“If this government truly believes in June 12, the last presidential election wouldn’t have been allowed to stand because it did not reflect the true wishes of Nigerians as June 12 truly did.”
– Yinka Odumakin
Prelude to the conclusion of its tenure, the 8th Senate assented to a bill earlier passed by the House of Representatives, which confirmed June 12 as Nigeria’s official Democracy Day, 26 years after the acclaimed freest and fairest election in the country’s political history was annulled via jackboot fiat. Accordingly, the National Holiday Act was rejigged to move Nigeria’s Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12. However, May 29 remains sacrosanct as the date when one administration will hand over to a succeeding one in compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution regarding the tenure of administrations in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier – during his first tenure as a civilian President – in June 2018 declared that Democracy Day would be marked on June 12 of every year. He made the declaration when the Federal Government honoured Chief Moshood Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 Presidential Election, with the posthumous national award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the country’s highest national award. Abiola’s running mate in the election, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, and late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), foremost human rights lawyer, were likewise honoured with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) award, the second highest national honour.
That the aforesaid gesture is long overdue cannot be overemphasized. June 12, 1993, remains an indelible watershed in the country’s checkered democratic history, if not for anything, but for the collective manner Nigerians, regardless of primordial cleavages and politically invented animosities spoke out with one voice in their collective determination to put an end to the massive mess they were sordidly enmeshed in consequent to several years of khaki misrule; an evergreen date when Nigerians united to chart a new course for their country’s future development. The pernicious, arcane and asinine annulment notwithstanding, June 12 will forever be remembered as the date when Nigerians made a united charge for true change.
However, despite its welcome appeal, I am of the opinion that the elevation of June 12 to the status of Democracy Day is nothing but a Trojan horse; a deceptive charade mischievously orchestrated by a crop of political journey men to fool Nigerians into seeing foul as fair; an artfully designed political gimmick that is aimed at covering up the current administration’s several avoidable goofs. It is part of a grand stratagem concocted by an increasingly unpopular government to mobilize public support for its several murderous programs – the overhyped “people friendly policies” – that have transformed Nigerians into Hottentots and Zulu Kefirs in the midst of plenty. It is a poorly conceived, amateurishly executed public relations stunt; a damage control propaganda gambit that cannot fool any right-thinking Nigerian.
It is hypocrisy of the most atavistic kind for this administration to profess belief in the spirit of June 12, when its daily practices run contrary to the defining tenets of this historic date. According to the Oxford Leaner’s Dictionary, a hypocrite is a person who pretends to have moral standards or opinions that they do not actually have. In a more holistic sense, hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case. Other words synonymous with hypocrisy include: sanctimoniousness, pietism, piousness, affected superiority, false virtue, triteness, humbug, pretense, posturing, speciousness, insincerity, falsity, deceptiveness, deceitfulness, dishonesty, dissimulation, duplicity, impersonation, two-facedness, double-dealing etc.
The PMB-led administration could be said to be suffering from a delusion of grandeur, by its shameless association with the spirit of June 12. It suffers from multiple identity disorder. If the PMB-led administration truly believes in the sanctity of June 12 as a symbol of democracy, why has it continued to brazenly contravene all known democratic norms since it came on board in 2015? Why does this administration pay deaf ears to popular entreaties for better deals for its largely impoverished populace? Why does it respond, Gestapo style, with fire and brimstone to any perceived challenge to its hegemony? Why does it make political appointments on the grounds of nepotistic, ethnic, and other parochially sectional considerations? Why does it seek to squeeze other political party’s into oblivion, when the country supposedly operates a multiparty system as defined by the constitution? Why does it flagrantly disobey court orders? Why, contrary to the principle of Separation of Powers, as provided in the Constitution, has the executive arm of PMB’s administration completely sequestrated and usurped the functions of the legislative and judicial arms of government? Are these pernicious dispositions in the spirit of June 12?
What is democratic about a system in which full citizenship participation in the electoral process is not guaranteed, and where eligible voters are systematically disenfranchised through technical defaults and other mischievous machinations of the cuckolding narcissists in the mansions of power? What is democratic about a government that regularly capitalizes on the ignorance, poverty and passivity of the larger population to influence the conduct and outcome of elections? What is democratic about a government that does not comprehensively fight corruption and the abuse of power by elected officials? What is democratic about a government that cannot guarantee the security of the lives and property of it citizens, a cardinal fiduciary responsibility it owes the popular sovereigns who brought it to power? What is democratic about a government run by maximum rulers – not leaders – without followers; a government that relies on naked force as its lingua-franca? What is really democratic about this largely pseudo, preposterous, imposturous democracy?
The PMB-led administration’s commitment to democracy is a laughable exercise in grandiloquent, quixotic pomposity that exists only on paper. This administration only pays lip service to democracy largely through the malapropisms of its squeamish squealers, the loquacious Goebbels, whose mastery of the art of word magic have helped in selling heaps of lies to a highly impressionable public who are the puns in the high-stake game of Russian Roulette that governance has become in Nigeria since 2015. The truth is that “government of the people” has completely gone with the winds since 2015; it has become an ever receding pipe-dream, a sort of miasmic mirage that exists only in the breach. What obtains in Nigeria today in the guise of democracy is an impassive political regime where the few misrule at the expense of the many. It is the antithesis of a system of majoritarian rule based on popular consent. Take it or leave it!
