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Why declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day without more is meaningless, by Opadokun

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Opadoku

Former Secretary General of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Mr. Ayo Opadokun, in the interview with SEYE OLUMIDE said the next expectation from the Muhammadu Buhari government is to take bold steps in addressing issues that would return Nigeria to true democracy.

What would have happened to Nigeria if June 12 Presidential election was not annulled?
The most important possibility was that a nation would have been created out of the country called Nigeria.

We remain a country and not a nation because on June 12, 1993, Nigerian people of diverse culture, tradition, religion, language, artifacts, folks, laws and the likes subdued all these differences and, in fact, attempted to bury the often-orchestrated national divide of north-south, Christian-Muslims, and minority-majority in order to get a Nigeria of their dream since they were electing somebody of their choice that would govern them for a period of time.

It was one golden opportunity Nigeria had therefore to create a nation out of the geographical expression called Nigeria, but the military right wing politicians headed by Babangida annulled that election in most violent contempt and disregard for the popular will expressed by the Nigerian people to elect a leader of their choice.

Consequently, by annulling June 12, these annullers have exacerbated the national differences since then and it has widened beyond what is tolerable, if we are not going to join the league of pretenders as we have them from then till now.

Even from critical but silent voices, including the late Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Mustapha, at the lecture he gave at Chief Alani Bankole’s birthday in Abeokuta, said Nigeria was more divided today, that was about two years ago, than when it got her so-called political independent in 1960, and that it was time for Nigeria to sit down to answer the national question. Those were his words.

So the annulment of that election was not only treasonable, it was the greatest assault on the constitutional power that the citizens have to elect the leader of their choice for a particular period of time and in the process, they have made the emergence of a nation out of the country very difficult and till date we are just on different paths all together.
 
I am not saying anything strange because you see the clamour, the rigour of the campaign we witnessed in the last seven to 10 years by ethnic nationalities and different groups, whether they call it resource control or IPOB or MASSOB, OPC, Middle Belt Youth Forum and others. It’s about the fact that we are being forced into cohabitation.

We secured our independent on a federal constitutional arrangement and it was not allowed to function for more than five years before the military subverted the government and totally annulled that federal constitutional arrangement and substituted it with a centralist military with which the country is being governed till today. All the follow up constitutional arrangements that have been superintended by the Nigeria Army had been tailored to follow the principle laid down by the unitary, centralist military decrees. 

Would you agree that part of the reasons former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and others annulled the election was the fear that Abiola would probably have been pressurized to restructure the country if allowed to rule?
Even though Babangida had not been bold to own up to the reasons why he and his colleagues annulled the election, what you are suggesting may be one of them but the truth of the matter that had been clear to most of us from day one is that the colonial masters created Nigeria for their own political and economic reasons. Nigerians did not create Nigeria because the British wanted to continue to have economic and political control over Nigeria for as long as they wanted it. So, I tell you that the British were responsible for the fundamental crisis of our nationhood. What the British did is now hunting them.

For instance, they called themselves United Kingdom (UK) but in that place we have Britain, we have Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland and others. But each of those other ethnic groups have been fighting serious battles to win for themselves independence from Britain because what they arranged from day one was to make Britain to have overall dominance over the entire base, so much that the others have token representation in the House of Commons. Now they can allow a Welsh to become a Prime Minister, so also a Scotch; it is also possible for them to allow an Irish but the real power resides in Britain. That is what they came to establish here to our own greatest danger but for their own benefit; but it is haunting them now.
  
In their quest now to leave the European Union, they have seen how violently difficult it is. They have messed up the longest parliamentary system of government that has even been established on the face of the earth. They are now behaving like small school children that cannot put their acts together again.

What they did here, for example, between 1914 and 1960 was to amalgamate Nigeria; they now created two protectorates of Southern and Northern Nigerian that were governed by different sets of British colonial officers who were behaving as if they did not come from the same master. I have recorded that in my book from the colonial achieves. I am no longer violating any colonial secret order because it is more than 60 years.

 
When the colonial representatives of British Government who were governing the Southern Protectorate wanted to establish railway stations, Lord Luggard and his people who were governing the North Protectorate would not allow them to have a passage unless they were willing and ready to pay. And they ultimately decided to establish a different gauge system for that of the north.

Now, in the quest to set the boundary, they deliberately created enmity among the ethnic nationalities so that there would continue to be quarrel and that was what the Nigerian military politicians decided to continue to do in order to frustrate the emergence of virile, credible, productive regions or components units.
  
For example, if you look at what they have done over the years, you would discover that the four regions that the military took over in 1966 have been converted to 36 states.

The Nupe people are now in Niger and some of them are in Kaduna. They are in Federal Capital territory while some are in Kwara State. Gwari people the same thing; they are in Niger. The second most populous group is in Niger; we have them in Kaduna and other places. The Ijaw people are in Edo, Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa and perhaps we have some in Akwa Ibom.

In the Yoruba area, to undermine a virile group from being able to assert itself, Offa is the traditional headquarters of Ibolo-speaking Yoruba tongue of the Yoruba from Offa to Iwo, but they decided to balkanise Offa and put it in the northern region so that they become minorities in a major ethnic group.

The Yoruba-speaking people of Kabba, who ought to be part of the Yoruba nation, are in Kogi State. It is difficult for them to emerge as governor in the state.

A lot has been done to undermine the setting of the country so much so that there is constant political instability, insecurity mutual mistrust, and tension as a result of this imbalance.

