Remembering June 12, 1993
“A healthy society would regard the man who shirks his duty to the State in time of peace as being only one degree worse than the man who thus shirks it in time of war. A great many of our men … rather plume themselves upon being good citizens if they even vote; yet voting is the very least of their duties –Teddy Roosevelt
There was no story but speculation as to why the presidential election of June 12, 1993, widely acclaimed to have been won by Moshood Kolawole Abiola was annulled by the military junta. The major players of that annulment have all kept sealed lips. Not even Humphrey Nwosu could gather the frame to indict anyone.
Nigeria lost a golden chance to make her democracy breathe the atmosphere of the rococo. Candidate Abiola was not only widely respected globally but accepted locally without reservation. People with such national clout today are rare. The national cloud of mistrust that we live under today is clear for all to see. No thanks to that brazen theft of a people’s mandate. Weirdly, some military men who cared nothing about democracy then have become turn coats and do enjoy the dole of democracy more than many who hungered for it. This can only happen in Nigeria.
We suffer from selective amnesia.
Although a civilian, Abiola walked like a general and people stood at attention out of love when he traipsed in front of them. Those who worked with him at close quarters attested to the fact that he didn’t, order men around unnecessarily.
Unlike those who see politics as an avenue to assault and kill for power, he consorted with all, even trusted those who not only betrayed his cause but later killed him.
What reason would Nigeria give future generations for the annulment of June 12, 1993 elections? Absolutely nothing! The actors probably read Aesop’s fable, the story of the Wolf and Lamb. Their reason is an insult to the sensibilities of history.
We pretend today – as though June 12, 1993 doesn’t matter? For those who worked so hard for the enthronement of democracy, there is a sort of sadness associated with that hubris.
The contract between citizens and the Nigerian state doesn’t appear to be straightforward. A citizen of Nigeria can be helped to the land of no return only for nurturing a nationalistic ambition. Especially, those who truly care about the sufferings of the browbeaten people. Those gutsy enough to shirt-front the establishment and all those bent on demeaning the bodies of men to indignity.
Without June 12, 1993, we might not have had a May 29, 1999, the beginning of the fourth republic. Those naysayers of June 12, and major players in the political corridors now wouldn’t have had chance to enter the democratic train.
We are democratically free because of Abiola who didn’t try to avoid the hoop on his path but had the courage and spirit to break it to secure our freedom and future. Only brave men with ideas that seize a man’s heart to chase positive causes can do that.
The annulment of that election is a national disaster that needs atonement from the Nigerian state and not justification for the gerrymandering.
There continues to be a cynicism today about the motives of those in the military that truncated the election. With no truth and reconciliation committee that cynicism goes on for 17 years. We have become a nation within a nation and have refugees amongst our citizens.
Many decent men today hardly join the political train owing to that lost mandate. Only a handful is in the train, and these decent ones have had the unpleasant experience of challenging the many bad people heating up the polity. Bad politicians are in service only because they had no other options. Abiola had too many options. Some folks in politics who can’t pass off as moral agents today engage in moral suasion.
History has justified Moshood Kolawole Abiola. He risked his life for a principle and a cause.
The only way the politicians of today can truly honour him is to celebrate June 12, nationally, provide the dole of democracy to starving Nigerians, reclaim our streets from brigands, give more to charity. Abiola stood for all of these and more.
• Abah, teacher and writer, lives in Port Harcourt. @abahsimon1 08023792604; 07035017922