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Security on high alert ahead June 12 protests

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• FG declares Monday public holiday, warns gainst agitations
• Democracy Day declaration was to deceive Nigerians, says Kokori
• Prominent Nigerians urge govt to imbibe June 12 values
• HURIWA rues intolerance for dissenting voices under Buhari

Tomorrow is June 12, Nigeria’s new Democracy Day, but hours to the D-Day, it’s a tense atmosphere across most cities of the country in place of a celebration to mark Nigeria’s 22 years of unbroken democracy and icon of June 12, the late Chief MKO Abiola.

Last week, President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Sunday Asefon, had while lamenting the worsening insecurity and the ripple effects on students who fall victims to kidnapping, declared June 12 a day of protest across the country. This was re-echoed by a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and human rights activists calling for a boycott of government’s activities.

Also, Yoruba Nation agitators are planning to hold ‘peaceful rallies’ across the Southwest region. The pro-Yoruba nation protesters have held rallies across Southwest states including Osun, Ogun, Ekiti, and Ondo, led by Sunday Igboho.

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In apprehension of what tomorrow may bring, many public events billed for Saturday have been abruptly cancelled over fears of protests turning violent. A Good Governance conference holding in Lagos is part of some events shelved due to organisers’ concern for safety of guests and participants.

The Federal Government yesterday declared Monday, June 14, as a public holiday to mark this year’s Democracy Day. This is as the government warned against agitations capable of threatening the peace of the country. The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, said this in a statement by the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Shuaib Belgore.

The Minister urged Nigerians to embrace the spirit of brotherliness for peace to thrive in the nation. He also called on citizens to support the present administration in its efforts at ensuring a united and prosperous nation.

It was however gathered security agencies have been given orders to enforce roadblocks and stop-and-search in major cities to prevent mass movements, which could “undermine national security.”

“Soldiers have been put on high alert against Biafra and Oduduwa republics’ agitators. The government is wary of a repeat of #EndSARS and has asked the military to frustrate mass movements and protests by taking over the major roads and conducting stop-and-search,” a source revealed.

As preparation for a hitch-free Democracy Day celebrations, paramilitary agencies have begun the deployment of personnel across states to ensure a peaceful celebration amidst security concerns. In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), an increase in security agents’ presence could be seen, especially within the Central Business District, major event centres and other public places.

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) said that it has made adequate preparations and has deployed officers of the corps across states to safeguard lives and keep the peace. This was disclosed by the NSCDC Director of Public Relations, Olusola Odumosu.

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HOWEVER, prominent Nigerians have urged the Federal Government to imbibe the values and tenets of June 12, noting that the political, socio-economic environment in the country negates what June 12 stands for. To them, the abysmal human rights records of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, stifling of the media, insecurity, nepotism and favouritism in the government appointments run contrary to what millions of Nigerians voted for in June 12, 1993.

The late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) had been declared winner of the election annulled by military regime of former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

But until June 11, 2019, when President Buhari declared June 12 as Democracy Day, previous governments had resisted the demands to recognise June 12 as Democracy Day and officially declared M.K.O. Abiola as winner of the historic election.

Two years after the recognition of June 12, some Nigerians berated President Buhari for using the declaration to deceive Nigerians, saying, “Nothing has changed or improved under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).”

Former General Secretary of The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Chief Frank Kokori, one of the leading protesters against the annulment and for the reinstatement of Abiola’s mandate said though June 12 would remain relevant in Nigeria’s political history, “nothing has however changed in the last two years since June 12 was recognised as Democracy Day.”

In a telephone interview with The Guardian yesterday, Kokori said: “The recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day came from the most unexpected person, President Buhari, and for the fact that it was signed into law, it would remain so until it is repealed. It is no longer what any government can ignore.”

He added that there is also the sentiment that President Buhari used the situation to gain popularity as at then when Nigerians were seriously disenchanted with his government. “This cannot be denied because some of us he invited to speak on the day when the recognition was made in 2019 have been forgotten. But June 12 will remain relevant because that is the only day in the history of Nigeria that is closer to Independence Day in terms of the fight for freedom.”

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In another reaction, Chairman, 2014 National Conference Advisory Committee, Senator Femi Okunroumu, said June 12 could only remain relevant if Yoruba people are serious and determined. He described the recognition of June 12 by Buhari as a window dressing arrangement to cajole some gullible politicians, who were only concerned about personal interest and not what Abiola stood or died for.

According to him, “What is to celebrate on Democracy Day under Buhari when our collective values have been destroyed and Nigerians are now yearning for secession? June 12 has faded in the memories of our people, especially politicians. Nothing positive can happen to Nigeria until the various ethnic groups that make up the country have control of their development.”

