Ayo Oyoze Baje
Some political analysts called it “a masterstroke”. Others compared it to that of a marksman, aiming well at the game in view and scoring the bull’s eye. And his legions of admirers, who have turned him into some demi-god that never makes mistakes saw President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’ s new Democracy Day, to replace May 29, as that of a magic wand that has cleared all obstacles towards realizing his ambition to stay put in Aso Rock, come 2019!
Perhaps, they have a point. After all, the deft move, for once put volatile issues into the back burner of national discourse. These include the killing spree of voiceless, innocent citizens by armed Fulani herdsmen (or, simply herders) and bandits; the nepotistic architecture of 15 out of 17 security chiefs skewed in favour of his northern folks men( as recently decried by Yinka Odumakin, the Afenifere spokesperson) and of course, the one-sided anti-graft war that has defectors to the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) metamorphosing overnight into adorable saints! The flipside of the June 12 Democracy Day declaration for Mister President is the tall order he has, to convince patriots that he can walk the talk of democratic ethos and principles, far from his generally perceived dictatorial disposition. Not a few believe he cannot.
Can he for instance, accede to the persisting quest for the enthronement of political restructuring of the country? That is, to devolve the enormous politico-economic powers from the bloated centre to the federating units and bring governance closer to the people? His so called ‘haters’ say his body language waves a different chord far from that perception.
And would the recent move, change his political predisposition to becoming a grand respecter of the rule of law, with regards to the Dasuki and Zakki Zaky saga? Many watchers of Nigeria’s political space still nurse their doubts.
It would therefore, do the nation a world of good if we could learn a lesson or two from what has made the June 12 matter such a compelling mandate of history. Reproduced below is an excerpt from my opinion essay titled: ‘M.K.O: That June 12 may not die’ as published in Daily Independent of June17, 2013 to mark the 20th anniversary of the crude annulment of the acclaimed freest and fairest presidential election ever held in Nigeria.
‘It is instructive that two decades after, that brazen and brutal violation of the people’s collective will is still etched firmly in our psyche and souls. And it is all because this is one wound of the dimension of a deep cut that time has failed to heal. The ugly scars still bleeding from the repeated butts from undemocratic elements stare us horrifyingly in the face. Yet, we would be missing the valid lessons by narrowing it to the individual theatrical boxing bout between late Chief Abiola and IBB. It goes far beyond that.
‘For that crass injustice to be consigned to the dustbin of history may take eons, for more reasons than one. First, Nigerians are yet to be told the characters and the cogent reasons behind the subversion of their electoral franchise. So far, no form of public apology has been tendered by IBB to Nigerian electorate. No form of compensation has been paid by the Federal Government to Abiola’s family and those of the victims caught in the cross fire between the riot police and the coalition of civil society groups propelled by NADECO to redress the obvious wrong done to us all.
‘More saddening is the recent revelation by Abiola’s children that huge debts owed their late father is yet to be offset despite their call for such. Little wonder that the vast empire one of the richest Africans built from the scratch has since crumbled denying all the dependants the quality life he wanted them to enjoy. Beyond the economic vicissitudes visited on members of the family and others who profited from the late politician’s largeness of heart are the political implications of the annulment.
‘For the first time in our electoral history, which were always characterized by violence; including thuggery, the snatching of ballot boxes, stuffing of same with pre-thumb printed ballot papers, maiming and killing of opponents and their supporters, arson, acts of brigandage and intimidation Nigerians held a peaceful election. And a good majority of those who cast their votes for late Abiola did so because in him they could see a true patriot, blind to the colours of religious, ethnic and social differences. He was one man in who they could invest their trust, with the firm belief that his administration (if he was sworn in ) would deliver the much touted dividends of democracy.
‘The unfortunate political scenario on our hands today, as 2015 inches closer is the vocal expression for Hausa/Fulani, Ibo, Yoruba or Ijaw president instead of a Nigerian president which Abiola epitomized. The ethnic war drums now beating with shameless frenzy are reminiscent of the sad events that defined the 1964 political crises. Perhaps, the elders from the different geo-political zones now urging their misguided youth associations to give threats of violence should their preferred candidates not be fielded or win would learn from the sellable political brand Abiola meant to the common Nigerians.
‘In simple terms, Nigerians are now clamouring for a set of selfless politicians who have the capacity to identify their most pressing challenges; those who wear similar shoes and know where they pinch them and would deliver on their campaign promises. Good governance is what we want and therefore the paradigm is shifting to the search for such individuals, who would use the desired attributes of vision, diligence, patriotism, passion, courage, consistency and compassion as the late Abiola amply exhibited.
‘The lessons of June 12 would endure only if the people’s votes count; only if the electoral process is transparent, free, fair and credible. Indeed, worse than an armed robber is he who subverts the wishes of the electorate by declaring the wrong candidates as the winners. Such impostors and usurpers of the electorate’s will would have no allegiance whatsoever to the people he is meant to lead but to the corrupt process or godfather that threw him up. That perhaps explains the reason behind the parlous state of the country’s current affairs, from the federal through some states to the local councils generally adjudged as poor governance far below the people’s expectations.
‘Beyond the physical efforts to name some notable national monuments (a democratic institution or a sports facility) after him, we would be doing the late politician great honour if we sink our religious and ethnic differences for our collective good’.
Baje writes from Lagos