June 12 has become a mantra to Nigerians. In fact, beside our October 1st Independence Day, no other date has gained greater fame and popularity or even notoriety among Nigerians as June 12. Twenty-three years after the event leading to the date occurred, Nigerians still talk about June 12 with such emotion and that goes to show how important and significant the date is to our people, despite the demise of the principal figure of that day, Chief M.K.O Abiola.
Nigerians make so much fuss about June 12 because it is the day the unimaginable and unforgettable happened – a day when Nigerians made it sufficiently clear that they wanted and needed Democracy as well as unity but were denied all by forces presumably greater than they are. On June 12 1993, Nigerians held the freest and fairest election in their history, chose persons whom they felt understood them, could represent and give them the dividends of Democracy. But some people were not happy.
Despite the fact that Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe, his deputy, were Muslims, Nigerians voted for them en masse, as President and vice president, in an unprecedented open ballot election. People were happy that history was being made but their joy was short-lived, when the election results were cancelled by those who held the gun and felt they owned Nigeria and must decide who ruled and who should not. The election was annulled principally by our military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, IBB who is now trying to exonerate himself and put the blame on others, who worked with him to mess up our democracy.
And so, no thanks to IBB for the many reasons he has given for cancelling a free and fair election and truncating our Democracy. We remain sad with him for plunging us into confusion and making us look exactly like the “shithole” America’s President Trump recently called us.
However, we thank President Muhammadu Buhari for recognising the significance of the day. Changing our Democracy Day from the May 29 instituted by the Olesugun Obansanjo regime to June 12 will not make no sense unless that will make our political leaders respect the will and aspirations of Nigerians.
Even if the date change was designed to spite Obansanjo who is now an avowed enemy of Buhari’s second term dream, we still thank President Buhari for beating the June 12 drum louder. Even if his reasons are merely political, we commend Buhari for putting up a good show, ahead of the 2019 elections. Honouring Abiola posthumously at a colourful ceremony that brought together his family, friends and many distinguished Nigerians and Yorubas, especially the Noble Laureate/social commentator Wole Soyinka and Civil rights lawyer Femi Falana, is a ‘great show’.
Notwithstanding, all is medicine after death because Abiola is dead and none of the ideals he stood for, the reasons Nigerians voted for him, is in place anywhere in the present Government. No one can heal the pain inflicted on Nigeria and its people through the cancellation of the 1993 general election.
From the way things have gone and are going in the country, we cannot say those who were responsible for the June 12 mess are in anyway sorry for their selfish and unpatriotic misdeed. If they had a second chance, they would do it again.
So the best way to honour Abiola and immortalise June 12 is to ensure that no one tampers with our Democracy again. It is to ensure that democratic principles are respected. It is to ensure that the rule of law is upheld every time. The best way to remember Abiola is to stop the killings in Benue and the rest of the country. It is to work for Nigeria’s unity and give every Nigerian a sense of belonging. Anything else is window dressing.