June 12 Verse 93: The Gospel According to Abiola (OPINION)
Today’s date may not mean anything to Nigerians born after June 12, 1993, for many of them may not comprehend the significance of today’s celebration.
For history sake, it’s important we flashback to the past so as to appreciate the present. The 12th day of June 1993 was a symbolic day in the democratic story of Nigeria, for many Nigerians from the East, West, North gathered in unanimity to elect Chief M.K.O as the president of Nigeria.
But on 21st June 1993, the former military president, retired General Ibrahim Babangida, annulled the historic election and set Nigeria on the path of crisis, leading to many deaths including the winner, MKO Abiola and his wife, Kudrirat Abiola.
Today I want to reflect on the historical importance of that election, the pains, the sacrifices, the losses and the lessons.
Recall that the adjudged winner of that historic election, a Yoruba leader, a Chartered Accountant of high repute, an international scholar, and a very successful businessman was hounded and incarcerated for five years. He was eventually poisoned on July 7, 1998.
His wife, Kudirat Abiola, was shot in Lagos on June 4, 1996. It looked like a calculated plot to provoke the Yoruba to war in order to destroy the economy of Lagos. A lot of high profile Yoruba leaders including the late Chief Abraham Adesanya, the late Chief Bola Ige, Ayo Adebanjo, late Olaniwun Ajayi, Ayo Opadokun and others were incarcerated, some like Suliat Adedeji, Admiral Omotosho, Admiral Elegbede, Toyin Onagoruwa etc were killed. Former president Obasanjo was sent to jail for an alleged phantom coup. Great minds like Professor Wole Soyinka, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Kayode Fayemi and many others were chased into exile.
The plan was looking like a decimation of the Yoruba race by the core northern lords. Little wonder the presidency was zoned to the Yorubas in compensation of the damage melted upon them since 1993.
Some of the lessons we can learn from the Gospel of June 12 verse 1993 election are:
It was a free and fair election: The NRC (National Republican Convention) and the SDP (Social Democratic Party) contested the elections, the election was devoid of rigging, electoral malpractices, and violence. As Nigerians stepped out in large numbers to vote in their preferred candidate. The National Electoral Commision (NEC) led by Mr Humprey Nwosu had an excellent outing. This has been missing since 1993, elections since then has been marred with so many irregularities. Elections from 1999 have been a do or die affair in the country, with a former head of state in 2011 making a statement that if he did not win, he will make Nigeria ungovernable. Of course, the man didn’t win, and mayhem was unleashed on innocent citizens in a bloody post-electoral violence in 2011.
Nigerians Voted Across Ethnic and Religious Lines: Nigeria has never been as united as they were in 1993. The unity was conspicuous. Nigerians were not concerned with where Abiola came from, they were not concerned with his religion, they were not concerned about the Muslim-Muslim ticket, (Abiola and Kingibe) nor did they pay attention to the need for a Christian- Christian ticket. They came out massively to vote for MKO Abiola. The most shocking aspect of that election was when Bashir Tofa the candidate of the NRC lost to Abiola right there in the front of his compound in Kano. This is unprecedented, and trust me, it so Un-Nigerian (If there is any word like that). It simply portrayed the unity that existed at that time even in the face of diversities.
There are no permanent foes or friends in politics, there are only permanent interests: Just recently President Muhamadu Buhari conferred a posthumous award to MKO Abiola. The same Buhari that was Sani Abacha’s right-hand man, the same Abacha that allegedly murdered Kudirat Abiola and imprisoned MKO Abiola himself. The sequence of events that culminated into our hard-earned democracy today shows that our politicians are all about their interests. With the 2019 elections approaching faster than we can imagine, one can rightly identify the intent behind this move.
When Nigerians Unite real CHANGE Occurs: I emphasize on the change, because that word has suddenly been bastardized in our present political vocabulary. The broom shaking politicians have suddenly turned the word into a nightmare for Nigerians. They brought only brooms to sweep out dirt but forgot to bring waste bin parkers along! How on earth will change occur when they refuse to park the mess they have swept Nigerians into? The clear-cut unity of Nigerians demonstrated at the polls in 1993 brought about a positive change in the democratic history of Nigeria. If not for the annulment of that election by the then head of state Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Nigeria would have progressed farther than where it is at the moment. There is power in unity. When Nigerians speak with one voice, the tables at Aso Rock shake! As we gear up for another round of elections in 2019, every Nigerian must understand that the power legitimately belongs and resides with them. Their Permanent Voter Card is the tool that would eventually power the machinery of Nigeria’s Political landscape. They must to use it wisely.