Nigerians from all walks of life Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the freest and fairest presidential election ever conducted in Nigeria on June 12, 1993 and won by Chief Moshood Abiola.
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, governors, NADECO, activists and others eulogised the late Abiola, who was not allowed to claim his mandate but was rather arrested in 1994 and detained by the military junta until he died on 7 July, 1998.
According to Soyinka, Democracy Day in Nigeria should be celebrated on 12 June of every year and not on 29 May as federal authorities want it to be.
“What June 12 possesses is exactly what May 29, or any other day, lacks. The former was a spirit of unified purpose, the latter simply an egotistical appropriation of the gift of the former,” Soyinka said in a statement.
He said it is a “futile undertaking” by some individuals who attempt to deny or crush the June 12 date.
“We need to remind ourselves what June 12, 1993 represents. It is neither mere date, nor sentiment. It is simply – Human Spirit,” Soyinka said.
He said June 12 embodies unity of purpose, equity and justice and the manifestation of the sovereign will of a people.
“It remains forever a watershed of Nigerian history, no matter what the future holds,” he said.
Soyinka said those who try to substitute June 12 with May 29 are playing the same unprincipled game of substitution that they have carried even to subsequent elections, substituting names of the rightful winners of elections with others who were never even in contention.
“It is this same mental compulsion that moves them to attempt to rob even a calendar date of its significance, its history, its potential for character formation and sense of national formation – and transformation,” he said.
He said Nigerians remain unshaken by such attempts.
“Let others continue their sham ceremonies – after all, this is a democracy – or so we claim!”
Soyinka called on those who are dedicated to truth and tutored in the lessons of history as well as understand that the Human Spirit is enduring, to hold fast onto the truthful anniversary, recognising none other and ensuring that “this date is emblazoned across the sky, and takes root in the very earth that has soaked up the blood of our martyrs.”
Convener of the Save Nigeria Group, SNG, Pastor Tunde Bakare described the annulment as an act of wickedness.
Bakare, who said this during SNG’s June 12 Democracy Audit 2013, held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Ikeja, Lagos, southwest Nigeria, added that General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) forestalled the happiness of Nigerians through the annulment.
He said Abiola promised during the presidential debate that in five years’ time, a Nigerian child will not go to bed hungry again, but now, they are not only going to bed hungry but also sitting on bare floor in their various schools.
“IBB’s annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by MKO was an act of wickedness. IBB forestalled the happiness of Nigerians. Since 1993, things have gone from worse to worst.
“All sectors of the economy have remained failures. Our governments have turned normal activities such as provision of boreholes, good roads and other functions of governments to celebrations. They organise carnivals to commission an ordinary borehole.
“Between 1993 and now, Nigeria has earned enough money to turn to Dubai, but there has been total breakdown of infrastructure. The present administration has turned the prosecution of the subsidy thieves to a night of a thousand laughs,” he said.
Bakare said further that the governors have turned their various states to their personal estates, adding that the people’s freedom appears more elusive.
He emphasised that for Nigeria to move forward, there must be a concrete approach towards building institutions of the state.
The Latter Rain Assembly presiding Overseer blamed institutional dysfunction for the chaos and problems pervading the nation. He said 20 years since June 12 is enough in the life of a nation to transform.
He said Nigeria is regressing, while unemployment has risen unimaginably, adding that the country is raising an army of unemployed youths, as well as “crime entrepreneurs”.
He said there have been “occasional success snatched from the rubris of failure”.
He demanded, among other things, institutional-building, fight against corruption, decentralisation, meaningful development, strengthening of democracy and a focus on the people.
On his part, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Labaran Maku, who was at the event, stated that “the June 12 debacle embodied the aspiration of Nigeria to move forward.”
Maku alluded that the country has travelled a distance since the annulled election, with bitter-sweet experiences.
He recalled that as a political editor of a national daily in 1992, he wrote in his column that the election would be annulled.
“June 12 is a drama foretold, while the processes leading to the election were to lead to self-destruct.”
He denied the allegation of non-performance by the present government.
Maku explained that every nation that is a super power in today’s modern time had been a colony in the past, including the USA and Britian.
“We may not have given you power 24 hours, but this government has invested in power more than any government in Nigeria,” he affirmed.
He disclosed that ten power plants have been built by the government.
Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun on his part described Abiola as the father of democracy in Nigeria.
Amosun stated this today at the family house of Abiola in Oja-Agbo area of Abeokuta during the Democracy Walk on Wednesday organised by the state government to commemorate the 20th anniversary of June 12.