A CALL FOR JUSTICE
If this administration truly believes in the spirit of June 12, its recognition as Democracy Day should go pari passu with formally announcing the results of the election, declaring Abiola the winner, swearing him into office posthumously, and proceeding to pay to his family all the outstanding emoluments – salaries and pensions – he would have earned in and out of office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is the only way to give flesh to this administration’s professed belief in June 12, and convince Nigerians that it is not a political gimmick, as is being suggested by the opposition and other skeptical segments of the society – especially in the light of this administration’s poor performance rating since coming on board four years ago. By acknowledging that the June 12 Election was free and fair, and that Abiola truly won the election, Mr. President should proceed to do the needful.
Again, I am of the opinion that due recognition should also be extended to other principal actors – living or dead – who played hugely significant roles in the conduct of the election, and subsequent struggle for its actualization, some of who unfortunately lost their lives in the process. Icons of the struggle such as Professor Humphrey Nwosu, the electoral umpire who oversaw the fluid execution of the electoral timetable, culminating in its resounding success, the late Kudirat Abiola, wife of the presumed winner of the election, late pa late Alfred Rewane, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Anthony Enahoro, the Odumakin family, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dr. Ibrahim Tahir, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Prof. Segun Gbadegesin, Prof. Ropo Sekoni, Prof. Ade Banjo, Prof. Adebayo Williams, Chief Frank Kokori, Walter Carrington, Dr. Wahab Dosunmu, Ayo Opadokun, Olawale Osun, Ebitu Ukiwe, Arthur Nwankwo, Commodore Dan Sulaiman, Chief Bola Ige, Abubakar Umar Dangiwa, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, who resigned from the Constitutional Conference Commission set up by Abacha, Niyi Owolola, Chief Supo Sonibare, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the late Baba Omojola, the late Chief Rafiu Jafojo, and Chief S.K. Babalola, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, his brother, the late Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Femi Falana (SAN), Femi Aborisade, the late Chima Ubani, Joe Igbokwe, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Ayo Obe, Bishop Matthew Kukah, Ebun Adegboruwa, Clement Nwankwo, Shehu Sani, Mike Ozekhome, Osagie Obayuwana, Felix Tuodolo, Debo Adeniran, Ima Niboro, Akinola Orisagbemi, who was Personal Assistant to Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, Innocent Chukwuma, Bunmi Aborisade, and numerous activists under the banner of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), PENGASSAN, NUPENG, Radio Kudirat, Lagos Justice Forum, June 12 Collective, the media, and National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), and other unsung heroes of democracy who sacrificed their all that Nigerians may be free from Jackboot rule, should be included in the list of those to be honoured with national awards.
Equally worthy of recognition are other unfortunate casualties of the struggle such as the many protesters that were shot on Ikorodu road by soldiers, and the many activists that were detained, many of who lost their property, businesses and had their families dislocated, and the media houses that were closed down. The family of Bagaudu Khalto is still in agony. If a two-timing Babagana Kingibe, who betrayed the mandate vociferously given to him and Abiola by the electorate, by treacherously serving in the same government that imprisoned Abiola, could be awarded a Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), the true champions of the struggle for the actualization of that mandate should also be deservedly recognized, sentiments aside.
Also, the chief actors – both military and civilian – who conspired to steal the people’s mandate, as expressed at the June 12 polls, should be brought to justice, through all legal means possible. The annulment, apart from being a treasonable crime in itself, also resulted in the death of several Nigerian citizens who were bold enough to stand up for their rights against an impassive oligarchy that was bent on having its say and way. No stone should be left unturned in ensuring that the chief perpetrators of the dastardly June 12 disaster are made to answer for their gross indiscretions against Nigerians. This is the only way to assuage the pains of Nigerians who have been waiting for the day the country would produce a leader who would have the guts to bring closure to one of the saddest chapters in the country’s political history. This is not a utopia, as some would like to call it, but a possible objective that should be pursued with all vigor.
As Mr. President commences on another four years of stewardship as the country’s Head of Government – that is pending the outcome of the suit challenging the authenticity of his 2019 mandate at the Electoral Tribunal – one brotherly advise to him is to jettison his undemocratic dispositions. For a president that rode to power on the wings of the popular will, he has underperformed, despite attempts by his paid pipers to paint an embellished picture of the rank rot that has become the sorry lot of Nigerians in the last four years. His excuses that the problems currently afflicting the country were already on ground when he came on board are gross expiations of his shortcomings and lack of leadership savvy. A true democrat with a mission to serve does not give excuses, but accepts that there are challenges that must be contained, no matter how gargantuan. He should look in the mirror and change his ways.
June 12 will remain a mammoth symbol of the people’s collective drive for a new democratic deal; a mutual quest by Nigerians for a better future; a joint pursuit of responsible, responsive, accountable, humane leadership. June 12 stands for free, fair, credible and acceptable elections; it stands for positive change anchored on oneness, honesty and decency; it stands for an earnestly sought-after ideal. Until Nigeria transforms from the land of promise into a land of opportunities where anybody can aspire to be the best that they were created to be, without man-made encumbrances of any sort, until those in privileged positions of authority begin to recognize the popular sovereigns as the true owners of the mandates that brought them to power, until Nigeria becomes a country where governance is anchored on justice, equity, fair play and the rule of law, democracy will remain a mere utopia. All hands must be on deck to bring about a true democratic order in Nigeria.
God save Nigeria!