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Nigeria being run in negation of June 12 virtues, Odumakin laments



Pro-democracy activist and National Publicity Secretary of Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin told OLAWUNMI OJO that major occurrences in the country at the moment are not in the spirit of June 12. And for him, unless the country returns to the ideals and virtues of that special day, setting it aside as Democracy Day would simply amount to mocking the late MKO Abiola

Today marks the first commemoration of June 12 as Democracy Day following its declaration by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. What does this mean to people like you who partook in the struggle for the actualisation of the mandate?
The pro-June 12 forces have been persistent over the last 20 years since our return to democracy in showing that we would not allow this issue to go away. I think it is that persistence that the current government has tapped into, while also making some political gains, by accepting the date as democracy day. If not that the pro-June 12 forces kept the date alive, I do not think they would remember it, let alone accept it. It is a reward for persistence of the June 12 forces.

So, you think making June 12 Democracy Day is well-thought out, and there is nothing abnormal about it?
I think it was a deft move by the government to cash into the popular mode even when all that we have seen in the last four years is against the spirit of June 12. It has helped the government to cash in on the popular movement to gain some political mileage.
The late MKO Abiola stood for some ideals, which somewhat explains the acceptance of his candidature across the country as reflected in the outcome of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. Do you see the current government as being ready to entrench some of those ideals in the polity?

This is just a mere attempt to score some political points; I do not see it beyond that. This action does not mean that they have accepted the ideals of June 12.

For instance, the spirit of June 12 is about free and fair elections. Do we have this today? We just finished an election. Was its conduct in the spirit of June 12? We are going to celebrate June 12 just after the shut down of AIT, which signifies the repression of free press. This was the hallmark of the Sani Abacha years when media houses were shut down indiscriminately in the years after annulment. So, that this is happening at about the same time the government is marking June 12 tells us that it is the spirit of annulment that is in operation in the country, not the spirit of June 12.

June 12 was also about ethnic and religious harmony; it was a day that all Nigerians spoke across the country irrespective of tribe or religion. In fact, in predominant Christian areas, they voted for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Is that what we have today in Nigeria? The president is taking Nigeria to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Shortly after the inauguration, he left for the OIC. They returned and started talking about the OIC Muslim festival; this is not the spirit of June 12. The spirit of June 12 is about the integration of Nigeria. Today, Nigeria is much more divided than we were before 2014.

Fulani herdsmen are killing people all over the place. The Federal Government has spoken of setting up Radio Fulani. These are all not in the spirit of June 12. June 12 was about oneness. We are operating in negation of all the virtues of June 12.

We just finished an election now but what has been happening in the aftermath? The person who lost the June 12 election, Bashir Tofa, conceded and congratulated the winner before the annulment. What do we have now? We are in tribunal but the tribunal cannot proceed.

Is this in line with the transparent spirit of June 12? No. And unless we go back to these ideals and virtues, we would just be mocking Abiola by marking June 12 as Democracy Day.
What demands should Nigerians make from the government if, as you noted, all that is going on now is in negation of what Abiola stood for?

We need a critical mass across Nigeria to use June 12 to make poignant demands from this government. Miyetti Allah cannot continue to kill and kidnap people all over the place without any of the criminals being brought to book.

Across the states of Southwest and Southeast, you cannot travel safely. All these cannot be happening without anybody calling them to order, and you say you are celebrating June 12.

What June 12 are you celebrating? You are mocking June 12. We must demand an end to banditry; we must demand a restructuring of Nigeria. We must demand transparency in government, and we must demand free, fair and credible elections that can compete with the best internationally. Those are the demands we should make for June 12, not a mock celebration when we do not believe in what June 12 stands for.

The demand for restructuring has been on the front burner for some time. But encumbrances in our constitution and the leadership structure, do you think it is achievable?

Restructuring is the cheapest option for Nigeria. It is the cheapest alternative to the disintegration of Nigeria. You can see the way things are going. It is only those who are stone-deaf or just pretending that would not know that Nigeria is going down the drain. It is quarter to midnight in Nigeria.

The only thing that can save us is to allow the federating units to have autonomy and control over their affairs and resources. That is the only way you can buy Nigeria a new lease of life, otherwise Nigeria is on its way out.

With people who can effect the desired change currently enjoying benefits they may not easily forego, don’t you think restructuring may be unachievable?
It is because their understanding is short. What we are doing is not sustainable. Where is the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia today? Do you know how many countries have disappeared from the world map in recent years because they refused to accept the need for reforms? Do they think what they are doing now would continue forever and people would continue to watch them and accept?

Those benefitting from the current arrangement should realise that this is not sustainable. Restructuring is the cheapest option to allow us to co-exist peacefully. Let’s begin to look at our development across board and bring out our resources from every part of the country for national integration and development.

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