June 12: Setting the Records Straight

By Julius Oweh, Asaba

The 1993 June 12 presidential election was a political watershed in the annals of the political and historical evolution of Nigeria towards nationhood. It was the fairest and freest election in the country. It was an election that destroyed the political myth that only was section of the country was divinely ordained to rule. That election made Nigerians to turn their back towards religious sentiments as the SDP ticket of Moslem/ Moslem defeated the NRC ticket of Moslem /Christian. It was the first concrete step towards power shift in the political clime as previous elected leaders were from the north. But for reasons best known to Ibrahim Babangida, he annulled the election and that led to chain of reactions, some of them were not palatable to the growth and development of the country. Many Nigerians died including MKO Abiola, the custodian of that mandate in a suspicious circumstance, with accusing fingers pointing to international conspiracy on his death.

Throughout the years of PDP dominance of the political scene of the nation, there were attempts at revisionist history and outright denial of that historical event, a reminder of the defeated NRC presidential candidate, Bashir Tofa that Abiola did not win the election. Olusegun Obasanjo tried to erase the memory of June 12 from Nigerians, even though he was the major beneficiary of that epic historical struggle. For in 1999 to compensate the Yorubas for the death of MKO Abiola, the two presidential candidates in 1999 presidential election were Yorubas. The Yar`Adua government did not say anything about June 12. The Goodluck Jonathan administration made a half hearted attempt at honouring Abiola by naming the University of Lagos after him. But the uproar and protests from Nigerians stopped that move. Jonathan failed to acknowledge that Abiola won that election and Nigerians questioned him on what score he was honouring the late politician cum business mogul.

Therefore the recent announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari to make June 12 Democracy Day instead of May 29 is a historical masterstroke aimed at building a truly united nation and giving honour to a deserving son of the soil. The president also announced the investiture of the nation highest award on the late politician – the grand commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Let us hear the reason for Buhari move: `The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military government does not distract from the democratic credentials of that process. Accordingly after due consultations, the federal government has declared that henceforth, June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day. Therefore, the government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land , GCFR to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON`.

Characteristically in the Nigerian tradition of duplicity, this move has drawn different reactions from the nation. While the senators in their distinguished maturity hailed the move of the president, the members of House of Representatives in an overt show of immaturity and lacking any sense of history were in rowdy session. This is another unfortunate streak of the stripe of leadership that pollute the political space of the nation.

The main opposition party, the PDP that ought to hide its head in shame for not doing that, accused the president of desperation and hypocrisy. Said the PDP national publicity secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan:`It is therefore a sign of political desperation for President Buhari to seek to use Chief Abiola`s name as a tool to sway Nigerians in less than 12 months to an election where he is seeking a second term`. To be honest, the PDP got it wrong and should rather blame Obasanjo and Jonathan for not making political gain of June 12 polls.

All said and done, the man who annulled the election ,IBB recently lamented that Nigerians were not giving him credit for conducting the most fair and free election in Nigeria. IBB is merely turning logic on its head; a free and fair election should not be annulled. This piece advises the president to remove the offensive term `presumed winner` by asking INEC to declare the results of that election and a certificate of return to be given to the family of Abiola. That is how to set the records straight about June 12, 1993 presidential election and the soul of Abiola would rest in eternal bliss.

Julius Oweh, a journaist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392

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