Opinion: June 12: A well-deserved Democracy Day – By OLUSEGUN OLULADE
Now that June 12 has been officially pronounced as Democracy Day, what is in it for Nigerians? Some argued that it was a politically motivated move towards 2019 general election thus eroding its significance as a genuinely driven action while others said the action would divide Nigeria more than uniting it.
Whatever the argument around the pronouncement, it is one issue that will shape our democratic future, depending on how we are able to contain its significance to our political future irrespective of our ethnic, religious and socio-political affiliations and interests.
I dissected the matter from diverse viewpoints, and my frank opinions are what I express herewith.
All over the world, nations have political histories. American democracy which is the model of our democracy has a long history of what has become global model of democratic system today. The American political history was a stormy one; however, Americans allowed the good and ugly aspects of their civic history to form their political norms, ethics and characters which later ushered in a constitutional framework upon which its democratic values stand.
America has very strong institutions today because they were able to persistently draw inferences from their historical antecedents to strengthen governance.
It is funny to see even some elites comments on why the highest honour in the land would be given to the dead, or why should we resuscitate a long forgone issue. The first rational point every commentator should allow to guide his thoughts and opinions is that June 12 subject was never about the late MKO Abiola nor Yoruba race. Rather, it was nation’s struggle to depart from military rule, having been tired of governance system that was totally dictatorial and had no respect for human rights, freedom and values. Nobody voted along ethnic or religious lines. It was the first and last time Nigerians went to the poll dispassionately with MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe Muslim/Muslim ticket, yet never saw anything wrong. All they wanted was democracy and good governance. They never wanted to know what religious or ethnic colouration the winning candidates wore. Bashorun Abiola even beat Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention in his ward in the North, proving that ethnicity or religion did not come to play.
I imagined if we had carried such spirit forward, but alas, 25 years after, we had fully returned to ethnic and religious dichotomy in our political decisions and governance.
That June 12 became a point of reckoning, we supposed to quickly rise up fast and develop institutional system from that legacy. We must eschew ethnic and religious affiliation in deciding our fate.
For me, President Muhammadu Buhari just laid a new foundation for our political future with recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day. Twenty five years after, Buhari apologised on behalf of the military and the nation to Abiola’s family and Nigerians for the setback the evil decision of the annulment of the people’s popular wish did to us. If it is a political move, then it is a timely one in the interest of the nation.
Mr President has also joined us to give lasting honour to the principal actors and those who paid the ultimate price for June 12 to become what it is today in our history such as the media, civil society and youth groups, women, and funders of the movement. Those who were maimed, jailed, exiled, economically destroyed or even killed have been confirmed true martyrs of our democracy.
Buhari established a fresh legacy in addition to what he is already known for; Mr President won our hearts as progressives and activists for the resuscitation, recognition and immortalisation of June 12 and its symbol, Bashorun Abiola. That exactly was what Mr President did. It was the biggest gift he could ever give to the nation.
How well we build from the relics of historical legacy is what we must put on the table for discussions now. I also hope the rest of the nation will learn from the patience of the people of the South-West based on this historical precursor.
That ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo could overturn the opportunity to become the most important person in the history of Nigeria up to this point is rather unfortunate. Obasanjo fought against his ordinance as the father of a new Nigeria after our heroes of independence from the colonial era. The heroes of independence were a pack, but Obasanjo became a single entity, a continental figure in the likes of Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Lee Kuan Yew and leaders of the contemporary world, but rubbished and thrashed the honour and glory in the corridor of utter greed and selfishness.
For now, it is obvious no one is interested in reading any letter from Obasanjo, not even schoolchildren. Obasanjo has killed the honour preserved for him, just because he keeps struggling around everything God has given to him on a silver platter.
For Ibrahim Babangida, it is a no case. IBB was successfully registered in Nigeria’s encyclopaedia of ‘what went wrong.’ Again, the nation is not interested in any revelation on how June 12 was annulled and the actors involved because we have moved on. The army voted overwhelmingly for Abiola contrary to what Babangida wanted us to believe. Twenty five years after, what Babangida and his cohorts annulled now becomes a national interest and glamour. How sweet for IBB to cope with the agony and regret. Henceforth, the nation shall continue to celebrate June 12 and Abiola posthumously; tell me who is going to celebrate IBB on a national scene after crumbling hard earned democratic transition of the nation, taking us 30 years back developmentally?.
For those who are in tandem with political subject, they can tell clearly that Buhari has carved a political niche for himself by unbundling this country and taking it for repair. Buhari surpassed Obasanjo in Nigeria’s political history and relevance.
We have a duty to see June 12 as a political seed that has grown successfully in the midst of political thorns. We must not throw it aside for any reason. We must stand on that threshold to achieve democratic progress from its importance.
Kudos must be given to the Lagos State Government from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to successive governments for recognising June 12 as the real Democracy Day before this moment. The unveiling of the second tallest statue in the country by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode in commemoration of MKO Abiola is an icing on the cake that consolidates the official announcement of June 12 as true Democracy Day by the Federal Government.Punch
Olulade is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly