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June 12 and its children

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June 12 possesses the baffling characteristics of Ajantala, that Mystery Child in Yoruba folklore: birthed under extraordinary circumstances, reared in impossible conditions, catalytic in the most unimaginable ways, troubled and troubling, survivor of countless assassination attempts, waxing stronger and more defiant after each attempt, triumphant in the end to the utter consternation of its adversaries, bequeathing a confounding conundrum and profound moral lesson.

This past week the Buhari government shocked the nation by deciding to revisit the June 12 Phenomenon, a clear 25 years since General Ibrahim Babangida, then military president, committed one of the foulest crimes against Democracy when he annulled what has now come to be regarded as the “freest and fairest” election in Nigeria’s history. Understandably, the pronouncement of this historic Presidential order has been trailed by a mélange of different opinions. Has this order finally carried out the annulment of the original annulment? Are we witnessing the righting of a historic wrong in a country with a chronic notoriety for repeated offences? Indeed, June 12 has many children, each of whom appears to be older, more intractable, than its parents. I am joining this fray by reproducing (with minor amendments) the poem below which made its first appearance 14 years ago.

June 12 And Its Children
By Niyi Osundare I

KUDIRAT (i)
They caught her mid-morning
Between the wet whisper
Of the roadside grass

And the shy intimations
Of a sun still preening
Behind the clouds

The market was just
Donning its wrapper of crowds
The hawker’s voice had

Not yet fully paid its debt
To the goddess of sleep. The day:
Too young for this crossroads

Of blight and blood,
The quarry too sinless,
The clay-pot too pure for this barbaric breaking

The date was four
The year was halfway
Through its turbulent journey

And the gunmen sprang from the crook
In the arm of the street, grabbed the road
By its neck, riddled a day so new

With a volley of fury and fright.
A startled country sought answers
In perforated metal and crystal showers

Of glass and gore. Sunset so sudden:
The nation lost its sight, then its right;
Murderers walked away, so conspicuous, so unseen…

KUDIRAT (ii)
Her beauty chastised the ugliness of the times
Her Truth the tyranny of their falsehood
There was a glowing grace in the egg
Of her eyes that un-
Hid what their night concealed;
An aura to her presence which dis-
Spelled the awe of monster clouds
Hopesongs dripped from her lips
Like magic gold from the honeypot.

A stubborn faith, a righteous resolve
A mothering mirth, immortal mettle
There was fire in her flower

Muscle in her music:
“The Mandate freely given the sun
By the unanimity of the day,

Let
Let it
Let it be

Let trees wave their leaves, freely,
At the urging of the wind
Let grassroots enfranchise the migration of ants

Let CHOICE triumph over chance
Let yearning hearts reap the bounty of the ballot
Let him rule who won the sanctity of our vote

Let death die
Let hunger flee the land
Let our tears depart and join the sea

Let houses link roofs beneath the sky
Let dwarfs reach out and touch the sun
Let let let …”

II
GOON-MAN (aka THE GOGGLED FIEND)
But Night Errants descended
Nooses in one hand,
In the other an arsenal of seething swords

They put the edge to Freedom’s throat
At the confluence of wailing waters
Hacked peace into pieces at the crossroads

Of broken pots.
And, saddle-crazy,
Indulged their pleasure on the people’s backs.

A goggled goon called the shots
From the hollow of an ancient rock,
Sprawled out on a throne of skulls

Bantam-brained, stone-hearted,
He swam each morning in a pool of blood
An infant nation between his teeth

Dull though he was and utterly dreadful,
Pundits ran his errands,
Licked his (bloody) boots

Schemed him into a “consensus candidate”:
“Rule us for ever!”, their chorus
Chilled a swindled nation

Their eyes on juicy cabinet designations
And the assorted stack of cash
Standing imperiously behind the palace door

Vulture-politicians who carrioned the state
And sent Hope on a lengthy exile

But Death caught the despot
Between the silky laps of imported whores
And the seething serpent of forbidden apples


In this article:
Ibrahim BabangidaJune 12
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