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Unsung Heroes of June 12

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Chioma Gabriel

I don’t know those who took the centre stage on the day Nigeria celebrated June 12 but it seems the heroes of democracy were completely ignored. Democracy Day has its background and history. It’s about a free, fair and credible election which MKO Abiola believably won. It is not about Abiola as a person as being projected in some quarters.

So, when will Nigeria honour Abraham Adesanya, Tony Enahoro, Kudirat Abiola , Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Olisa Agbakoba,Frank Kokori, Ayo Obe, General Akinrinade, Ayo Opadokun, Olu Falae, John Oyegun, Chima Ubani, Ayo Adebanjo, Femi Falana, Wahab Dosunmu  and the several unsung heroes.

The list is endless.

Why were these people ignored at the Democracy Day celebration? We hope that someday, a book of remembrance would be opened on these ones.

I was just starting this journalism job when the fight for June 12 revalidation was still on. Naturally, covering the activities of National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, became my lot. I cannot remember the number of trips I made to Ijebu Igbo where the militant Afenifere used to meet. I used to follow Abraham Adesanya bumper-to- bumper and narrowly escaped being in his car the day he was shot at. Later in his house the next day, he showed me where I was seated at before he asked me to join his friend in another car and where the bullet passed through. I had wanted to know if he knew he was being followed before he asked me to drop and join another but he never answered that question. He said I was still a child and so innocent about Nigeria.

How I choose to remember MKO Abiola(Opens in a new browser tab)

I was a regular feature like my colleagues in the house of Olu Falae near Law School Lagos. I had the privilege to meet with personalities like Tony Enahoro and several of these pro-democracy people that have remained unsung. You cannot celebrate democracy if you remain silent on these heroes and you see those who betrayed the democracy struggle being honoured . How do they even feel taking the honour for a cause they betrayed?

And what about the unsung journalists like us from different media houses that stood with the struggle.  As a young reporter, I hitched a ride in the same car with Olu Falae, Jerry Gana and others I have forgotten their names.

I witnessed the beating given to some pro-democracy activists who betrayed the struggle. I was in Abiola’s house and personally witnessed the beating given to Tony Adefuye by Nigerian students. He was stripped naked after the beating for betraying the struggle. The students in those days would have been men by now. I know Nigerian students are also heroes of democracy but I don’t know if to commend them or not for beating up people, stripping them naked and removing caps from elders heads.

No doubt, it’s their way of venting their spleen over the painful death of Abiola on the day everybody was celebrating he was about to be released.

It was very painful indeed.

What about the several newspapers and magazines like The News, Tempo, Guardian Newspapers and the rest shut down by the military junta over their reports on June 12?

What about those who died either during the protests or on their way home to their villages when the struggle got bloodier? In my house, we had an emergency family meeting where we decided that ‘all die na die’ and if we must, let us die in Lagos. But thank God we didn’t.

If one of the principal reasons for the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day was that Abiola won the election that also means that the honour accorded to Abiola is not complete. Apart from naming a national stadium where cows are grazing after him, he needs a more serious national honour like a post-humous GCFR as a former President and perhaps, his emoluments should be calculated to be paid to his family.

Or what do you think? Is it too much to ask?

Now, with June 12 as Democracy Day, let’s talk about the spirit of June 12. The way things are going in Nigeria, the government should step up action and restructure Nigeria. All these kidnappings, herdsmen activities, banditry, Boko Haram insurgency are saying one thing: Restructure Nigeria. We should not allow extra-ordinary circumstances which are already at the door to force a political implosion on Nigeria.

The other day, the president did talk about true federalism. He should know that anarchy is looming on us and read the proverbial handwriting on the wall. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine in a row. We should use our tongue to count our teeth. Which way is Nigeria heading to?

All these kidnappings, banditry and killings are all manifestations of system failure and many have alleged a sinister political agenda that is not yet clear.

For the past 20 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29th, as Democracy Day. That was the date when for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government. The first time this happened was on October 21st, 1979. But in the view of Nigerians, June 12th, because of Abiola seems more symbolic of Democracy.

Buhari has started his Next Level on this note and hopefully, so he doesn’t be on the wrong side of history, he should restructure Nigeria because things have gotten worse in the past four years.

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