30yrs after, pro-democracy activists remind Tinubu of June 12 ideals — Nigeria
• Babangida: June 12 election freest, but Nigerian leaders failed to exploit gains, can’t conduct credible polls
• Election annulment was a tragic mistake – Jerry Gana
• Odumakin: Tinubu, an erstwhile June 12 activist as president
• June 12 apostles will not rest until Nigerians enjoy good governance, says Onitiri
As Nigerians commemorate 30 years of annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Afenifere and Yoruba Self-determination Groups, have tasked President Bola Tinubu on how to achieve the ideals of the election, considered to be fairest and freest in Nigeria’s history.
The election, which was annulled by the then military leader, General Ibrahim Babangida, sparked outrage among pro-democracy activists, who insisted on actualisation of the mandate freely given to Abiola and the return of democratic governance in Nigeria.
Curiously, President Tinubu was among the leaders of NADECO and members of the Hope ’93 campaign mantra of Abiola.
In the words of Kikelomo Ikuomola, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State, the emergence of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is seen as the second coming of M.K.O Abiola.
Ikuomola described Tinubu as the messiah Nigerians have been clamouring for after the demise of Abiola, to reposition Nigeria and turn the fortune of the country around for good.
A dyed in the wool pro-democracy activist and astute politician, Tinubu will today deliver his first democracy day speech in his first nationwide broadcast since his inauguration on May 29, fulfilling his lifelong ambition and the aspiration of Abiola that was truncated 30 years ago.
For NADECO, President Tinubu must return Nigeria to the path of federal constitutional governance, “which was the basis upon which the heterogeneous people accepted to be part of project Nigeria.”
The group, in a statement endorsed by Pa Ayo Opadokun to commemorate June 12 anniversary, also called on the President to implement the report of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai Panel, which recommended that the All Progressives Congress (APC) should fulfill its manifesto’s promise of returning Nigeria to federal constitutional governance, adding that “popular will is giving prominent recognition in modern governance.”
The pro-democracy group, founded in 1994 for the actualisation of June 12, said unless President Tinubu, who was a prominent member of the group, returns the country to federal constitutional governance, any reform he introduced into the system will be ephemeral.
The group said it was unfortunate that the majority of the Nigerians never experienced democracy because of long years of military government and its culture that was sustained by former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari.
The group said: “Thus, the military in Agbada has now spent 16 years as the so-called civilian rulers. A combination of the military rulership of Nigeria in uniform and mufti total into 28+16 years, that is, 44 years out of 62 years post-independence of Nigeria.
“The consequences of the prolonged military dictatorship include the fundamental fact that they have prevented the growth of democracy, democratisation, expansion and consolidation of democratic features and culture in Nigeria. Because over 65 per cent of Nigerians are young people, most of them have never experienced democracy and its features. All that they have always known is the culture of military dictate/command structure. The concept of popular will is alien and strange to them.”
NADECO noted that the military abrogated, and substituted “our cherished and negotiated federal constitution and replaced it with their various decrees, which had unitarised all government policies and activities and which in turn has occasioned injustice, inequity, disregard for the rule of law and all kinds of discriminations.”
To the group, the actions of the military changed the thrust upon which various ethnic and regions came together and agreed by the founding fathers of Nigeria.
“NADECO, therefore, will expect President Tinubu to return Nigeria to the path of federal constitutional governance upon which Nigeria secured her independence and which most ethnic nationalities leaders, civil society bodies, opinion leaders, among others, had vigorously campaigned for in the last 30 years at least.
“This is because while we practiced the federal constitution, there were spectacular and visible developments, by the regional and national governments. The economic policies lifted the people out of poverty and we were the envy of the black world and even our colonisers, Great Britain,” it said.
NADECO specifically told President Tinubu that, “as an activist and pro-democracy leader, there can be no excuse to retain this unsustainable system that negates all known transparent, technological and value driven, modern governance. President Tinubu perhaps was brought to government by providence, nay by God, to return Nigeria to the path of sanity where it would be able to establish a productive government that lifts its people out of prolonged misery and poverty, modernise its education system, and organise its agricultural endowments to meet the value chain necessities required in the modern world where agriculture is organised as a business.”
The group said that while a return to federal constitutional governance will not immediately solve all the many infractions imposed by the military on Nigeria, most of the aberrations at the national and sub-national levels could be taken on board for resolutions.
THIRTY years after he annulled Nigeria’s ‘freest’ presidential election, retired general Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) has criticised the country’s successive political leaders for failing to draw from the gains of that poll.
