Undying Spirit Of June 12

•Epetedo where MKO Abiola declear that he is President elect

•Epetedo where MKO Abiola declear that he is President elect

The 20th anniversary of the annulled 1993 presidential election provides an opportunity to evaluate the country’s progress

It has become an annual ritual for ardent supporters of the truncated 1993 presidential election, which was widely believed to have been won by the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, to congregate and deliberate on the past and present political happenings in the polity. Last Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the election’s annulment, thereby setting the stage for grander celebration of the life and times of the man who, in the consciousness of many Nigerians, symbolised the struggle for the entrenchment of democracy in the country.

Across the various cities of  states in the Southwest,  a variety of activities were organised to honour Abiola and his wife, Kudirat. For the Save Nigeria Group, SNG, which held a lecture, tagged Democracy Audit 2013, at the Sheraton Hotels, Lagos, it was a moment to probe how the country has fared since the June 12 debacle. However, a peculiar addition to the event was the presence of Mr Labaran Maku, Minister for Information and National Orientation, who conveyed the Federal Government’s position. Other speakers included the scion of the Abiola dynasty, Kola;  ex-Abia State governor, Orji Uzor Kalu; former Lagos State governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Alliance, DPA, Jimi Agbaje; ex-House of Representatives member, Dino Melaye; former Minister of Defence, Dupe Adelaja, and Niger Delta activist, Annkio Briggs.

Convener of SNG and Senior Pastor, Latter Rain Assembly, Tunde Bakare, noted that the country has been in a steady decline since 1993. “Rather than thinking out of the box, our energy is expended on promoting mediocrity, packaged as excellence”, he said. Bakare is of the belief that that the return to civil rule in 1999 has given the country “occasional successes snatched from the rubrics of failure”. He argued that Nigerians has lost more than they have gained and have become poorer.

•Epetedo where MKO Abiola declear that he is President elect
•Epetedo where MKO Abiola declear that he is President elect

Bakare, a vice presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change in 2011, blamed the gloomy situation on institutionalised corruption, poor leadership and maladministration. The SNG argued that two decades are enough to witness major transformation in the country, deploring the drift that has been witnessed between 1993 and 2013.

Kola Abiola, who defined the country as one that is “politically and ethically complex,” explained that consistency and objectivity are the fulcrum of good leadership. He urged the government to provide basic social amenities for the citizenry. Speaking about unity, he urged Nigerians to avoid looking at things from the prism of primordial affinities. His comment trailed that of Briggs, who criticised former President Olusegun Obasanjo for saying he found President Jonathan his current job. “How can one man say that he found the job for (President) Jonathan, as if Jonathan is his house boy. He himself was brought out (from prison)  and given a job. What was his scorecard?” she asked.

She blamed the perception that the President was slow and non-performing on distractions from terrorist activities in the North, contrasting it with Obasanjo’s time in office. “Obasanjo didn’t endure this type of insecurity that Jonathan has had to deal with, but look at what he did to Odi and Zaki Biam. No past president of Nigeria, military or democratic, has ever put up with this level of distraction,” she said. Briggs soon found a point of convergence with earlier speakers, noting the damage corruption had done. “Nigerians must fight corruption, because a corrupt government will not fight itself,” she said. Although, he is facing corruption charges, former Abia State governor, Kalu, called for a stiffer fight against corruption. “This government is not committed to change because it has refused to bring corrupt people to book,” Kalu reasoned.  Melaye diagnosed the country’s ailment as a “dreadful congenital abnormality”. He claimed that the government is badly tainted with corruption, wondering how the subsidy payment of N245billion in 2010 ballooned to N2.3 trillion under the President’s watch. Melaye, a self-styled corruption crusader, queried why the President retained the Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, despite being indicted by six government inquiries. He claimed that there was a “satanic collaboration between those in government and subsidy thieves”.

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In a robust defence of the political establishment, Maku, disagreed with the critics of the government.

He highlighted government’s effort in the power sector and unwavering fight against corruption, as some of its meaningful achievements. On the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, he explained that as an editor in a national daily in 1993, he had warned in his weekly column that the election, if held, would be annulled. Maku said he, alongside some activists, including the late Beko Ransome-Kuti, formed the Campaign for Democracy.

The truncated election, Maku said, “embodied the collective aspiration of Nigeria to move forward since 1951”. While he admitted that the government might not have fully met the needs of the populace, he enjoined critics of the administration to speak in a language that would enable the citizens participate in the change process. Piqued by Melaye’s incendiary comment, Maku said: “Democracy is not a mad house, but of systematic discussion. I am not in any competition with a rabble-rouser”. Maku’s involvement in the struggle, which he harped on, was confirmed by Comrade Joe Okey-Odumakin.

She demanded a posthumous declaration of Abiola as a former president, as well as the date of the election as the official Democracy Day.  Away from the event, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka said that “June 12 embodies unity and purpose, equity and justice and the manifestation of the sovereign will of a people”. Like Okey-Odumakin, Soyinka favoured June 12 as the authentic Democracy Day. “We need to remind ourselves what June 12, 1993 represents. It is neither a mere date nor sentiment. It is simply human spirit; June 12 was a spirit of unified purpose, the latter simply an egotistical appropriation of the gift of 29 May,” he said.

The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, in Lagos State, slammed the Federal Government for failing to realise the historical import of the election. The party insisted that until the “our leaders do honest and sincere restitution and compensate those that need to be compensated”, the June 12 misfortune will continue to haunt it. In Ogun State, Governor Ibikunle Amosun visited the home of the late politician and organised a Democracy Walk in his honour. Amosun described Abiola as the father of democracy in Nigeria, stating that he had etched his name permanently into the country’s history book and would never be forgotten by unborn generations. His Ondo State counterpart, Olusegun Mimiko, freed seven prisoners as part of the day’s celebration.

—Folarin Ademosu

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