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June 12: A democracy day and its intrigues

VIEWPOINT  IN BRIEF: Politics of annulled election

By Aniefiok Udoudo

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, 5th June, 2018, announced the replacement of 29th of May with 12th of June as the country’s Democracy Day. But the news about the change has generated different reactions from Nigerians who have celebrated the President’s action or questioned the legal implication of the action or dismissed it as a political move by the President to garner political support from a section of the society.

Whatever the case may be, the one presumed to be honoured with this change deserved it; one wishes that he was alive to celebrate the delayed announcement of the annulled June 12, 1993 election result. In his wisdom and “magnanimity”, President Buhari did not stop at changing the date of Democracy Day but also awarded a posthumous Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the highest honour of the land to the presumed winner of the June 12 election, Chief Moshood Abiola. The honour is always awarded to the heads of state.

Legal experts have questioned the legality of the award to one who is no longer alive to enjoy the honour. While I am not saying that the President is right or wrong for giving the award posthumously, nor supporting the legal experts or arguing against their stand (who am I?), I want to state that two things are yet to be addressed by President Buhari to come clear with the issue of June 12. Nigerians have known that for 25 years, June 12 has become a recurring decimal in the history of Nigerian politics and now that President Buhari has moved to correct the wrong that was done, the right has to be holistic. In my candid opinion, to revisit June 12, which is very necessary, the President should mandate the formal announcement of the June 12 Presidential election result.

The President of the country as at that time should be formally announced and then the award of the GCFR would be more meaningful and perhaps would put to rest the legal argument that is confronting the award. The winner of that election should also be given the benefit of the doubt that he would have won a second tenure, therefore, all his entitlements for the eight years should be paid to his family. His vice who is still living should as well be accorded the same rights and privileges.

On the other hand, President Buhari should constitute a panel to look into the culpability of those who were involved in the annulment of the election and the imprisonment of Chief MKO Abiola which resulted in his death. It is by so doing that justice and fairness about June 12 can be established.

Questioning the credit of making June 12 a reality, I think that former President Obasanjo should be the worst disappointed person because he had the opportunity of making June 12 the country’s Democracy Day when many Nigerians suggested that it should have been so but he rather chose the day democracy returned to the country. Maybe Obasanjo was trying to be careful so that he would not be seen as putting too much in the remembrance of his kinsman.

Defection from one party to another has provided me with experience that the very people who thumped up Buhari’s decision to make June 12 the country’s Democracy Day today, would have been against it in 1999. While the surface shows acceptance of the supreme sacrifice made by MKO Abiola for Nigeria’s democracy, can we honestly extricate political undertone from the President’s action? Can we say that this honour would have been done if Buhari and Obasanjo were to remain the same friends of 2015? If the relevance of June 12 to the entire Nigerian state is resuscitated just to spite some people, that is the politics of Nigeria which means that anything whether necessary or not, can be used to intimidate and run down opponents so that political point can be scored.

*Udoudo is a lecturer of Communication Studies, University of Port Harcourt


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