By Ochereome Nnanna
THE June 12 phenomenon, for me, is all about a struggle among three ideological approaches for the control of power in Nigeria: the Far Right Caliphate Extremists, the Centrist Moderates and the Centre-leftist True Federalists.
The Caliphate Extremists promote the North’s political supremacy over the rest of the country. They believe that political power is an exclusive “property” of the North, with the economy ceded to the West, while the East takes commerce.
Any attempt by the other two to challenge for political power is seen as an affront to the North which controls the state institutions, instruments of coercion and commands enough “majority” clout to impose its will on the others.
Since Muhammadu Buhari emerged as President in 2015 the Extremist camp appears to have been taken over by those pursuing a quixotic ethnic imperialist agenda in cahoots with their foreign elements.
The Moderates have built alliances across the nation and have their roots in the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, and later on, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. They have adopted power sharing and rotation of the Presidency as a necessary strategy to promote Nigeria’s unity and sense of common belonging. The PDP used it to rotate the Presidency to the South West, North West and South-South in its 16 years in power.
The third ideological group is made up of those who ascribe “progressive” politics to themselves. These are the “True Federalists”.
The word: “progressive” is fully vindicated among the True Federalists because their agenda is to decentralise power from the command structure left behind by the military and give power back to the regions or geopolitical zones to allow the various sections of the country to develop at their respective paces.
They believe that the centralised behemoth enables a section of the country – the North – to lord it over the rest and cripple everybody’s ability to grow. The campaign for restructuring has been waged by the True Federalists but has always been truncated by the Extremists.
The desperate annulment of Abiola’s mandate on June 23,1993 was a crude, rude and forceful denial by the Extremists of a Southerner’s right of accession to power even after the Nigerian people from across the divides had elected him. The National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, which was formed in May 1994 was made up of progressive leaders from all over the country. They articulated the “power shift” charter and used it as a binding force for a broad-based (rather than ethnic) support for the restoration of Abiola’s mandate.
Since Abiola died in General Sani Abacha’s cell and General Abdulsalami Abubakar conducted a hurried transfer of power to civilians, many politicians who came to limelight through the June 12 struggle have buried the mission of that movement in their lust for power. Some went into an unlikely alliance with Buhari, an unapologetic Caliphate extremist, in the hope to take over from him.
People still fail to catch the message left behind by Abiola’s experience. If Abiola won a presidential election 27 years ago and it was annulled and Abiola killed, what makes anyone think that the situation has changed now? If anything, the Extremists have now become less regional and more ethnic. They have become more extremist.
It is in this regard that I see President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of June 12 as Democracy Day as a form of ploy to further bury June 12. These political “gifts” have taken various shapes over time. They include the Abacha Conference, registration of the defunct Alliance for Democracy to contest elections in 1999 (though, like APGA, it did not qualify) and the cession of the presidency to the South West to prevent a possible secession, among others. If you approve June 12 as Democracy Day and you refuse to accommodate the purpose of June 12 (restructuring and true federalism), it is an empty Democracy Day. It is a Greek gift.
People must keep in mind what June 12 is all about, and what it should be all about as Democracy Day. Buhari chose this year’s June 12 Democracy Day to make an elaborate broadcast to the nation as he had promised to do last year. He revisited the activities of his government and branded our democracy “a shining example”. Whoever marks his own script will score 100 per cent!
Buhari was merely celebrating the democracy that his ideological camp has always striven to entrench in Nigeria, where the Legislature and Judiciary would be firmly in the pocket of the Executive and rubber stamp his wishes for him.
A democracy where draconian legislative Bills seeking to shackle the citizens and reinforce the monstrosity of the Executive is a normal fare. A democracy in which the North is given 90 per cent of Federal appointments in defiance of Section 14(3) of the Constitution.
The June 12 politicians have failed the cause because of residual spinoffs and hope that the leopard will lose its spots in 2023. But we should be consoled by the fact that the clamour for the implementation of the programmes of the June 12 struggle is alive and well. The original geopolitical allies that made NADECO tick 25 years ago have now transformed into the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, SMBLF, consisting of Ohanaeze Ndi-Igbo, Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum, PANDEF, and the Middle Belt Leaders Forum, MBLF. Progressives Northern groups are also part of the relentless agitations for restructuring for a better Nigeria. The activists and watchdog groups are still vigilant and consistent. Not everybody has joined the June 12 mandate annullers.
There is still hope that one day soon the full benefits of June 12 democracy will be ours to the glory of Nigeria.