THAT Nigeria is a country of dual ideologies comes true again as two versions of June 12 will be celebrated across the country tomorrow, 26 years after the annulment of hope in the country.
It was on June 12, 1993, that Nigerians North and South put aside all primordial sentiments to elect Basorun M.K.O Abiola as President in the freest and fairest election in the history of the country. A Muslim-Muslim ticket won convincingly in predominantly Christian areas, while a Yoruba man defeated a Fulani man in Kano.
As Nigerians were about to roll out the drums to celebrate the dawn of a new day, the military junta issued an unjust diktat to annul the victory of Abiola who quit the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in 1982 when he was told that the Presidency was not for sale.
I gained a fuller understanding into the intrigues of that era when one of Umaru Dikko’s aides then told me a few days ago that the Northern top notch of the NPN did not want anybody from Abiola’s corner of Nigeria to succeed Shagari.
Towards this end, they wanted NPN to win the presidential poll in Yorubaland but not governorship in any state as they inserted a clause in their guidelines that anybody who would vie for the ticket must have a governor in his state.
He told me it was also the same game that was played on Dim Odumegwu-Ojukwu who was lured into the NPN with a Taqqiya promise of Senate presidency.
The Ikemba was on top of the world when all the bigwigs of NPN from the North stormed Anambra for his campaign. But the same forces were said to be distributing money to buy his defeat when the night fell.
Abiola shocked the junta by holding fast to his mandate with massive support behind him until he was killed in detention in 1998. The five-year resistance to the annulment humiliated the military which is the major reason why we have enjoyed 20 years of uninterrupted civil rule in the country in spite of bad governance.
The death of Abiola did not kill the resilience of June Twelvers in the last 20 years as we have used every opportunity to keep the issue on the front burner in the order of a saying among the Yoruba that a 20-year-old pounded yam can still burn the fingers. And precisely 20 years after Abiola, June 12 was given official recognition as “Democracy Day” in a country that still yearns for democracy.
For the first time tomorrow, the spirit of annulment that still reigns in the country with Gen Sani Abacha’s henchmen in strategic positions of our national life will “celebrate” June 12 on one side, while the firm believers on June 12 will truly celebrate the day of our missed opportunity.
It would, therefore, be their June 12 and our June 12 at play as we will not be celebrating the same thing and the reasons are quite obvious.
The shutdown of Africa Independent Television, AIT, on the eve of this year’s June 12 celebration was the clearest indication that the devil can cite scripture for his own purpose but cannot transform into a holy angel because its nature is inherently evil. I worked at The Punch and The Guardian Newspapers, two of the major national newspapers that suffered proscription in the dark days of Abacha which is what the recent action against AIT reminds us again.
The National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, has given 100 reasons why it shut down AIT but only one of it seems to make so much sense to the public – the airing of Atiku’s petition on the last presidential election. When the NBC claimed that AIT ran a documentary on the matter before the court I thought they did something prejudicial but when I watched it, there was nothing outside the documents filed in court which are public materials already.
Perhaps the only “offence” committed was breaking it down for ordinary folks who would ordinarily not have time to peruse court records, which brings us to the fact that if we had conducted the type of what we celebrate in June 12, there would be no petition in court today and the “winner” would not be like the old woman that gets so irritated at the mentioning of dry bones..
When Abiola campaigned around the country in 1993, the theme of his campaign was “Farewell to Poverty”. There was a young man who fell from a tree in Kano when he heard the translation in Hausa of Bashorun’s “No Nigerian will go to bed without food in his/her belly if I become president”. He never heard such a message in his life. Where is the manifestation of that in our country today where our people have become almajiris that a whole vice president would be empowering with N5, 000 in the markets?
The global secretariat of poverty moved to Nigeria last year as a mark of our descent. The influential The Economist in its latest report on Nigeria titled “Baba go-slow: Nigerians got poorer under Muhammadu Buhari” had this pathetic story to report that: “The Nigerian economy is stuck like a stranded truck. Average incomes have been falling for four years; the IMF thinks they will not rise for at least another six.
“The latest figures put unemployment at 23 per cent, after growing for 15 consecutive quarters. Inflation is 11 per cent. Some 94million people live on less than $1.90 a day, more than in any other country, and the number is swelling. By 2030 a quarter of very poor people will be Nigerian, predicts the World Data Lab, which counts such things.”
I mentioned earlier that June 12 was an election that was about to resolve our nationality question once and for all with all fault lines removed for Abiola to emerge victoriously. We are much more divided today than we were before amalgamation with no effort being made to narrow the gaps. The encouragement the Miyetti Allah group has received in its activities against fellow citizens in the last four years from the highest levels of government is one of the greatest challenges to our corporate existence. The sense of oneness we used to have as Nigerians have disappeared as herdsmen have suddenly transformed to militia killing, maiming, raping and kidnapping Nigerians daily with the government unable to be governmental and protect lives. That is not the spirit of June 12 that we have celebrated all these years.
In 1993, a lot of our people saw themselves proudly as Nigerians and proclaimed it. The annulment of June 12 did a lot of damage to that as people see themselves today in terms of their nationalities and the last four years have promoted ethnic irredentism as state policy and eroded the Nigerians in most of our citizens.
The official celebration of June 12 in the midst of all these can, therefore, be no more than a political gimmick and a half-hearted measure realising that Abiola and what he represented are no longer in the sequence and a sense of psychological masturbation is all that is left for its believers.
The futility of that thought is why there are two versions of celebrations. The Abacha spirit dancing on the grave of June 12 and the real pro-democracy keeping the ideal alive.