June 12 and the irony of democracy
Nigerians celebrate June 12 tomorrow, both as the now official Democracy Day and in remembrance of Chief Moshood Abiola who won the presidential election of June 12, 1993, adjudged to be the best election in the country. Coming closely after the commemoration of May 29 as democracy inauguration day, it is ironic that a country that keenly observes the two days in a year for the commemoration of democracy suffers the worst form of self-inflicted anti-democratic tendencies which are gradually consuming the polity. Both by intent and default, this is a rude deception and an odious malady of which this country must be exorcised. And no time is as expedient for this action as now.
Had the renascent democratic regime of the Federal Republic of Nigeria progressed as steadily as it came, June 12 would have been celebrated a memorial of a political re-awakening in this country. However, it is a sad commentary on the country’s collective ability for social organisation and statecraft that Nigeria, within a span of 10 years, has degenerated from a promising nation to its present state of collapse. It is disheartening that each passing day raises the potential for further failure. How did Nigeria get into this? What diabolic machination has brought Nigeria onto this misfortune of caliphate colonialism and cattle imperialism? It is fitting that today serves as another reminder of the tenets of democracy that this administration swore to uphold.
When President Muhammadu Buhari recognised and declared June 12 Democracy Day in 2018, he tendered an emotion-laden apology that signaled hope for national reconciliation and unity. In a statement honouring Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 election, Buhari asserted inter alia: “The country will no longer tolerate such perversion of justice.” The declaration represented a symbolic gesture of appeasement, respect and perceived healing. Since then, how well has the national healing process and reconciliation of the festering wound caused by the June 12 debacle been?
Although some ill-feelings were assuaged, was the democratic dispensation of the time a new starting point for Nigeria as envisaged? Whereas Nigerians hoped that the promise of a commemorative Democracy Day will someday revisit all the injustices perpetrated before now, is there any suggestion that this will ever happen?
Sadly, events in the last two years do not suggest any modicum of restitution or reconciliation. Instead, Nigerians have been witnesses to resurgent clamour for secession through the propagation of hate and ultra-ethnic agendas. Everywhere, a harvest of deaths and destruction is gathered from banditry and kidnapping; while a crude form of territorial occupation by foreign interlopers, colluding with misguided Nigerians, is threatening to re-map the country. Hunger, insecurity, collapsed infrastructure, impunity and low premium for human life have dogged everyday existence. Nigerians, young and old are disenchanted with the system. The system has failed them; they want their country back.
June 12 provides the auspicious moment for Nigerians to rethink their existence and destiny rather than celebrate. It is a reminder that it is not yet Uhuru for Nigeria. Despite its six decades of existence Nigeria has never expressed its rudderlessness as it has today. As this newspaper emphasized in 2018, one of the invaluable lessons of this commemoration is the value of courageous leadership. In times like this when Nigeria is overwhelmed by widespread insecurity of various forms, pillaged by endemic corruption and economic downturn and emasculated by official recklessness and gross impunity in high places, Nigeria needs courageous leaders. Nigeria needs a leadership that inspires hope; one that is courageous enough to feel the pulse of the people without being helplessly sympathetic or impudent. Nigerians need leaders whose acts attract trust and respect from her citizens; and not dictators who run their constituencies as a fiefdom.
Again, as events have shown, some sinister intentions are bent on re-colonising this country. This is not the democracy Nigerians voted for; this is not the change which emergence they patiently expected. This is the time for the coalition of human rights groups and civil society organisations to rise up and reclaim the country from bigots and ideologues that are hell-bent on bringing this country down to an abysmally medieval and savage level. Nigerians must reclaim their independence from a bully country run by sympathisers of bandits, secessionists and terrorists in whatever form they appear. The spirit of June 12 must be awakened to possess the well-meaning citizens of this country to fight again for their independence and to pray out the demons of division and discord.
As a bulwark of democracy, the media must inform to secure the country from interlopers. It is most auspicious that the controversy surrounding the Federal Government’s ban on Twitter occurs at this time. Media organisations should see this event infringing on the rights of individuals as an opportunity to educate the government and the people of Nigeria on the culture of democracy. The media must play its role in dispassionately informing the citizens to make reasonable and informed choices.
True, although June 12 has paled in political relevance, its commemoration continually provides lessons for a country heading for the precipice. June 12 continues to speak to the conscience of the country’s managers of general elections at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and their co-opted auxiliaries. It is an eternal reminder that the catch phrase “credible, free and fair elections” is neither a political slogan nor an advertisement mantra. It should rather be a pronouncement of factual witnessing from a sound mind, relayed with truth and conviction. Thus, in addition to being a national assignment, to conduct free and fair elections is also a spiritual exercise.
June 12 reminds the naïve politician, who is compulsively lured by immediate gratification, that a people’s mandate openly or surreptitiously stolen would with time be recovered. It is also a reminder to incurable pessimists and aspiring leaders who desire to get their mandate by hook or by crook that something cannot be too good to be shrouded by evil.
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