June 12 And The Challenge Of Nationhood

June 12 means many things to different people both within and outside Nigeria. Here, this day is a creed in our national life. It comes with great tensions, intrigues, emotional flow and political albatross. At the family level, you have kinsmen
and women of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola; on the socio-political plain, there are activists and well-meaning Nigerians; on the judicial bar, abound lawyers and law-makers; the religious or moral purview comprise clergy recalling with sad reminiscence, the abortion of what would have become the most free and fair election(s) ever held in Nigeria’s political history; an election that was well nursed, about to put to bed and be suckled but…
There seem to be this silent yet strong hullaballoo and hutting from Nigerians: “IBB, why?” The maradona otherwise referred to as ‘the evil genius’ wanted to play his cards well. Would posterity allow him? The rest of the story is what has led us to this point. This piece intends to highlight what this day means around the world, its power and force among Nigerians vis-à-vis the current challenges to nationhood and possible ways out of our mess!
“June 13 is the 163rd day of the year (164th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar…” It is a significant day around world; remarkably so because, very many epoch making events took place on this day in history. For the limitation of this write-up, we shall take a look at a few, from the world of international politics. On this day in history, the following took place;
Ø 1941 – In London, the Inter Allied Declaration was signed. It was the first step towards the establishment of the United Nations.
Ø 1963 Civil rights leader, Medgar Evers was fatally shot in front of his home in Jackson, MS.
Ø 1987 In the US, President Reagan publicly challenged Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall.
Ø 1990 The parliament of the Russian Federation formally declared its sovereignty.
Having established a few happenings around the world regarding the day in question, we will now drive safely into the home front!
Close to two decades now, precisely 19 years ago, the embattled winner of June 12 1993 presidential elections, Moshood Abiola was blatantly denied the presidency of this country after the masses had given him their mandate. Popularly known as MKO, the Egba- Abeokuta born publisher, politician, philanthropist and aristocrat ran for the position of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under the auspices of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) with running mate, kanuri – Maiduguri born, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe.
With fate and the God of politics on their side, they beat rival Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) to clinch the seat. Seeking to perpetuate himself in power by all means, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, IBB, fouled the election on the grounds that they were corrupt and unfair. The daring MKO seeing no one bold enough to give him his irresistible apple of power, declared himself winner of the election. This led to his arrest and incarceration by the Sani Abacha military junta; he died, under suspicious circumstances, on the day he was due for release – July 7, 1998 at the age of 60 in Abuja.
19 years after the ill-fated annulment of the presidential elections and 14 years after the demise of the iconic personage of no small political portfolio, what has become of nationhood in Nigeria? Any answer to this question must address the issues of security, the economy/subsidy removal, infrastructural development (PHCN inclusive) and human capacity building (human rights):
INSECURITY: Insecurity has become the bane of our nation. There is a general feeling of fear and uncertainty in the country; you travel by road, accidents; you fly, plane crash; in the bank, armed robbers; at Church suicide bombers; in the market or around town, bombs and grenades! The North-East, beehive of the recent bombings has scores of cruel deaths, destroyed houses, battered markets, burnt or explosive-pulled-down churches; the list is endless. The nation is cut along many lines. What lessons can we learn, as our sweet juice of nationhood, from MKO who together with Kingibe both Muslims were elected by the generality of Nigerians at that time?
ECONOMIC MALAISE: The masses are increasingly becoming poor. With the non-implementation of the 18 thousand minimum wage by many states, unemployment among our able-bodied youths, one sees a people in travail. The subsidy saga, pension scheme scandal and general high cost of living in rural, semi-rural and urban settlements live much to be desired. The yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots embarrassingly makes a land that is supposed to flow with milk and honey, a laughing stoke within the African continent and among the League of Nations. Can we not learn from a man whose philanthropy cuts across tribe and religion?
POOR INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT: Where are the so called dividends of democracy? A good number of our roads are dead traps. The Dana air tragedy is still fresh a trauma. Our aristocratic sons and daughters who travel overseas to develop the land(s) of others will have posterity as their judge. Power Holding is something else! Does the present transformation agenda of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan still have any plans to revamp PHCN? The business empire the late Abiola left behind is a big lesson for all to ponder upon.
HUMAN CAPACITY BUILDING: Aside from natural resources, we are greatly endowed with human resources. It is a sad commentary that we are losing many to brain drain and violation of rights. The days of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) may be gone but there are many people today in prison custody awaiting trial for years. How will these contribute to moving our nation to the next level? What are we doing to keep our youth back home? It is not unlikely that many young men and women in our country found nests on the mustard seed of Abiola’s humanitarianism. Isn’t this a morale for nation building?
On this day, we recall the frantic effort of Mr. President in immortalizing the man of the people and the man of the moment by renaming the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to Moshood Abiola University, Lagos (MAUL). Although this came under heavy criticism by many Nigerians, now that is has the approval of the senate, we hope it would contribute to the growth of the nation. There are Nigerians who have contended that government should first of all declare MKO winner of June 12 elections before anything else. Would this plea be harkened to?
As part of immortality this aristocrat, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Osun states have declared June 12, public holiday. Perhaps this is their own way of saying, “we remember the sacrifices you went through on our behalf. While we salute your courage, may the prize the paid for democracy in Nigeria yield bountiful harvests of political stability in our country.”
In a press release by Egbe omo Yoruba signed by its National President, Ola Oduwale “…the Egba calls for Democracy day to be changed to June 12 and be renamed MKO Abiola Day…” Whether this wish would see the light of day is left to the appropriate authorities. For now, we know for certain that, this day, is one that cannot be easily forgotten by friends, family, fans, political actors of our polity and all Nigerians.
Unless government and spirited individuals draw lessons from the June 12 annulment by building bridges of peace, reducing poverty, providing social amenities and empowering our young people the future would be bleak. Human rights must everywhere be protected. While one is not eulogizing Abiola for sainthood as he was mortal like any of us, suffice it to say that denying him mandate and his inglorious exit from this world should inscribe the values and principles he stood for, in our hearts. May this martyr of democracy inspire us to unity, peace and progress. God bless Nigeria!

Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic Priest and a Public Affairs Commentator, writes from Bauchi!

Fr. Justine John DYIKUK

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