The past few days have witnessed choruses of commendations to the ‘converted-democrat’ and the sitting Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) who has decided to honour the ‘presumed winner’ of June 12, 1993 elections, late Moshood Kashimaawo Olawale Abiola with the GCFR title.
While pro-democracy activists, the awardees’ families (Gani Fawehinmi and others) and friends have embraced it and are poised to receiving it; ‘awarding’ GCFR has reduced MKO Abiola’s struggles to ‘privilege’ and not constitutional ‘right’ which he would have enjoyed if the election results had not been annulled by ‘Maradona’. While PMB is spinning this to CHANGE the narratives of 25 years denial of democratic right to rule (for at least four years), we are replaying the old music of honouring the rich and forgetting the poor—the majority who died long before MKO Abiola tasted death all because they believed in the actualisation of June 12. Some of them became handicapped, widowed, orphaned; while others had to stomach painful destruction of their properties and livelihoods. To these set of people, they have become victims for life as no one blinks an eye in their direction. The hierarchies of reward and punishment have always favoured the rich and against the poor. We should have a systemic rethink in this direction.
While not against the honorary posthumous award, my probing question is that were MKO to be alive today, will he be happy to receive the medal of GCFR from PMB? My answer is NO. The reasons for this can be found in his Epetedo declaration of June 11, 1994 which positions MKO as someone who had plans to drive change in many sectors of the uninspiring Nigerian economy. He showed understanding of what the situation was across the sectors but needed the platform of an elected GCFR to drive his agenda; he was however denied by those he called ‘soldier-politician’. Is it therefore not a coincidence of history that another ‘soldier-politician’ now in the saddle is the one awarding the late business mogul the highest honour in the land.? Of course, if MKO was not denied the opportunity, Nigerians today would have been opportune to know the difference between the REAL and Imagined presidency of the late business mogul. It is sad that Nigeria, through her leaders have become waters of destinies. We have lost many promising Nigerians to kidnapping, armed robbery, political assassination and persecution, election violence, Gaddafi-fulani herdsmen violence, Bokoharam terrorism, poverty, unemployment, corruption, among others under the watchful eyes of the principalities and powers occupying high places in our polity. Each time this sinister motive is actualised the entire country moves decades away from dream actualisation. Let us now see I feel he a living MKO will not take the award.
Referring to his HOPE’ 93 ‘masterplan’, MKO demonstrated how the program was owned by Nigerians,having presented it nationwide and modified based on the needs articulated by Nigerians. MKO observed that Nigeria was characterised by “about turns;” high inflation, a huge budget deficit and an enormous foreign debt repayment burden, dying industries, high unemployment and a demoralised populace.”
Unfortunately MKO didn’t live long enough to see the current state of his worries today. Nigerians are more demoralised today and the unemployment rate witnesses negative improvement. Many industries have since folded up while millions have been sacked even in the last three years.
MKO had plans for the youths and health of Nigerians in his Epetedo speech. He said: “our youths, in particular, can see no hope on the horizon, and many can only dream of escaping from our shores to join the brain drain. Is this the Nigeria we want? We are plagued also by periodic balance of payments crises, which have led to a perennial shortage of essential drugs,that has turned our hospitals and clinics into mortuaries.” Twenty-four years after this speech, Nigerian youths walk through the valley of Libya’s death enroute Europe due to the ‘hopelessness’ at home. Worse still, they are described as lazy. They are even begged to delay their ascendancy to the political throne till after 2019 to allow for gerontocracy.
Looking back, Abiola would see that he understated the conditions of our hospitals. If he were to be alive, he would see how the ‘converted-democrat’ has turned around the fortunes of our clinics and hospitals and only goes to the UK to lecture the colonial homeland how to fix their health systems like the one he has delivered unto us. Abiola will marvel at the amount voted for Aso rock clinic which the ‘other room’ occupier lamented has no drugs. It will not bother a discerning mind why we have periodic Lassa fever outbreak, after all, rodents were reported to have invaded and chased the Daura-born ‘Change Master’ to the recovery chamber.
MKO ventured into education. He noted that “a scarcity of books and equipment has rendered our schools into desolate deserts of ignorance. Our factories are crying for machinery, spare parts and raw materials. But each day that passes, instead of these economic diseases being cured, they are rather strengthened as an irrational allocation of foreign exchange based on favouritism and corruption becomes the order of the day.” Hmm MKO had not seen anything then! What we have today are business merchants who award contracts to cronies to build model schools while failing to rehabilitate existing ones. We have a government who does not care about the education of the youth. They perfected the deception of the youth calling them ‘leaders of tomorrow’ while failing to empower them with the knowledge, tools, and opportunities needed to serve and lead the nation. Instead, from Aso-rock to the local governments, they train their wards abroad, and share their pictures on the social media as evidence of their failures! Despite the three years of change, we continue to battle new economic rodents in power.
“What have we done to deserve this, when we have a president-elect who can lead a government that can CHANGE things for the better? asked late MKO. That Abiola regarded himself as ‘president-elect’ nails it that the late philanthropist would not take a consolatory award of GCFR for what he stood for even if he came out alive. He would not be associated with a government that has failed to elevate the health standards of Nigerians beyond UK travels. Abiola will dissociate with anything short of his Hope’ 93 agenda. Why will he be consoled with a GCFR in a country with over 60percent disarticulated youths? Will the award give him constitutional right to attend Council of State meetings? Will GCFR give him the country he envisioned as having full scale industrialisation, quality education, and health and other social amenities?I think NO.
Dr Tade, a sociologist writes via [email protected]