June 12! Oh June 12!! (1993--2007)
Today is June 12 2007, 14 odd years after the murder of democracy in Nigeria by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida. As the day wears off we must cast our minds back to that historic event, a great day of freedom killed by those who did not mean well for the greatness of our nation, the emancipation of our people.
Abiola was the symbol, martyr of June 12 and he gave the struggle for the revalidation of his mandate his all, sacrificing his life for the cause. One remembers Olusegun Obasanjo in a visit to Mugabeland declaring that "Abiola is the not the messiah Nigeria is waiting for". OBJ's hatred of Abiola and all he stood for was never in any doubt. A former General from the same Abeokuta 'Egba' kindred with Abiola but envious of his greatness Obasanjo remains the greatest beneficiary of the Abiola saga.
Through Ernest Shonekan, another Egba man IBB and his military top-brass sought to kill and bury June 12 and through the illegal contraption called ING he hurriedly put together before scurrying out of Aso Rock 'stepping aside' in shame the deed was sealed. By leaving the late Locust behind after retiring other high-ranking military officers IBB used Abacha as a counter-balance and counter-force to checkmate Shonekan's tothering government culminating in a coup-de-grace of Abacha just three months into the interim government nonsense.
I remember some of my classmates calling me 'June 12' in school because of my active involvement in its actualisation. After the annulment of June 12 we demonstrated against IBB in Benin City and while on top of it even against my late sister's advice and warning a student friend standing beside me at Ring Road opposite Leventis Stores by Sakponba Road junction was shot in the leg; as his blood oozed out he slumped and we took to our heels as the military men and mobile policemen approached. The boy was later transfered to the Central Hospital and days later he gave up the ghost. When I went home and reported the incident to my late sister she gave me a hot dirty slap questioning furiously: "what if you were the one shot, what would I have told our mother in the village!? That I sent you out to take part in a protest where trigger-happy ruthless army boys from the north that neither understood nor spoke english were drafted to put down the simmering wide-spread riots?"
My late sister misunderstood my burning desire to be counted among the people whose mandate was stolen, she never knew my state of emancipation and I hid my innermost radical side to her never wanting to rock my academic boat; being a woman I knew she was trying providing for me and paying my school fees so I did everything to show her fraternal love and deep respect. But ocassionally we disagreed to agree!
My letter to the defunct 'African Concord' magazine Editor of that week was adjudged the 'star letter' with a going price. I had urged IBB to respect the wishes of Nigerians letting him know that the mandate must not be stolen and daring heaven to fall if Abiola was sworn in. I followed that up with other articles to other newspapers with some published and others ignored. Looking back now I feel fulfilled that I took part in the June 12 struggle.
When Abiola spoke finally after some days of silence bothering on whether he had abdicated the mandate or ready to re-claim it he was categorical about his "mandate freely given by 14 million Nigerians" which he must not trade off by any means. Abiola, a benevolent billionaire with rag-to-riches background would have given governance a human face in Nigeria but alas those forces that detest mass emancipation from poverty prevailed but June 12 was a watershed in our collective consciousness.
The souls of those killed in order to kill June 12, the blood of those defenseless compatriots mown down in Lagos on Abacha's orders act as a shield for our growing democracy and there is no going back; democracy no matter our deliberate quest to give it another meaning has no alternative if we desire to uplift our nation from the present morass.
June 12 brought out the beast in the Nigerian political class and their mercantile dispositions. Shonekan and his illegal ING; Abacha and his coup against Shonekan. Some high-profile Yoruba Obas betraying the cause and joining forces with the oppressors. June 12 demystified a whole lot of things, giving birth to a resistance that has not waned after consuming Abacha.
In an exclusive interview he granted the Punch newspaper in Nigeria a month ago, one of Abiola's sons Lekan was saying that the major reason IBB adduced for denying his father his presidential mandate was that 'the Federal Government was owing his father too much money'. That giving him power would be a national security threat apart from Abiola's well-known polygamous life-style. But he added that since they killed Abiola the federal government has not considered it wise paying the money owed Abiola post-humously, so who is fooling whom? From General Abdusalami Abubakar to Obasanjo no ruler has thought about paying the huge amount owed Abiola, funds owed him for contracts done. And Obasanjo especially had not considered it wise honouring Abiola post-humously by maybe naming a monument after him even when he had honoured those including Abacha and IBB that killed the dream.
After eight years of failure as president we now hear OBJ sermonising over June 12 and how it was won by Abiola but denied because of bad belle. Obasanjo remains a bundle of contradition even out of power; this same NOUN student of theology it was who supported surreptitiously the annulment of June 12 even campaigning internationally against its actualisation, so what nonsense afterthought was he talking?
Since June 12 was rendered still-born democracy has continued to elude Nigeria not even the imposition of Obasanjo could halt the drift towards national regression. The eight years Obasanjo superintended our patrimony things were both rough and tough; his stewardship has been analyzed by many a commentator (this author inclusive) so there's no need here over-flogging the dead horse. Suffice to say however in the passing that OBJ was a failure on many fronts!
June 12 threw up heroes and heroines of democracy and the direct opposite, the many villains. Some Yorubas exhibited their known cowardice in the beginning, middle and aftermath of a gigantic struggle to make June 12 a reality. The greatest heroine thrown up by June 12 remains the late democratic amazon late Chief Mrs Kudirat Abiola who was gunned down in Lagos by Sergent Rogers and his killer squard on Abacha's orders. The beautiful woman was very articulate continuing where her incarcerated husband stopped; Kudi paid the ultimate price for standing by her husband and June 12 but we remember her with tears in our eyes, we remember this elegant stallion with adieu on our lips, we remember her always for what she stood for, a martriach of June 12!
Heroes of the struggle include Prof Wole Soyinka, Pa Anthony Enahoro, Abraham Adesanya of the NADECO fame, late Chief Michael Ajasin, Ayo Opadokun, late Alfred Rewane, Ralph Obiora, Olisa Agbakoba, Bola Tinubu, John Odigie-Oyegun, Gen. Akinrinade, Gen. Chris Alli, Col. Abubakar Umar, Balarabe Musa, Prof Humphrey Nwosu (who realised the great electoral feat against Babangida's wish), Joe Igbokwe and many others. The Nigerian independent media contributed in no small measure as the struggle heated up giving voice to the voiceless and constantly chronicling events independently as they unfolded. But one of the most sensational and salacious media gaffes of those mad days was the cover news story of the defunct "Classique magazine" edited then I think by one Bala Usman. In one of its editions soon after General Abacha arrested Chief Abiola it screamed: "Abiola's Army Warms Up, set for action". I waited for the Abiola's army to strike and correct the monumental injustice meted to the man but days turned to weeks and weeks to months without any rifle or AK 47 making a deafening noise from the barracks.
The villains of June 12 include Generals IBB, Abacha, Abdusalami, Obasanjo; Shonekan, Arthur Nzeribe and his ABN, late Justice Bassey Ikpeme, former Chief Justice Mohammed Bello, Wada Nas, Baba Gana Kingibe, Ismaila Gwarzo, Lamidi Adedibu, many royal fathers, al-Mustapha, Daniel Kanu of YEAA fame, Walter Ofonagoro, Tony Anenih and Tom Ikimi and many others.
June 12! Oh June 12!! I remember you today for the elusive hope and dream you bore, I remember you for the freest and fairest election that you were; I remember you for what you sought to revolutionize if you had lived. Oh June 12 may you live forever in our minds, in our hearts! May God help us produce another June 12 miracle in our lifetime.