Speaking at the family house where the late politician’s younger brother, Alhaji Mubashir Abiola led other family members to welcome over 10,000 people that participated in the rally, the governor said: ‘’if not for MKO Abiola, we would not have had the democracy we are having now.
“That day, June 12, 1993, someone laid down his life for this country, he paid the utmost price with his life to make this country what he felt it should be. We have not got to where we should be but we are in the process. Today’s event is part of our contribution in remembering this great man who forever will remain the father of democracy in this country.
‘’Abiola was not only loved and voted for in Ogun State or Yoruba land, even in Kano, Enugu, Port Harcourt and other states, he was loved and voted for across the country but some people who were not comfortable with him just because of his mission to rescue the country from where it was then, joined hands to do what has now become history.
“This will tell all of us that whatever we are doing today, some people are out there to put up the story in future.
“Abiola has written his own story and generations yet unborn will never forget him.’’
While giving a vote of thanks during the visit, one of Abiola’s daughters, Tudun Abiola, thanked the governor and his team for their continuous support to the family, saying,’’I have to, on behalf of the Abiola family express our profound gratitude to his excellency and the government of Ogun State for always being there for us both in public and in private. The good Lord will remember them as they are remembering my father today.’’
Lagos ACN lamented that unless Nigerian leaders make conscious and spirited efforts to learn from the nation’s past mistakes and seek honest ways to address them, the country will continue to backslide in the age of success.
In a statement signed by the State Publicity Secretary Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the party says 20 years after June 12, Nigerian leaders continue to pretend that all is well when in actual fact, the country is dangerously sliding into ethnic conclaves on a daily basis.
“A free and fair presidential election endorsed by both National and International monitors took place here in Nigeria on June 12, 1993 and the late Chief MKO Abiola emerged the undisputed winner but the disgraced dictator General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the mandate and consequently unleashed a monumental political crisis that is still haunting Nigeria till date”
“The powers that be in Abuja pretend that all is well and it is business as usual but the painful truth remains that the unity of this country is still being threatened continuously by BOKO HARAM, MEND, MASSOB and others. Our take is that if IBB had not annulled that historic mandate, Nigeria would have made substantial political progress in the past 20 years.”
The party added: “Do the characters in the political landscape know that hundreds of Nigerians died in the struggle defending democracy and Chief Abiola’s mandate between 1993 and 1998? Do they know that the winner of that election was killed, his wife Kudirat killed also? Do they know that Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief Michael Ajasin, Rear Admiral Olu Omotehinwa, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, Chief Bobo Nwosisi, Bagauda Kaltho, Dr Sola Omatshola, Admiral Elegbede, Alhaji Shehu Yar’Adua, Tosin Onagoruwa and hundreds of others died as a result of June 12 crisis? Do they know about a 56-member group of black Americans called Transfrica led by Rev Jesse Jackson and Randall Robinson, NADECO, JACON, UAD and others and what they did to defend democracy in Nigeria? Do they know what The Guardian, The News, TELL magazine, PUNCH etc went through in the days of the locust?
“We are in deep pains that our leaders in Abuja have not realized the historical lessons of that symbolic election which has remained the most peaceful election ever held in Nigeria since independence, the freest and fairest, widely celebrated by international observers, an election that rose against religious and primordial sentiments, devoid of violence, protest, multiple voting, snatching of ballot boxes, intimidation and harassment.”
Lagos ACN insists that “the annulled June 12 1993 Presidential election will continue to haunt Nigeria unless our leaders do honest and sincere restitution and compensate those that need to be compensated. We must be courageous enough to realize that Chief MKO Abiola, his wife Kudirat Abiola were killed and his business empire destroyed for winning elections in which 14 million Nigerians voted. We must decisively heal the wounds of the past 20 years in order to move forward.”
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, described the 12 June, 1993 election won by Abiola as the only free and fair election in Nigeria since the country became independent in 1960.
“Though June 12 remains the only free and fair election ever conducted in this country, the processes that preceded it marred the credibility of the election,” CACOL Chairman, Debo Adeniran said in a statement.
Speaking on the June 12 anniversary, which his organisation Odua People’s Congress, OPC, is organising Otunba Gani Adams described June 12 as a watershed in the march to democracy in the country.
According to him, “We are organising this programme in commemoration of June 12 and the late MKO Abiola because, it was Abiola who fought for what we are enjoying today. He sacrificed his life and wealth for the democracy that we are now experiencing in the country.”
Comrade Ayodele Akele, a June 12 activist, said every governor in the southwest should honour Abiola because he was the one who fought for democracy and any governor that fails to carry along the masses is not doing the will of the late MKO.”
Five states in southwest Nigeria, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti, declared Wednesday public holiday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the annulement of the presidential election.