The real and fake June 12ers
Though it was only its barking that was heard, as it actually could not bite, the 2021 edition of June 12 is the first time in recent time that what June 12 stands for in Nigeria cut its teeth. What sustains June 12 and gives it imperishable niche in the calendar in Nigeria has been the struggle to get the freewill of majority of Nigerians to stamp its feet over that of a person or a clique.
Had the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Moshood Abiola and annulled by his ally and the then military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who had serially perfected the act of coup plotting, allowed to have its way through, it is most likely that the date would not have enjoyed celebrity status accorded it today. August 27, which was slated for inauguration of the winner of the presidential election, would have probably got the reverence; after all, just like Babangida’s birthday that falls on August 17, August 27, which was the date then Major General Muhammadu Buhari was dethroned from the presidential throne through a palace coup in 1985, was already given veneration of a National Day.
When limiting democracy to political leadership, Abiola, until the events surrounding the June 12, 1993 presidential election, may be admitted into assembly congregating by democrats, but, except strictness was compromised, he would not be allowed to share a rostrum with apostles of democracy, for he lacked steadfastness and patience in clinging to democracy when pushed aside by politicos that called the shots in party politics.
On matters of democracy, Abiola did not make June 12. June 12 made Abiola an apostle (or martyr?) of democracy. However, since democracy also entails liberalism, validations abound to perennially adore Abiola as a model democrat even before the creation of June 12. His business enterprises were exceptionally exemplifying unity in diversity, which many acclaimed patriots talk about glibly.
Concord Group of Newspapers, one of the outfits of his numerous businesses suffices a testimony. Think of an era when the troika of Yakubu Mohammed, Dele Giwa and Ray Ekpu were at top echelon of its editorial department. At another time, Lewis Obi, Ben Onyeachonam and Tom Borha held the ace. At the turn of Nsikak Essien, Chike Akabogu, Segun Babatope, Nnamdi Obasi and Tunji Bello, the business mogul also demonstrated that merit is present everywhere and that one does not need only his tribesmen to take into confidence in the societal scheme of things.
The thwarting of the outcome of that credible election was the beginning of June 12’s stardom. It was a trip tarred with tribulations. Many human lives, including that of Abiola, lost in the process. Many, including the winner were made to wallow in incarceration. Others bulldozed bush paths called NADECO routes to exile. Journalists and media houses were not spared incessant arrests and detention and closure.
Yet, in spite of all the trials, the protests for re-visitation and revalidation of June 12 did not stop. The ensuing fight, which characterized the struggle, was for enthronement of the wishes of the people and ensuring that the accompaniments of democracy have a field day in Nigerian.
Unfortunately, in the last six years, complacency has crept in and sent the substance of June 12 on sabbatical. It has nothing to do with the Buhari’s government grandiloquent adoration of the date. It is largely because a section of the June 12 apostles made substantial contribution to the installation of the Buhari administration and are now reveling and obsessed in self-admiration while the reign of the regime lasts. It is also because the installers of the present government and die-hard admirers of Buhari are currently entangled in Catch-22, thereby finding it extremely difficult to despise the despicable.
Also, it is not that the ruling APC at the central government has changed or got rid of certain things constituting clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s progress or take the country to next level of goodness. If anything has changed, it is the worsening of the worst, just as newness of badness has not only occurred but taken to next level. Worst still, freedom of speech, one of the things pro-democracy people were battling to enthrone its inalienability, has become a taboo, with semantic phrase called “hate speech”.
Though June 12 has been resplendently clothed and showcased with ornamentation of Democracy Day, the enduring qualities of the date does not lie in its being declared public holiday, the making of presidential broadcast to the nation and other forms of ceremonial embellishments. The strands and spirits that sustain June 12 struggle from the beginning have fulcrum in the righting of wrongs predicated on quest for fairness, egalitarianism, relegation of ethnicity and elevation of nationalism, upholding of the rule and enthronement of democratic ethos as panaceas for betterment of Nigeria and Nigerians.
It is a celebrated contrast that the very government canonizing June 12 is promoting ethnic and religious bigotry, which is antithetical to Pan-Nigerianism that Abiola and June 12 symbolise. It is also a twist that agitation, which is primordial in human existence, and which saw to the democracy Nigeria has today is becoming a threat to the Buhari administration.
That is why the 2021 edition of June 12, marked with rallies in some parts of the country, including Abuja, should be seen as the real McCoy for it is inching towards reviving what June 12 actually stands for. The truth is that there are real and fake June12ers; only those merrymaking in self-denial would feign ignorance of fake June 12, the one celebrated by those who never ever saw anything wrong with the wrongs done to Nigerians by the annulment of the credible election, those negating the positivity of the real change occurred on June 12, 1993, those who showed double standard by using the police to protect those demonstrating for the government of the day and at the same time disrupting the peaceful protests of those against the powers-that-be.
Ekanem sent this piece from Lagos.