12th June, 2013
As Nigerians mark the 20th anniversary of the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, have called on Nigerians to rise up and challenge the culture of impunity pervading the country.
They spoke Wednesday at the June 12 rally organised by the Lagos State Government at the Lagos Television Grounds, Ikeja, Lagos, southwest Nigeria.
Speaking at the occasion, Fashola regretted that the Nigerian journey had defied such natural trends where struggles climax into jubilant and enduring triumphs, saying that the problem of the nation’s democracy was beset with challenges that were man-made and also institutional.
“It is these challenges that we must not surrender to. One thing that our democracy cries out largely for is that it should be nourished with law and order. Put differently, we must rise from this anniversary and identify a culture of impunity arising from a deficiency in law and order as the most important single threat to our democratic aspirations.
“If we continue to accumulate rhetorics about law and order, impunity will entrench itself like a very malignant cancer. But if we rise to attack impunity, and excise it like the cancer that it is, law and order will flourish and it will nourish our democracy. This is my most important message today,” he said.
According to Fashola, all he needed to do was to re-awaken “our memories if they have dimmed in any way about how we got here; and by so doing, I hope to reinforce the message that impunity is the scourge that we must fight. If we go down that memory lane, many of you will remember a court order that was procured in the dead of the night to stop the elections from holding.
“That was the first sign. Yes, a judge has powers to sit over a court, but our laws did not permit it to sit at night, especially when persons to be affected by the decision were not aware. When that attempt failed and the elections held in spite of it, the next attack on June 12 was launched on behalf of the Executive.”
Fashola stated that June 12 election was already concluded and the results were already known and that the only thing that was left was the official confirmation, but was purportedly annulled.
He explained that there was no provision in the electoral law to annul a concluded election, stressing that the only right recognized in the law was a petition by the aggrieved party to the tribunal.
“There are many other actions of such high handedness that I need not take your time with. But I will highlight some landmark ones. Let me remind you that it was the refusal to exercise a constitutional responsibility of appointing justices to the bench of the Supreme Court that frustrated the legal battle of MKO to regain his freedom. Our laws did not give the appointing authority the power to refuse to appoint justices,” he stated.
The governor also cited recent happenings in the grounding of airplanes and re-called helicopters as incidence of impunity that needed to be challenged by Nigerians as things are getting out of hand.
“Most recently we are witnesses to grounded airplanes and re-called helicopters. No one doubts the existence of these powers for safety and the protection of lives and property. The question on everybody’s lips is: what were the reasons for these actions? What is the regulatory regime in that sector?
“What is wrong and what is right? As if these were not bad enough, we are living witnesses to a bizarre arithmetic in a contest of numbers where 16 (sixteen) votes have become superior to 19 (nineteen) votes in a perplexing logic.
“If these are not examples of impunity, I do not know what it is. The message we are hearing is this: ‘it must either be our way or the highway’, ‘we don’t give a damn’, ‘whatever will be will be’. For everybody’s sake, these messages do us no good. The mere impression or perception of them creates the biggest challenges for our democracy.
“We must stand up as a people devoid of ethnic coloration, political leaning and religious faith to banish these kinds of messages from our national consciousness whether they are imagined or real,” he stated.
Speaking, Tinubu decried the culture of impunity, which led to the annulment of June 12 presidential elections, saying that “we were all dazed when we were told by soldiers that our votes were not to be accepted. It generated crisis and paralysed our major cities. Politics became a promise for revenge, especially to the people who did not yield to the demand of the military.”
The former governor, whose speech was read by Ayo Opadokun, a respected Yoruba elder, lamented that “they wanted us to die on their own terms, meaning they wanted to deny us peace of our own beds. Some suffered at that time and had to die years later, prominent among them was Ramsome-Kuti and others in the process.
“In cold blooded situation, journalists like Bagauda Khalto was killed and his family was not allowed the dignity of giving him a good burial, many were wounded. The biggest of them was Abiola himself, who became a martyr. He gave his life, so that something else will flow in our veins. He wanted the spirit of democracy to be revived. Some have fallen along the way, but we have soldiered on so that all Nigerians can enjoy the benefits of democracy. We were encouraged by the hope and justice of democracy. In the end, the military fell, but the major casualty did not.”
According to Tinubu, “When Abiola won the June 12, 1993 elections, we thought we had put electoral fraud behind us; 20 years after, we are still grappling with it. The INEC has not witnessed any serious structural change but vast results of fraud that forced progressives to go to court. The court exposed the fraud and gave back the people their mandate especially in the southwest and Edo State.”