The British set it down and then the north’swell-thought out exercise of military insurrection of January 15, 1966 created a situation where what emerged looked much more like a tribal activity of a particular section of Nigeria to dominate the others. And it led to a situation where people in the other part of the country feel these people want to dominate us; we have to react and so there was counter-coup.

The consequence of the counter-coup was a civil war. There was pogrom in the north and there was civil war and that added to give a particular section of the country undue advantage over the others and that advantage, which the north has seized with the collaboration of the military, is what they are not willing to let go, to make for equity, fairness and justice. That is the crisis of our land.

But beyond declaring June 12 as Democracy Day, would it not have been ideal if the government declared Abiola winner of the election and also accord him the full honour of a president posthumously?
NADECO tried to encourage the government to do that last year on June 6 when Buhari pronounced June 12 as Democracy Day and gave the highest honour to Abiola, but negated or subtracted the dignity of that executive presidential conduct by equally giving Babagana Kingibe GCON and their reason was that it was a joint ticket.

I beg to differ. I think it was an unwarranted and unmerited honour they were giving somebody who, in fact, was on a joint ticket with the winner of the election but who sold out the mandate.

He was an instrument in the emergence of late Gen. Sani Abacha as Head of State and he later became the Foreign Affairs minister and he and Tom Ikimi were the ones dishing out falsehood by denying the reality of the act of oppression and inhuman treatment of our people and even the elimination of some of our activities and those who were opposed to their government.

NADECO had already spoken that declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day in itself without more would be meaningless. The declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and giving honour to Abiola has its derivative, which can only make June 12 to be meaningful. The principal reason was declared by NADECO on May 15, 1994.
 
We stated what June 12 represented and still represents and that we were calling for a de-annulment of the election of Abiola so that he can form a government of national unity and his first act in government would be for a convocation of a sovereign national government so that the conference can discuss democratically, resolve and conclude on the national question.

What is the national question? They are broken into two. The first is to inquire from Nigerians whether or not they want to be Nigerians, because they have never been giving the opportunity to respond to that question. We were forced into cohabitation.
 
Perhaps because of the prolonged period of interaction, most likely majority would choose that they want t be Nigerians.

Then we answer the second question, which is very important to make the first one meaningful. If we were going to live together, it would be on what principle? There is the need to know the modus operandi, rules of engagement and it is when we can set those parameters down then we will talk of living together. This we can only achieve if there is a truly federal constitution, not the one we currently operate. Only a federal constitutional arrangement can serve a multi-ethnic society like Nigeria.
 
The military centralized and unitarised the country and the consequence is the manifest evidence of discrimination, inequality, injustice and unfairness in the distribution and allocation of the country’s resources, wealth and commonwealth general, which has led to tension and mutual suspicion, disappointment, political instability and the likes.

It is being insinuated that Buhari’s declaration of June 12 is to score cheap political point…
Why not? Why should it not have political undertone? I commended him for that. He is sensible and a master tactician in that regard. Those who governed Nigeria for 16 years and did not think deeply to imagine the political gain they could have garnered from putting such measure should have their heads buried in shame. It does not contain their mind to criticize Buhari for taking a major political step to win the mind of a critical portion of Nigeria that felt aggrieved and alienated by what was done to the pan-Nigerian mandate that was given to Abiola.

Aren’t you worried that what Buhari gave with his left hand is being taken back with the escalating menace of armed herdsmen attacking the Southwest and also his blunt refusal to look into the report of the 2014 national conference? 
I am being careful and I have my reservation about some of the rumours and allegations that are being made.

My worry and challenge about Buhari’s government is the fact that in the APC manifesto, they included that they would quickly, if voted in power, work towards the enthronement of a federal constitutional arrangement for Nigeria. It was in their manifesto and the fact that in the whole four years it was towards the tail end that they now pretended as if they wanted to look at it due to public pressure.

I consider the El-Rufai’s Committee on Restructuring, an after-thought, which I regard as unfair. A manifesto ought to be a binding cord between the electorate and those who are voted into office. The party is supposed to be morally bound by its promises.

The facts that for four years there were not what you could regard as critical productive steps to actualize their promise on federal constitution is a significant minus. And I there say this; no one should fool himself around that Nigeria is not about restructuring. All that we are saying is that the present unitary and centralised system is detrimental to the collective interests of the majority of Nigerians. Only a particular segment of the country has been benefiting from that. There is a compelling reason that Nigeria should return to a federal constitutional arrangement on which it secured its independence in 1960. 

Would you say that the present crops of elected officers on the platform of APC actually represent what Southwest people want in Nigeria?
There is a limit of the blame I can apportion to them. The circumstances of their emergence and what the military had set down in terms of structural settings make them a miserable minority within the Nigeria political landscape.

For example, in 1960 Lagos had four political divisions; Kano had two. But because the preponderance of the military leaders had been from the Northwestern region, Kano that was half of Lagos had produced Jigawa State, which has 27 local governments while Kano has 44. In total Kano has 71 LGAs whereas Lagos that used to be twice of Kano now has 20 councils on paper.

In the delimitation of constituencies and representation to the House of Representatives, Lagos would be disadvantaged if place side by side Kano and Jigawa. If Lagos were to have a very serious matter and they take it to the House it would die naturally. They also have to rely on external forces to remain in power; many of them could not pursue the Yoruba agenda, as they ought to.


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