And from nowhere, June 12 that has assumed the form of Abiku, shot up last week to victory in quite an unexpected form when President Muhammadu Buhari issued a presidential order, not only giving that historic date its proper and long-agitated place but also canonize the symbol of that epic struggle, late Chief MKO Abiola. This was after twenty-five years of ardent struggle that has been thinning down over the years to Abiola’s ardent supporters and his kinsmen.
This erosion least represents the essence and form of June 12 but in a nation that relishes living in denial. The cosmetic emasculation of the importance of June 12 served to enhance the pleasure of the antagonists, the enablers and supporters of that callous decision to throw spanner on a nation’s progressive march, set the country several decades back and cause untold pain and damage to the wellbeing and progress of the country. June 12 is so back and alive that this year’s celebration is not limited to Lagos and some South West States but will be celebrated right inside Aso Rock, going by the President’s decision to honour some leading lights that procured that procured that historic event.
Like the Biblical resurrection story, just when the nihilists thought they have achieved victory over June 12 and all that it stands for, the date sprung up triumphant like a sphinx that refused to be interred and shot into the height of our national calendar as the day Nigerians attained democratic satiation. June 12, from a state of near-death, rose to shame all those that have ensured it is snuffed and suppressed. June 12 rose last week to mock at all those that achieved cosmetic victory over it by annulling a historic electoral victory, killing the owner of the mandate and his supporters and who conspired to suppress the date and its values for a whole twenty-five years. Yes, those who procured, supported and approved the annulment of the June 12 election had thought that they had achieved victory over the many Nigerians that were against their evil deeds. They believed that June 12 had been permanently interred and buried in the nation’s rich cemetery. They believed they had had their ways against other Nigerians and against what is right and proper. I know that before last week, any mention of June 12 would have drawn the kind of derision and scorn with which they had, for the past 25 years, reacted to that date. But as is assured, evil can run for a millennium but it will take just a day for good to catch up with it. This evil against June 12 and against Nigerians ran for 25 years and just last week, it was caught up and vanquished by the good only last week.
The credit to this sweet victory of good over evil goes to President Muhammadu Buhari who has etched his solid feet on the sands of time as a man of history. Hate him or love him, President Buhari has shown he is alive to the tenets of good and that no matter how long injustice runs, a dose of justice will surely serve as an antidote for its long epoch. He has shown honour, character and goodwill, which are material ingredients of good leadership. He is the Daniel that has come to judgment and his judgment resonates in a happy manner with the majority of Nigerians who saw the crude annulment of the June 12, 1993, election as a crude sin and assault on Nigerians. Buhari has given justice to Nigerians who refused to succumb to the deft and extreme efforts taken by Babangida government to annul the election and the subsequent efforts of other governments for the past 25 years to enter the historicity of that date. By this historical righting of the wrongs of June 12, President Buhari has entered his own name into history’s golden urn and generations yet unborn will honour him for this wonderful mid-year gift to all Nigerians. Yes, those fixated scoffers who gloated over the annulment of June 12 are the ones accusing him of having political intents in doing this good deed but they spent a whole 25 years of their own political heritage interring and marching on June 12. They are still at a shock that the truth they thought they had comfortably buried for a whole 25 years has been resurrected to hunt their own seedy conscience and peace.
I discuss June 12 with a passion because I was involved. I am an active-narrator of the events of June 12 because I was in the critical field of the social fightback to that annulment that exerted huge costs on Nigeria. I am an active soldier of the June 12 struggle and I was there from the start to this day when victory has been achieved. As a ranking students Union leader of the University of Lagos at the time the event took place, I participated actively in the gritty crusade to revalidate June 12. Even out of school, I was in the thick of the struggle as the event and the negative prospects the insensate annulment bodes for the country shaped my life in no mean way as I was a leading pro-democracy activist through the entire length of the June 12 battle. I harbour a first-person impression of what happened then and I can state, without equivocation, the critical crisis of nationhood we have faced since the annulment have their roots deeply embedded in the annulment.
I recall that on July 4, 1993, the day the massive demonstration against the annulment took place, we led Unilag students to form the arrowhead of the huge street protest that happened that day. Later in that day, our student leaders with a handful of students, drove to Chief Abiola’s house in Opebi, Ikeja to show our solidarity and urge him not to give up. On reaching his house, it was a beehive of activities as various politicians and activists were there too to show solidarity. The students insisted on driving into the heavily-guarded compound but the security men that manned the gate refused us entry. We were ready for a showdown and caused quite a scene. Deji, Abiola’s second son came out and was pacifying us, telling us that we would see Chief Abiola after his meeting with some people. While this was going on, a blue Volvo 760 drove out of the compound and behind the steering was former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was alone and was bearing his palm frond which the few cars that were allowed to ply Lagos roads that day, must bear. Obasanjo drew some derisive hoots from the students. He stopped just at the gate, wound down his glasses and told Deji to go inside the compound. This drew more jeers from the students who never liked Obasanjo. He drove off.
