principled and uncompromising stand for the restoration of Abiola’s mandate.
Sadly, 23 years on, the Nigerian state and its security agencies have not been able to unmask his killers and ensure that those behind it are brought to book.
It, therefore, behoves the Federal Government to revisit his case just as it has revisited that of June 12. Pa Rewane’s senseless murder cannot be wished away like many other politically-motivated killings in the country that are yet to be resolved.
Is it not curious today that such a prominent personality who committed his time, resources and sacrificed his life for the soul of Nigeria is being relegated to the background as the Federal Government gives posthumous awards and recognition to the dramatis personae of June 12?
Interestingly, some people who spoke at the award ceremony, turned it into a forum for political speech-making, but failed miserably to mention the name of the late Pa Alfred Rewane. Were it not for Ms Ayo Obe, the then President of CLO, who mentioned his name during her short speech, perhaps, there wouldn’t have been any trace of Pa Rewane on that occasion. To my consternation, the likes of the respected Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Chief Segun Osoba, who without doubt are in full knowledge of the significant role Pa Rewane played in the NADECO years, did not mention his name.
I also watched with dismay on national television how Chief Frank Kokori struggled to read the names of those he considered as the top 10 in the June 12 struggle. One wondered about the criteria he used in arriving at those names without Pa Rewane’s name being mentioned. Could this have been an oversight on the part of the beneficiaries of Pa Rewane’s sacrifice or a deliberate attempt to undermine and tarnish his glorious contributions toward the actualisation of June 12?
The June 12 award ceremony, designed to enthrone justice for the harm done to the collective decision of Nigerians towards the enthronement of untainted democratic government in 1993, turned out to be a paradox.
It speaks, perhaps, of absolute injustice perpetrated to erode the memory of the late Pa Alfred Rewane. He may have come from a minority ethnic group, Itsekiri, but his nationalistic status deserves honour and dignity.
Let it be on record, that the effort made here to project Pa Alfred Rewane as one of the protagonists of the battle for the soul of June 12 is based on principles, and not to seek favour or recognition from the government on behalf of Pa Rewane or his family, it is a compelling task that demands that honour be bestowed on those who genuinely deserve it.
It was in recognition of his immense contributions to the June 12 struggle that the then US Ambassador in Nigeria, Walter Carrington, noted on the occasion of his assassination: “You can only kill the messenger, but you cannot kill the message.”
- Dudu wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.