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‘June 12 showed Nigerians could work together’

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Comrade Sunny Ofehe

Comrade Sunny Ofehe, an activist and Founder of Netherlands-based Non-Governmental Organization, Hope for Niger Delta Campaign (HNDC) speaks to Samson Ezea on Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and honours for MKO Abiola and others. Excerpts:

Relevance of June 12 to Nigeria’s democracy

June 12 truly represents our country’s democracy and should be celebrated as a national holiday.

Remember the man who won the mandate Chief MKO Abiola also died in prison, while fighting to claim the peoples’ mandate given to him.

I am very sure that those people who truncated June 12 must be having serious regrets when they look back.

Nigerians should learn lesson from the mixed reactions that trailed the annulment.

Nigerians, through June 12 annulment, showed the extent they can unify to fight a common cause.

It also shows that Nigerians can rally support for any political candidate with track record.

June 12 election also showed that elections could still be won in Nigeria with the right message. Abiola’s message of “action and progress” resonated well among the electorate and that was why he was victorious across the country.

Remember it was in June 12 we had the first and only Muslim-Muslim ticket in the candidacy of Abiola and his running mate Ambassador Babagana Kingibe.

We all remember how Abiola, a South-Westerner defeated his opponent Alhaji Bashir Tofa in his home state of Kano.

Nigerians came out in the numbers to vote and the election was declared the freest and fairest election by national and international observers. It was a near perfect election conducted and since then subsequent electoral commissions have struggled to march the standard set by June 12.

Another lesson to be learnt from June 12 is the significance of grassroots mobilisation. SDP was very good in grassroots mobilisation, which made their message to reach out to the ordinary people.

The advantage came when the election was annulled, people came out to the street to demand their mandate.

As we celebrate June 12, we must have a re-think on how we can make our democracy strong and valuable.

In June 12 we have a reference point and a solid proof that Nigerians can still work together in peace and harmony.

June 12 as Democracy Day and honour for Abiola

This action by President Muhammadu Buhari has been long overdue as far as I am concerned.

However, we must give so much credit to the President for taking this bold step.

This action is most significant because it came from a President who was a former Military Head of State and from the Northern part of Nigeria.

I had expected this action to come from our former President Olusegun Obasanjo because of his military background and also because he was a victim of the Sani Abacha reign of terror.

June 12 has finally received its true recognition. It was the day Democracy was born.

It was the day Nigerians stood in one voice and took a collective decision for one Nigeria.

The day that reminded us of many people who died during the struggle to actualise the June 12 mandate.

Several pro-democracy activists, innocent Nigerians went to jail and others were displaced from their families and had to flee abroad.

The declaration of June 12 as our Democracy Day will always remind us of the hope and unity that the day signified. It will always motivate us to keep our country as one and also ensure accountability from our elected officials who have benefitted from the democracy ushered in by June 12.

There is no way you will recognise and accord June 12 the Democracy Day without recognising the champion and icon of June 12, Chief MKO Abiola.

When I heard that the President has recognised him as a posthumous President and granting him the highest honor in our country; Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), it made me very proud that even in death Nigeria has finally given Chief Abiola what he truly fought and died for.

We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to President Buhari and all those who never gave up the fight to ensure that June 12 and Abiola gets the recognition he duly deserves.

We must also not forget his running mate and former Ambassador, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe who also got the GCON. This is a moment of celebration and the whole world is celebrating with us.

Criticisms trailing decision

It is a natural phenomenal that when you take any decision particularly in a complex country like Nigeria, you are bound to have different opinions that will create a divide.

The good news in this case is that the overwhelming majority of Nigerians embraced and applauded the decision of the President.

The fact that he didn’t end up with just recognising the date as our Democracy Day and honouring Chief MKO Abiola, he went further to acknowledge the role played by those who were directly involved in June 12 and to also invite them for recognition bled my heart.

I cried when I was reading the names of so many people our society had even forgotten. I was happy that the majority of them were still alive to see this day.

I met and had a long chat with Chief Frank Ovie Kokori in Benin-City few weeks ago during the APC State Congress and we chatted on June 12 and how he was in Hague and spoke on June 12 in several international conferences.

I could see joy and satisfaction on his face as he took me down the memory lane of June 12. I already imagine the relief and satisfaction that finally came for what he stood and fought for 25 years ago.

This will give us hope that no matter what we go through in life, if only we will stand on the part of justice and fairness, our fight will never go in vain.

Therefore, my message to those who draw ethnic and religious sentiment to such a wonderful decision that has helped to unite us must toe the path of reason and accept the obvious reality of the change mantra of this current administration.


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