According to Babangida, political thuggery, litigations and voter apathy in subsequent elections are evidence that successive leaders have failed to exploit the benefits of that poll.
Despite the apparent victory of Abiola and Babagana Kingibe of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the hopes of millions of Nigerians were shattered when the then military Head of State, Babangida, announced the annulment of the election results, citing electoral irregularities. In 2021, Babangida said he took the decision to annul the election in the interest of Nigeria.
The lingering June 12 crisis led to the resignation of Babangida in August 1993, six years of military rule before the nation’s return to civilian rule on May 29, 1999 and the eventual declaration of June 12 as the country’s Democracy Day by former President Muhammadu Buhari, first celebrated in 2019.
Speaking through his media aide to commemorate this year’s Democracy Day, Babangida said: “The gains of June 12, 1993 presidential election have not been exploited by political leaders in succeeding elections in Nigeria. It was adjudged the freest and fairest election in Nigeria, yet politicians have blatantly ignored that beauty; the beauty of credible elections.
“Remember, it was an election where Nigerians came out en masse to choose their leaders, irrespective of their cultural/traditional and religious affiliations. There is thuggery in politics in Nigeria, too much litigation in Nigeria, too many issues that transparent elections ought to have addressed.
“June 12 should naturally encourage more voters to endorse democracy and election, but the turnout during our election is gradually declining. Right now there is voter apathy, that’s the reason why something must be done to ensure mass participation in elections.”
He, however, expressed hope that the country will get things right if democracy is deepened. “Nigeria’s democracy is getting older. Democracy has come to stay but despite the imperfections, we can still get our act together to correct some of the issues and continue on that trajectory.
“It is a learning curve and a work in progress. Our leaders must continue to invest their time, energy, and resources to deepen democracy and sustain democratic ideals.”
Prof. Jerry Gana, former Minister of Information and National Orientation, said the June 12 annulment was a tragic mistake that shouldn’t have happened. He said Babangida meant well by organising the election but some powerful forces made him annul it to suit their selfish interests.
“It was a tragic mistake, it should not have happened but since it happened, may God help us to get out of it,” he said.
The former minister said that the election was a period Nigerians united against evil forces but along the line, the people that never meant well for Nigeria had their way. He averred that democracy was better than any other form of government across the globe.
“Therefore, we must stay with democracy in order to better Nigeria because it delivers freedom, human rights and a good number of other things,” he said.
Dr. Joe Okei Odumakin, human rights activist and President, Centre for Change, in her tribute on Democracy Day, wrote: “President Tinubu was a NADECO member. What NADECO did was to ask Abacha some uncomfortable questions. He had to escape through the NADECO route when he was being asked for his life as answer. Others were served the same compliments.
“Yet, the story today is not what Tinubu did or failed to do. I just reflect on the “others”. Where are we? Where are the others who have not rested and not turned political moguls? Why has Tinubu attained the heights alone?
“Did he walk right and the other chieftains walked wrong? Or they walked right and he changed path? That one could not follow the other. A detachment of the falcon and the falconer at the risk of the query on which is which.
“How does a massive project like June 12 activism evolve and dissolve? What does this lone climb portend or a climb in the embrace of another band of strugglers?
“Yes, June 12 is unity day and national holiday. Where is the value in all these receding faces and figures?
“Could an electoral code be submitted to our erstwhile comrade, which would forever erase election rigging and transform the leadership processing system in our country.
“While at it, the portrait of MKO should look down from their pantheon at the present time as other presidents from the past. It shouldn’t be hard from where Gen. Buhari pushed things.
“On June 12, there should be a healthy reunion of erstwhile June 12 activists. The one in Aso Rock and those in other rocks. This must be germane, since the annulment of June 12 election results was the worst kind of rigging to ever occur in Nigeria.”
ALSO, a socio-political activist, Chief Adesunbo Onitiri said that the apostles of June 12 would not rest until Nigerians enjoy good governance in the country.
Onitiri, who made the promise in a statement in Lagos, yesterday, said Nigerian democrats have a duty to ensure that the citizens enjoy dividends of democracy, good governance and the martyrs duly recognised and celebrated.
“The major martyr, the late MKO Abiola had been duly recognised as the winner of June 12,1993. What remains is that his gratuity should be paid to his family.
“Recognition should also be given to Abiola’s wife, the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola as first Lady, who paid a supreme price for Nigeria’s democracy to thrive,” Onitiri advised President Tinubu.
He expressed joy that Tinubu, who is one of them, has now become the President and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, adding that they are very expectant that God will use him to give Nigerians a taste of good governance.
