June 12: “Clapping With One Hand” – Hafsat Abiola-Costello
The celebration of June 12 as a national holiday began at a time of great social unease in Nigeria. Like the painting on a canvass, the mural throws up different perspectives and holds out varied meanings to the people.
First, there was the annulment, which happened so much like rape. Then there was the long process of disputations over the merit of recognising the pain and injustice. That sounds like an abortion of the pregnancy that ensued from the rape of June 12, 1993.
26 years after, there was a birthday to mark the anniversary of the rape, not the birth of the baby, because she was aborted! Is the celebration of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, the social equivalent of a placebo? Does the recognition of the landmark represent penitence or convey apologies that such ignoble theft would not happen again?
Whenever elections are rigged, does it true testimony that the lessons of June 12 had been well digested? What about the translation of elections into mini-war fares? Each passing moment, it is sounds as if the conversations over June 12 have not touched on the core of the eternal lessons surrounding the supreme sacrifice paid by Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola to liberate Nigerians from the clutches of bad leadership and poverty.
Last Friday, was the first time that Nigeria acknowledged the suitability of June 12 the national honour it deserves as a public holiday. The gesture is also intended to commemorate the lessons of free, fair and credible polls to democracy as an inclusive system of governance.
The Guardian Life spoke with M.K.O Abiola’s daughter, Mrs. Hafsat Abiola-Costello, on her reflections on the June 12 enigma, particularly her understanding of the import of the observation of the date as a public holiday.
Among these poignant statements made by Abiola in the course of the pursuit for the validation of the presidential mandate, which best represents the implication of imperatives of declaring June 12 a day of remembrance: “You cannot shave a man’s hair in his absence,” “You cannot jump into a moving train,” “You cannot clap with one hand.”
“I think,” Hafsat explained, “for this circumstance, the one that best describes the circumstances, is that you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence.”
Hafsat, whose mother, Kudirat, was also assassinated in the course of seeking the validation of the June 12 presidential mandate of her husband, said the whole point of the annulment was to shave the head of the Nigerian people in their absence.
“Really, because they had been the one that came out to vote in an election that was free and fair. And the military decided that the vote and their actions did not count.
“It took a long time, 25 years after the June 12 elections for the election to be recognised by the Nigerian government, but the recognition was a signal that you cannot shave the people’s head.
“If the people will not be present to have themselves disgraced in that way and the people were not, because they resisted the annulment the best way that they could. I think when things are difficult; it does not mean we should cave in,” she stated.
The activist recalled that when things are difficult, we say we cannot kill ourselves, even as she admonished Nigerians to always stand their ground.
Her words: “Actually, it is not that we should try to kill ourselves, but we should try to persevere to make things better and those actions affirm our humanity, our dignity and give us a new lease for our future, I think that is what I learnt from that whole experience.”
Hafsat said that her mother inspired her into activism, noting that although her father was so larger than life, she doubted whether things were going to happen just like. “But, when I saw my mom become an activist and she was more accessible, I did what I could to support them and then, when they died, I just continued.”
The question that remains hanging in the balance is whether, without going the whole hog of announcing the result and declaring Abiola winner, the ghost of June 12 has been appeased?
She weighed the actions and attitudes of previous Nigerian leaders before President Muhammadu Buhari decided to honour her father and raised June 12 as a milestone in Nigeria’s democratic progression.
“I think that the action taken by President Buhari was already quite profound given that we were looking at 25years or so of silence on this question. It was two years ago that President Buhari made the announcement, which was in 2018, exactly 25 years.
“And because President (Olusegun) Obasanjo did not say anything, President (Umaru Musa) Yar’Adua was there for too little time to say anything and President Goodluck Jonathan did not say anything, so already, the action taken is a very significant step.
“President Buhari did not pretend that because it happened 25 years ago and others that came before him did not do anything so he should not do anything and say that is not his problem. He took it upon himself to do the right thing and of course, future leaders can still do more and may do more, but I think he should be given the recognition that he has already done quite a lot given the background.”
Hafsat argued that instead of asking why the country did not go the whole hog by recognising MKO, she would rather ask, “why don’t we go the whole hog by actually fulfilling MKOs promise, which was that Nigerians should say farewell to poverty and I think that is the most important issue.”
“If we keep centring the issue on an individual, which is my father, I appreciate that; but the truth is he is dead and gone, but what we can try to do to honour people like him is to make sure that the fight they engaged in was not in vain and the depth or expansion of poverty is not what the people that fought would want.
“They wanted Nigerians to have decent lives in Nigeria, they wanted Nigerians to live under a responsive government, we can still fulfil those commitments and that is the real challenge we should take up,” she declared.
One other area of concern to M.K. O Abiola’s daughter is how the leadership selection process in Nigeria could throw up a humane leader that would focus on eliminating grinding poverty.
This is an area she believes the coming of President Buhari should be appreciated. She said: “I know a lot of people in southern Nigeria, beyond the South of the country, do not feel about Muhammed Buhari, but I really do. . .
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