Home Opinion Once upon another ‘12 June’

Once upon another ‘12 June’

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This month, almost to the week, three years ago, we revisited our lamentations on the epochal fallouts, and consequent upheavals that dogged the incidents that culminated into what we have called the new-old “Democracy Day”. It was titled “Once Upon A 12 June”. Three days ago, we marked the 2024 version of our Democracy Day with some stumbling drama, high-octane sophistry and a measure of sobriety befitting our parlous state as a nation.

Once again, we take a detour on the homilies of our ungainly staggering towards systemic and historic failings as a nation-state. Let us cast our mind to that day when we did something magnificent – for once – but were betrayed by vaulting ambition and shameless power mongers.

“Do you remember what you were doing on the 12th of June, 1993? That was 31 years ago! Well, I still hold a rather grim memory of that day largely because of the deep searing disappointment, destruction and general dislocation that followed for months on end – all because some puny minds were too full of their self-importance and warped significance in moulding the future of this country; and they messed up royally. Yet a forgetful, docile and abominably forgiving nation chose to move on, and moved up a number of these charlatans to positions of power in political structures they consciously killed and maimed so as to frustrate our emergence as a great nation.

On that day in 1993, I swore to vote, for the first time, and canvassed my environment to vote for the more agreeable duo of Chief Moshood Abiola, and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe – without partisan expectations. I, like many of my friends, didn’t even remember both candidates were Muslims. It was a no-brainer pitching an amorphous Alhaji Bashir Tofa against an Abiola. We didn’t really care that Tofa, from the populous Kano, picked his vice from the East, in Sylvester Ugoh, a Christian. It just didn’t matter.

It wasn’t that Abiola was a Yoruba like me, or a media personality, fun-loving, philosophical, humanitarian – passions that sat well with me. Not really. He just seemed to click all the boxes I had arranged as sine qua non for my favourite African head of state. And he appeared genuinely eager to make a positive impact in pulling Nigeria up from the dumpsters the military had scrambled her into.

I queued under the heat…I can’t remember if it rained before we dispersed that day. But the semi-awkward voting pattern which shaved any sense of secrecy or privacy in balloting was bad enough…you had to queue behind either of the two candidates – Option A4 they called it. The elements favoured one man, in my area, thus ballot snatching, vote manipulation and other malpractices were hard to come by. Over 80% of my neighbourhood, close to the old Punch office in Mangoro, Lagos Mainland East were for the billionaire publisher, and multiple chiefs.

Abiola won fairly, and handily, in my area…and as we learnt via live transmission of votes counted all across the nation, the man whose dexterity in churning colourful anecdotes and witty idioms, and who was not diminished by his speech impediment, won handsomely in all the four corners of Nigeria, including in Tofa’s Kano (52% to 48%). In the East, Ugoh’s candidacy didn’t help Tofa’s party that much… Abiola won in Anambra, and was pretty close in Imo and Enugu. Apart from the feudalist enclave of Sokoto (20.8%), there is nowhere he scored less than 32% in the then 30 states and the FCT – an incredible national spread unequalled since.

Then they struck… the spoilt-brats, and national termites, decided their fathers’ land would be better tilled by one of them in whom they were comfortable! The 8.3 million votes of Abiola’s Social Democratic Party (SDP), and the almost six million votes of Tofa’s National Republican Convention (NRC) did not mean anything to the military rascals. That the election was manifestly free and remarkably fair did not strike them as a worthy legacy. They chose to popularize an abomination – annulment.

Sadly, some of the destroyers and wasters of our commonwealth and posterity are still alive; with a rickety bunch shamelessly swaggering through the portals of democratic temples, pretending to be paying penance through observance of democratic tenets – woe onto all the perpetrators and enablers of the perfidies that arose out of the annulment of the ‘June 12’ presidential elections. May their names and ancestry be clouded in ignominy and levity ad infinitum.

The consequences of that glib dismissal of a people’s mandate, and the harassment, disruptions, murders, assassinations and brutalities that ensued, left a troubled and weary nation thoroughly exhausted and dehumanized. Valiant efforts across the land to challenge the militant robbery of the people’s mandate was violently crushed, strategically lacerated by infusion of divisive politics, and ethnic jingoism… every trick and subterfuge to corrode and rubbish the emergent crystallization of pro-democracy alliances was lavishly dispensed: even as the economy and international image of the country suffered colossal haemorrhage in the hands of those vagrant nonentities.

After the needless shedding of young blood, mass carnage in the fold of the vibrant civil society agitators, and deft maneuverings of political vultures, some sort of contrivance emerged atop the unmarked grave of the stoic madman who broke all rules of statesmanship in his bid to consolidate power on his puny head, Sani Abacha. He was extinguished indecorously on 8 June 1998. A political escapism was conjured after the convenient and mysterious elimination of the gallant man of his people, Abiola on 7 July 1998. Exactly one month apart, by some evil genius abracadabra! And 1999 was birthed.

So also did the different plumage of cadaverous ambitions surged in shameless carnival parade – people who had betrayed the ‘military-must-go’ vanguard; people who rallied to grandstand at the podiums of the five leprous fingers (the fitting title Chief Bola Ige used in christening Abacha’s five imposed ‘political parties’). Suddenly, the same braggarts and vandals were at the Eagles Square jostling for privileges and positions in Abubakar Abdulsalami’s half-hearted transition meandering.

Like drunken sailors caressed into their doom by beautiful vengeful sirens…we stumbled into the fourth republic. Many were bruised beyond repair; some were traumatized into exile… and others who remained, like me, had lost the zeal to revamp and restart the rebuilding project – crushed by the mere sight of characters who ought to be in chains, seeking restitution for destroying the hope of a nation, now angling and seeking to lead and monitor the growth and prosperity of the same unfortunate nation!

Fast-forward to 2018. In spite of his well-advertised failings, somersaults and seeming inadequacies, one of the greatest acts of statesmanship performed by President Muhammadu Buhari was recognising the sacrifices, anguish, and disillusionment occasioned by the annulment of ‘June 12’. Whether he did it as a genuine act of class penitence, and national reconciliation; or a dubious political masterstroke to bolster his reelection bid in 2019, it didn’t really matter. His great act of atonement and exorcism of the evil done to this country, to Nigerians – dead, maimed or alive; to Abiola, his families and stable friends; and to the over 14 million valid voters…has enshrined his name in the portals of history as the man who did right by anointing ‘June 12’ as the proper Democracy Day; and Abiola worthy of accoutrements reserved for Nigerian heads of state – Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR.!

Yes, absolutely nothing can replace the lives wasted in the battles to reclaim the stolen mandate of 12 June; nothing can make up for the searing losses and diminution this country suffered in the hands of madcap adventurers who blew through our resources…but the tokenism offered, and homilies enunciated by Buhari that day, 12 June 2019 at the inaugural Democracy Day ceremonies, went a mile or two in restoring the hope of many in this country. That singular act, by executive order, which previous civilian presidents had been presumably afraid to touch with a long pole…made many proud to have survived the locust years of the military vagabonds, and their civilian co-philanderers.

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