The social critic said he believes that Tinubu would live up to expectation by improving on the country’s economy, which had gone down, unite the country and provide adequate security for Nigerians to live peacefully and happily.
He implored Nigerians to cooperate with Tinubu’s administration as he is prepared to deliver good governance to Nigerians.
The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, yesterday, said the celebration of 30 years of the June 12 and 2023 Democracy Day is symbolic and significant because one of the leading lights of the struggle, Bola Tinubu, is now the President.
Congratulating Nigerians and lovers of democracy, Afenifere, through its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, said marking the 30th anniversary of the presidential election considered then as the freest and most credible in the annals of Nigerian elections since independence in 1960 is historic.
‘’The election which was won by the business mogul, Abiola, was annulled by the military administration that conducted it under the leadership of General Babangida. The annulment caused a lot of uproar both within and outside Nigeria. Its aftermath made the country isolated by many countries for some years. A lot of lives and property were lost to the struggle to get the election de-annulled.
“Many leading lights in Nigeria, including the winner of the election, Abiola, lost their lives, while many had to run away for their dear lives. Among them was Tinubu who is now the President of Nigeria.
“Tinubu, along with many others, fought for the de-annulment of the election result under the auspices of NADECO formed for the purpose of actualising the said election and the ousting of the military from the corridors of power in Nigeria.
“Besides midwifing NADECO, Afenifere played pivotal roles in the struggle to actualise June 12.
‘’At one point Tinubu, like many others, had to flee the country. But they continued the struggle even while outside Nigeria”, Afenifere spokesman recalled.
According to Ajayi, the foregoing underscores the fact that the person occupying the number one position in Nigeria today was a very active player in the struggle to restore civil rule in the country.
Ajayi said: “Incidentally, Tinubu was part of Hope 93, the trajectory mounted by Abiola who contested on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) during the election. Thus, Tinubu was very much aware of the plans Abiola had for transforming Nigeria had he become the President of the country. Herein, among other areas, lies the significance of Tinubu mounting the saddle exactly 30 years after the historic election that would have seen his (Tinubu’s) former political leader in Aso Rock. Tinubu, now has the onerous responsibility of actualising the noble dreams of Abiola for Nigeria and the Africa continent.
“As a good student of history, Tinubu is quite familiar with those plans that Abiola had, just as he is familiar with the life-transforming programmes of his older political icon, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Now, he has the responsibility to harmonise the big projects of these two men and integrate them with his own plans with a view to making Nigeria fulfill its destiny.
“The destiny of being the leading light for the Black Race all over the world. A destiny the country was on the path to fulfilling but for the unfortunate military incursion of 1966.”
The group urged Tinubu to incorporate the noble legacies of Abiola into his own programmes with a view to accelerating the forward-match of Nigeria.
“Incidentally, he tagged his 80 page Manifesto as ‘Renewed Hope’ – an offshoot of Abiola’s ‘Hope 93’ manifesto with which he meant to ‘rebuild Nigeria’.
“It is worthy of note that the Abiola blueprint too drew inspiration from the cardinal programmes of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo for whom programmes that would enhance peoples’ welfare and make life more abundant for them were the hallmarks of his entire political career,” the group stated.
Ajayi commended former President Muhammadu Buhari for formally recognising Chief MKO Abiola as winner of 1993 Presidential election, and for honouring him with the highest award in the land, GCFR along with Alhaji Babagana Kingibe and Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
MEANWHILE, the Coalition of Yoruba Self-determination Groups has called on President Tinubu to put the issue of restructuring and true federalism on the front-runner to allow the country to meet up with the challenges of the 21st century.
The group in its congratulatory message by its Secretary-General, Dr. Steve Abioye to Nigerians on the commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day said this year’s celebration is a turning point in the history of the country because one of the leaders of the Pro-June 12 activists is now president of Nigeria.
He reiterated the need for re-working of the nation’s constitution along true federalism, urging Tinubu to put machinery in motion for the restructuring of the country.
“It needs to be restated here that the type of self-determination Yoruba people want is not necessarily to break away from Nigeria, but a constitutional arrangement that will give each component unit of Nigeria the right to develop at its own pace.
“Nigeria needs a constitution that will emphasise true federalism, not one in which each state of Nigeria will be running to the centre for handouts from the national treasury; the constitution that will provide for state or/and regional police for each part of Nigeria to tackle its own security challenges. The constitution Nigeria needs is the one that will place the state in the condition to have its own policies in the areas of economy, education, health, agriculture and so on.
“It is our strong hope that President Tinubu will put machinery in motion to look into those areas that have been mentioned,” Abioye declared.