On the threat by the Federal Government to quell planned protests against bad governance scheduled to hold on Saturday by pro-democracy activists, Okunroumu said, “It is legal for people to demand for good governance any day and any time as long as their action is peaceful. That is one of the tenets of democratic rule and it will be wrong for the government to stop them by force.”

Speaking in the same vein, the leader of Ilana Omo Oodua, Prof. Banji Akintoye said it is unfortunate that Buhari and APC in 2019 used the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day to deceive Southern people.

According to him, “June 12 and Abiola stand for ‘Hope’, which was the slogan of the late business mogul in 1993, but today, Buhari’s administration negates everything about hope. There are incessant killings, abject poverty, ethnic suspicions, unemployment and other vices due to bad governance.”

He said Buhari has not honoured Abiola but that recognition of June 12 was a well-packaged deceit. He also said the fact that Buhari is planning to quell agitation against bad governance tomorrow disrespects fundamental human rights.

Calling for a watershed caution in celebration of June 12, a Professor of Political Science Department, University of Ibadan, Dhikrullah Yagboyaju said the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day has been commended. It evokes memories of the pan-Nigerian mandate given to Abiola, the great hope and the squandering of hope.

According to him, “President Buhari acted appropriately by recognising the date and by apologising to the family of Abiola as well as Nigerians in general.

“Secondly, peaceful protests are welcome in making a point about the grievances of the ordinary Nigerians. However, this must be done within the limits of the law and without hindering rights of those who are not directly involved in the protests.

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“The police and other security agencies must ensure compliance by the protesters while also being on standby to prevent an hijack by hoodlums. Thirdly, the organisers of the protests must be reminded of the delicate state of security around the country and must be encouraged to do everything within their means to discourage creating bigger problems of insecurity as they go about trying to get government’s attention to address their demands.”

THE Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said Nigeria’s democracy is bleeding due to the dictatorial style of the President. HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, argued that the unfortunate development has completely crippled both the legislature and the judicial arms of government.

He said: “This has pocketed both arms of government thereby denying the country of the constitutionally-mandated checks and balances as clearly spelt out in Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Nigerian Constitution.

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“Also, the President is intolerant of dissenting voices and so he has shut the doors of constructive engagement and has applied and deployed subterfuge and oppressive policies to limit access to the social media such as Twitter. Civil societies’ liberty to organise protest has been whittled down and armed forces have applied brute force to crush civil demonstrations. Nigerians no longer enjoy those constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms such as freedom of speech, association, conscience, movement and religion encapsulated in chapter 4 of the Constitution.”

The chairman of the opposition National Conscience Party (NCP), Dr Yunusa Tanko, while expressing concern over the appointment of card-carrying members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to oversee the affairs of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said conducting a free and fair poll in 2023 will remain a mirage under the present circumstances.

Yunusa referred to the decision to appoint Ms Lauretta Onochie, who is a Personal Assistant to President Buhari as an INEC Commissioner, to justify his assertion. While canvassing an outright reform of the electoral process, he remarked that democracy is worth celebrating by Nigerians in spite of the teething challenges bedeviling the country.

An author and political communication specialist, Michael Folorunsho, said June 12 is the real democracy day. ‘’Without June 12, the current government would have remained in the womb of ideas. MKO’s supreme sacrifice needs to be celebrated regardless of the gag of the freedom of speech and expression in all media, by the government and citizens alike.”

Some stakeholders in Ekiti State told The Guardian there was nothing to celebrate about June 12, saying the characteristics of the occasion were no longer present. They urged the government to mark the day in a low-key manner without fanfare in view of the state of insecurity in the country.

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The Secretary, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Dr Kunle Olajide, noted that the country has been polarised and the spirit of June 12 has left the country. “In the last six years, Nigeria has been polarised, it was not this bad before. The country is divided especially due to the kind of appointments Mr. President has made.

“There was what I called the characteristic of the June 12 that saw MKO Abiola, a Muslim and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe also a Muslim. I don’t think anybody can do that now.”

MEANWHILE, the Osun State Government in collaboration with the Osun Civil Society Coalition will hold a public lecture. Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, a labour leader and former National President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) will be the chairman of the lecture with the theme: ‘The Making of a Nation and Nigeria Democracy in Progress: Issues and Perspectives.’

A statement jointly issued by the Commissioner for Political Affairs and Intergovernmental Relation, Mr. Taiwo Akeju, Commissioner for Regional Integration and Special Duties, Engr. Olalekan Badmus and Chairman Osun Civil Society Coalition, Comrade Waheed Lawal said the lecture would be held at Aurora Event Centre Osogbo, Osun State capital.

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