June 12 and Search for Credible 2011 Elections

Source: BABATOLA MICHAEL - thewillnigeria.com
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LAGOS, June 16, (THEWILL) - Just as it happened in 1993 when the electorate across different ethno-religious divides went to the poll to make crucial decisions, the people of Nigeria trooped out again last weekend to celebrate 17th anniversary of the June 12 Presidential Election, which General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida annulled without credible explanation. Babatola Michael writes that among other imperatives canvassed, the quest for credible elections formed the bottom line of the anniversary.

Civil society, pro-democracy and human rights activists converged in different parts of Lagos to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the annulment of the June 12 presidential election. Like in 1993, the June 12 memories and significance brought the people of Nigeria together again irrespective of their ethno-religious and political divides; obviously speaking with one voice and earnestly craving for a new political order.

At Lagos Airport, for instance, June 12 Coalition with the support of the Officer of Special Adviser on Political and Legislative Power Bureau, Lagos State organized a lecture titled 2011 Elections: June 12 Perspectives. The political actors of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and the frontline human rights activists attended. And the masses joined the gathering to advocate credible elections.

At the Ikeja home of the winner of the June 12 election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola, the progressives led by Professor Pat Utomi also held a memorial rally. And from there, the progressives stormed the streets of Lagos, displaying different banners; holding various placards and doling hand bills with a common message. In their thousands, the march was perhaps the largest since Nigeria’s democratic transition.

Also at Agbidingbi, Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC) led by Chief Gani Adams and Campaign for Democracy (CD) under the leadership of Dr. Okei Joe-Odumakin held a successful memorial anniversary, evoking the sad memories of the June 12 presidential election and paying posthumous tribute to all its fallen heroes across the country and canvassed an order that can better redefine the country’s political destiny.

The rally at the National Theatre added a different ethnic colouration to the event. At the National Theatre, Comrade Joseph Eva of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG) and Alhaji Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF) brought the Niger Delta People together in fond memories of Chief M.K.O. Abiola, Dr. Ken Saro-Wiwa and Comrade Adaka Boro.

In all, about 40 groups across geo-political zones were represented at the anniversary. The student leaders and family members of the fallen heroes of Nigeria’s democratic struggle and transition across socio-political divides also added voices to the calls that Chief Abiola should be immortalized, Babangida prosecuted and Iwu be investigated for various electoral frauds that characterized the 2007 elections.

Representatives largely from Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP), June 12 Coalition, National Conscience Party (NCP), Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) among others were doling out thousands of anti-Babangida handbills, protesting IBB’s presidential ambition and demanding a future different from what the country had in her terrible dark era.

A good number of activists, student leaders and civil society representatives were holding placards on which such protesting inscriptions as "Keep fight for true democracy; we want democracy and not civil rule; all votes must count in 2011; one man one vote; IBB must go; reject IBB: the killer of hope 93; my vote is my power; June 12, People’s Democracy Day and no democracy without true federalism".

The groups advocated comprehensive electoral reforms based on the Justice Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reforms Committee recommendations, legal actions against the former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Maurice Iwu and appropriate actions against the former Military Head of State, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida for cancelling the June 12, 1993 presidential elections.

Such political leaders too as Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), Senator Bola Tinubu, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Coordinator of the Coalition of Democrats and Electoral Reforms (CODER), Chief Ayo Opadokun, Comrade Olawale Oshun and Chief Baba Omojola among others lent credence to the call for comprehensive electoral reforms.

Governor Fashola therefore reflected on how the streets of Lagos "were made battlegrounds; blood was shed; lives lost; martyrs slain and from there emerged the victory of the people’s mandate over totalitarian authority in the 1999 elections that produced Senator Tinubu. Even though the June 12 election was annulled, all was not lost. Although the announcements of the results of the elections were not concluded, hope did not evaporate. M.K.O’s campaign mantra, "Hope 93" was kept alive

At the lecture, which June 12 Coalition organized in collaboration with the Office of Special Adviser on Political and Legislative Power, Lagos State, the discussants largely described Babangida’s recent call that Bashorun Moshood Abiola should be immortalized as hypothetical, provocative and indeed a subtle admission of guilt. Although memorial rallies were staged in different parts of South-West, the bottom line remained coherent and focused on comprehensive electoral reforms among other imperatives.

At first, about 40 pro-credible election groups represented at the anniversary called for a new voters’ register, describing the existing one as a template for perpetuating electoral frauds and an arrangement by its authors (apparently referring to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Professor Maurice Iwu) to disfranchise the people of Nigeria in the 2007 General Elections as it had happened since 1999. 

As canvassed at Lagos Airport Hotel, Opadokun, whose position was adopted by all the group represented, advocated a digitalized voters’ register containing the biometric features such as voters’ photographs and fingerprints among other features and stated that the existing one "contains gross deficiencies" that would institutionalize massive rigging and other electoral frauds in favour of the ruling party if relied upon. 

The third imperative revolves the need for the people of Nigeria to realize that voting is their civic right and to reject any arrangement other than a freshly produced digitalized voters’ register and that no sitting executive should appoint the electoral umpire in which the sitting ruler is a contestant or his party is contesting, even though President Goodluck Jonathan had recently appointed a new INEC umpire.

The fourth imperative represents a wake-up calls on the civil society groups, pro-democracy actors and human rights activists to resume open, deliberate and intensify campaign to educate and mobilize the electorate to accept that it is a national and civic duty to be registered and to vote in future election s; that Nigerians henceforth must protect their votes and insist on modified open secret ballot system for future voting.

Another imperative was the call on President Goodluck Jonathan to pronounce Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, the winner of the June 12 election as president and establish a major monument in his honour. The federal government must take decidedly take appropriate constitutional steps to officially pronounce Abiola as President considering the fact that the June 12 election was globally perceived as the freest, fairest and most credible in the history of Nigeria’s democratic and political transitions.

Also, the gathering radically rejected Babangida’s calls for Abiola to be immortalized, describing the call as a mere hypocrisy and a subtle admission of guilt. But perhaps it is more to facilitate Babangida’s provocative attempt to contest for presidency in the 2011 General Elections, which the groups violently said, would be resisted and thwarted, using different means including legal and mass actions.

The federal government was urged to investigate and prosecute of the former INEC chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu for various electoral malpractices that characterized the 2007 General Elections with an emphasis that the annulment of the June 12 presidential election should be accepted as a national flaw and be made a model for the future elections by adopting Option A4, which delivered the June 12 results.

And the last imperative was the rejection of May 29 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, and there was general consensus that June 12 remains People’s Democracy. As indicated in the address of Opadokun, May 29 historically represents dark days in the history of Nigeria. For instance, it was May 29 that the pogrom of Ibo people started in 1966 and that such evil day should not be made the country’s Democracy Day.

The position of Fashola that Nigeria "got so close to June 12 and literally threw it away and the echoes of that disappointment still reverberate today in the name of electoral reforms" explains what the pro-democracy actors, human rights activists and civil society representatives codified categorical imperatives that must be met to ensure free, fair and credible elections in 2011 and subsequent years.