Omoyele Sowore, the first-grade fighter of June 12, now a presidential aspirant, who was then the President and I, the Speaker, with two other students were soon allowed to meet Chief Abiola who was with many other politicians including late Chief Anthony Enahoro. Chief Abiola rose up to embrace us and assured us he would not surrender his mandate. He was profusely grateful to the students’ role in the struggle to revalidate the mandate, annulled by Babangida on the night of June 23, 1993. He revealed to us that he knew the deep role and involvement of Unilag Students in the struggle and asked us to take his words, commitment and appreciation back to the generality of the students. We took pictures with him and left.
We were wondering what Obasanjo, with his multiple personalities, was doing at Abiola’s house on this day but knowing Obasanjo for who is, we were not in doubt that he was on one of his fortune-hunting expeditions. Few weeks later, Obasanjo was heard telling the whole world that Abiola was not the messiah Nigerians needed and that guided his scorn and contemptible attitude to June 12 till date. Did we miss that two days after this historic validation of June 12 by President Buhari, and with Obasanjo facing particular national opprobrium for actively working to inter June 12 for the eight years he was in power, the same Obasanjo was to raise what is certainly a hoax about the present government’s plot to eliminate him? Even after the victory of June 12, Obasanjo still thinks he can divert attention from the momentous revalidation and clog our sensibilities with a silly story of a plot to eliminate him thereby blighting the euphoria of the June 12 celebration.
It is even more worthy to note that President Buhari equally announced the rightful enthronement of June 12 as Democracy Day, with the posthumous conferment of the highest honour in Nigeria, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Chief Abiola as well as the conferment of the second highest honour to his erstwhile deputy, Baba Gana Kingibe as well as the irreplaceable human rights activist who stridently fought against the annulment of June 12, Chief Gani Fawehinmi. Thus, he sort of declared Chief Abiola a democratically elected President, which is the intendment of his Executive Order. The president’s action was unbelievable because many Nigerians have forgotten June 12. Of course, the only semblance of June 12 that was alive was the yearly declaration of June 12 as a public holiday by some South West states and the series of lectures and colloquiums held yearly to recall the date. By the time President Buhari acted, the demands of the June 12 proponents which are summed in what the President granted, were hushed up and gradually swept down our leaky memories.
It is not as if President Buhari granted anything new. What he granted last week were the same demands the agitators for June 12 drew some 25 whole years ago. They had been there and formed the theme of unending agitations all these years. Previous governments since June 12; Shonekan’s illegal ING, Abacha’s, Abdulsalami’s, Obasanjo’s, Yar’Adua’s, and Jonathan’s simply decided not to do anything in their scorn of the feelings of Nigerians’ their disregard for justice and their own deep-buried sentiments against June 12 and what it stands for. They ignored the vociferous demands and pretended the event never took place. Particularly vexatious was Obasanjo, who fortune-hunted into Abiola’s house but quickly jumped ship to align with the conspirators and to whom the conspirators gave the full benefits of June 12. When he became President, he decreed May 29, when he was handed over power to as Democracy Day and pretended there were neither any June 12 nor Abiola. For the eight years he was in power, he never even mentioned June 12 in passing as having any effect on his eventual reaping of the fruits of the June 12 struggle. What he pretended was dead, in utter contempt of Abiola and other Nigerians for eight whole years was granted by a single order by President Buhari, just three years in office! A Daniel hastened to judgment!
The other Presidents before and after Obasanjo were simply deaf to the essence of June 12 and did nothing about it. When he wanted to get some political gains from June 12, the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, did it in an opaque and in hi signature thoughtless manner by just waking up one day and re-naming the great brand Unilag as Moshood Abiola University of Lagos. Like the thoughts of a sluggard, this rash effort did not survive the morning after. They created the impression that heavens will fall if they right the injustice of June 12, which is another way to show their complicit support for that rabid affront on justice. That President Buhari, without giving an inkling, righted that monumental historical injustice with just an order and set the entire nation in a wide orgy of celebration, shows that there will never be a time heaven will fall when the right thing is done. Indeed, a Daniel came to justice and the nation is happy for that!
Nigerians, while savouring the revalidation of June 12, are seeing in what happened last week as an eternal warning that injustice and evil have terminal dates. Like a tale told by an idiot, the deft efforts to stifle June 15, asphyxiate and kill it ended last week. The humongous prank to replace the essence of June 12 and force an uneventful May 29 as our democracy day has run its brief span and because it was founded on nothing, it had collapsed like a badly arranged pack of cards. Stories like this June 12 story is the type that reinvigorates the moral fibres of a nation, encourage the citizens to fight for and stand for what is good. On the other hand, it warns those renegades who wrought and sustained the injustice of June 12 as well as their rump who have been struggling to water down the essence of this date, that wrongs and injustices do not last. Injustice is like a ball of burning coal and whoever is handed same should be quick to throw it away before it burns him.
May Nigeria not go through the strictures of such miscarriage of truth and justice as June 12 and may the labours of our heroes past never end up in vain. Happy celebrations to all Nigerians.
Peter Claver Oparah
E-mail: [email protected]