June 12 has come to stay as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, but we have to wonder from time to time if it should not also become our Unity Day?
After all, no other ideal or day in our history unites Nigerians in pursuit of good governance than June 12.
MKO Abiola is at the centre of it as the icon of June 12, but it is Nigerians of all tribes and religion who made it happen.
Nigerians held on to the mandate which they had overwhelmingly given to themselves in June 12, 1993 even as the pitbulls of military rule tore at them and the jackboots of the junta stomped on them.
Nigerians held on to June 12 even after MKO died in suspicious circumstances and discouragement tried to rear its ugly head.
Nigerians bled and died for the ideals of Democracy with June 12 before their eyes and in their hearts until the advent of this 4th Republic in 1999.
Since 1999, June 12 has been the one event ,above all others, which has defended our democracy the most. June 12 never fails to tear away the things that divide Nigerians whenever it is on the march.
In those 21 years since May 29, 1999 – it is ‘June 12!’ that rings out as both battlecry and rallying point whenever our Democracy comes under threat – from those we elected or those they selected.
Once Nigerians are on any June 12 business, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw, Berom, Urhobo, Gbagyi and all of our 250 tribes lose divisive currency and become joint legal tender for our unity of action.
Any time June 12 is on the move, only Nigerians simplicita are present. Muslim, Christian and Animist take a break on the road to pray the same supplications in their different tenets, then rise again to their June 12 business together.
June 12 has defended our Democracy more than the bland May 29 or even the hesitant October the First. June 12 is thus less of Democracy Day than it is Nigerian Unity Day. We have found a thousand reasons and innumerable cause to unite around it.
If 21 years of this 4th Republic has taught us anything, it is that popular candidature (rare) and credible polls (rarer) mean nothing without the incredible courage of ordinary Nigerians of every tribe and faith.
If that is so, why then do we dissipate energy 99% of the time on those things that divide only to instinctively invoke June 12 whenever the dire consequences of our parochial politics and unjust equities descend upon us?
I am afraid that if we continue this way we might reach a brink one day from which even June 12 cannot pull us back, even if Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola himself were to rise from the dead and join in the pulling.
Let everyone commemorate June 12 today, but with an eye on its unifying strengths and let us ask ourselves why every day cannot be June 12 Day in Nigeria – if not on the calendar, then in our hearts?
RIP MKO Abiola.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!