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Afenifere warns against war, Atiku insists on restructuring

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Ibadan), Seye Olumide, Gbenga Salau (Lagos) and Adamu Abu (Abuja)
12 June 2017   |   4:35 am
As Nigerians today mark the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere has cautioned against actions that that can lead to another civil war in the country.

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar

• Ambode, Tinubu want Abiola immortalised over June 12
• ‘Arrogance of power, insensitivity, impunity still at play’
• We are more divided now than ever, says Fayose
• Ekiti, Lagos declare holidays

As Nigerians today mark the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere has cautioned against actions that that can lead to another civil war in the country.

The election adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the country , and believed to have been won by the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, was annulled by the then military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

Afenifere which is led by prominent Yoruba leaders who resisted the annulment lamented that 24 years after, Nigerians were marking the day under a climate of fear.

In a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, Afenifere said: “As Nigeria marks the 24th anniversary of the cleanest elections, presumably won by Abiola, unhappily, the country is still labouring under intense strain, palpable uncertainty and extreme apprehension because it has failed to learn the lessons of history.”

The Yoruba leaders said while Nigeria had wobbled through 18 years of pretending that its unity was settled, mouthing hackneyed phrases like indissoluble union and non-negotiable unity, the country had fallen more and more into pieces on a daily basis.

“We now mark another June 12 amidst an October 1 quit order to Ndigbo of the south east by Arewa youths of the north, who have also secured endorsement from the Northern Elders Forum, with the Arewa Consultative Forum conceding what they called the frustrations of the youth with Ndigbo.

“While the primary targets of the Arewa youths’ quit order are the Ndigbo resident in the north, we are not deceived that when the rubber hits the road, the Almajiris and the Mujaheedins would pick and choose among all southerners in their region for the baying of blood.”

Noting that no country has ever survived two civil wars, Afenifere recalled how events cascaded in the 1960s from the moment emergency rule was imposed on the Western Region until war broke out in 1967, warning against actions that could lead to another war.

“The same arrogance of power, insensitivity and atrocious impunity that were at play then are still very much at play today. The same section of Nigeria that rejected the outcome of Aburi is still shouting down the strident calls of most peoples of Nigeria for restructuring today, because command and control is more important to them than equity, justice, fairness, peaceful co-existence, harmony and a progressing country,” the Yoruba leaders said.

They also lamented that not one member of the coalition of northern “youth” organisations, who had unfettered access to Arewa House to threaten the unity of the country, has been arrested, saying “it is a clear signal that the butterfly that is dancing on the surface of the Arewa River is dancing to some drummer beneath the water surface.”

“When we attained independence in 1960, Nigeria’s pot was standing on a tripod. Two legs out of the three are now in a near-war face-off. It would be an illusion of grandeur to think that this pot can continue to stand in this way!

“To this end, we Afenifere restate the Yoruba belief that the only way that Nigeria would be able to fulfill its destiny as one country is that all Nigerian nationalities should be able to run their lives according to their civilisations in a restructured polity that practices federalism in its truest form. That remains the unchangeable preference of the Yoruba nation.

“If, however, our compatriots from the north and east are not averse to the continuation of Nigeria as a country, the only acceptable path toward this end is political restructuring. Fortunately, we have a roadmap in the recommendations of the last confab, which must now be pursued and implemented.”

On his part, Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose warned that the country was on the verge of a precipice with the ultimatum given to the Igbo, urging the Federal Government to avert the anarchy without any delay.

According to Fayose, the trend of statements credited to some elements in the north has shown clearly that the country is no longer one.

The governor who declared today as a holiday in honour of Abiola, said: “The gap has widened beyond measure because of the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. We are more divided now than ever. The elements are emboldened because they believe their person is in office and nothing would happen.

This is not surprising to some of us as the herdsmen set the tone and became notorious on the watch of Buhari. If this continued, it would further heat up the already tensed situation and promote distrust among ethnic groups in the country. It is disheartening that a personality like Prof. Ango Abdullahi would support that; that’s danger lurking in the country.”

Lagos State government which also declared today as a public holiday
said it remained committed to the ideals of the annulled election.

In a statement, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said the holiday was in honour of the ideals which the election represents, being adjudged as the freest and fairest in the country’s history.

The governor said 24 years after, the ideals of June 12 commemoration were worth celebrating, describing the day as one of the most defining moments of the country’s political history which positively shaped its democratic rule.

Ambode said though the peoples’ hope was dashed with the annulment by the military junta, the lessons of the elections could not be wished away despite subterranean efforts by many to do so, describing June 12 as the real Democracy Day in the country.

Former Vice President and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar reiterated his call for the restructuring of the country.

He said the clamour for the restructuring would surely consolidate democracy and give greater impetus to the unity and development of the country.

In a statement conveying his goodwill message to Nigerians on the occasion of the anniversary of the June 12, Atiku argued that restructuring of the country would lay a solid foundation for prosperity and self-reliant development across by introducing healthy competition among the constituent parts based on the principle of comparative advantage.

Atiku described Abiola as a national “hero and patriot deserving of accolades and honour by Nigerians”, adding that it behoved the authorities to immortalise him by naming a befitting national institution after him.

Former Lagos State governor and APC national stalwart, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, underscored the importance of the June 12, 1993 election and the agitation that followed its annulment, saying it was the precursor of the existing democracy in the country.

“Without the uncompromising resistance to military rule engendered by the annulment of the June 12 election, there would most probably be no 4th Republic today and we would still be groaning under the jackboots of military dictatorship,” he said.

In a statement yesterday, Tinubu poured encomiums on the late Abiola, describing him as an embodiment of “the eternal Yoruba adage, which says that death is better with honour than life without dignity.”

He also used the occasion to appraise the two years of the current administration, saying any objective analyst would agree that the Buhari administration had already taken impressive strides to clear the Augean stable it inherited from the past administration. He said critics labeling the administration a failure were not being objective.

In the statement entitled ‘What June 12 Taught Us,’ Tinubu said:“The blood of those who gave their yesterday and sacrificed even their lives for the democracy and freedom we enjoy today was not shed in vain. The truth is June 12 is the mother of May 29th.”

The Executive Secretary, Nigerian National Summit Group, Mr. Tony Uranta said it was unfortunate the situation under which the country marked the 24 anniversary of the most popular election ever held in Nigeria.

He noted that contrary to unity, love and commitment that the Nigerian electorate across the country demonstrated during the June 12 election “today the country is at the edge of crisis with the ultimatum by the northern youths to Igbo to vacate their region before October 1.”

Uranta therefore called for immediate arrest and full investigation of the principal actors behind the ultimatum. “If the spirit of June 12 election is to be upheld, those involved in the matter must be lawfully prosecuted, anything less than that will be seen as nepotistic favouritism premised on base ethnic sentiments.”

Uranta posited that Nnamdi Kanu’s-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) never created terror such as the northern youth had done “yet he spent so long in detention charged with treason against the nation. These youths and elders who are definitely trying to whip up hate and violence in millions of otherwise peaceful northerners must be seen in the same light that Kanu was by the Federal Government.

“Asking for self-determination is a right guaranteed even by the United Nations and that somebody exercises that right, cannot justify being threatened with 1966-type pogrom or post-1970 property losses.”