By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. John F. Kennedy
Today, June 12 is exactly 21 years that the people mandate was stolen by the irresponsible and treacherous military regime of Ibrahim Babangida and their civilian collaborators through the annulment of the election. But the pains and the historical realities of Hope 1993 will continue to steer us at the face and haunt us as a people and indeed as nation that is in dire need of true democratic values for a national rebirth and a genuine reconciliation mechanism beyond the ongoing national conference in Abuja.
However, today(June 12), the south- west state of Ogun, Osun, Oyo and indeed Lagos and perhaps other states that belong to the new APC for obvious political reasons and gains would roll out drum to celebrate the day to symbolize the real democracy day in Nigeria. While the government at the centre with its federal might and with a few selfish and self driven political class had continue to deny Nigerians the realities of June 12 for the enthronement of democracy and what it stood for in our national psyche. The leadership at the national level has also made mockery of the existential value of the most credible and peaceful election ever held in the country since 1960 and above all, the freest and fairest election. The May 29th as a symbol of the struggle is still subject of grave concern among Nigerians and it is hoped that the national assembly would right the wrong in the interest of national reconciliation and a sense of history that beckons.
Admittedly, June 12 was indeed remarkable in the political history of Nigeria in my view for a number of reasons. One of the most potent was the commonality of national identity and aspiration which was displayed by the electorate in the voting pattern and indeed in the choice of their leaders without recourse to religious sentiments and mistrust that has characterised electioneering since independence. This in my submission is the hallmark of nation – building efforts. On the hand, June 12 was also a manifestation of the perception of the personality of Chief M.K. Abiola as a genuine leader that would inspire and provide a critical compass for the realisation of a better Nigeria dream. Indeed that dream is still a mirage after 15 years of our unstable and corrupt democratic journey.
Furthermore, June 12, 1993 with the slogan of Hope will not go away until the political class and indeed Nigerians imbibe the rule of law and democratic values which we stood for as a people 21 years ago particularly with a view to providing an alternative platform of a new and better Nigeria. The hope and aspiration for a new Nigeria would be sustained through the will of the people and indeed through the ballot box. The mantra of one man, one vote, one woman, one vote must be pursued with all vigor through an engaging civic education by political parties, INEC and the civil society and other well – meaning Nigerians that believe in the enthronement of leaders that would takes us to the next level of human development and progress. We must draw critical lessons and inspirations from the 2014 India parliamentary elections where a political new breed- Narendra Modi was able to oust the incumbent conservative centre-left Congress party that has been power in the last ten years to become the new India Prime Minster. It was indeed the will of the people.
Similarly, June 12 has become historical reality that cannot be wished away by a few political opportunists that have benefited from the sacrificial blood of Abiola, his beloved wife and indeed other martyrs that died in the struggle. May their soul rest with the lord.
Also, June 12 is a symbol expression for transparency and accountability for good governance and a desire to deepen democracy in a country where corruption and illegality thrive like booming business enterprise. What is more, corruption remains one of the major obstacles to reform and development agenda. There are also no quick answers to issues of security challenges that has brought us national shame particularly with the bring Back Our Girls Campaign.
Sadly, the Labour Party which was formed by the trade unions especially the NLC, and which should have provided an alternative political platform through which the masses can be mobilized to chase out some of the corrupt leaders of APC, PDP and others political parties from power had failed Nigeria in my view.
While the June 12 democracy day anniversary would provide the self- styled progressive and democrats across the states particularly the APC governors to make speeches in celebration of MKO Abiola and the struggles. It is expedient on the governors and the leadership of the APC and PDP is to ensure internal democracy which led to emergency of Chief MKO Abiola as the flag bearer of the SDP. Indeed internal democracy is the hallmark of free and fair elections.
The national assembly must also work assiduously to institutionalize June 12 and its values beyond the attempt made by President Jonathan Goodluck in naming the University of Lagos in memory of Chief MKO Abiola which could not stand the test of time. The real honour in my view is the enthronement of democratic dividends and a people driven law making processes that would reduce poverty and unemployment.
Therefore, it is the hope of Nigerians that the future lies in the pursuit of truth, national reconciliation and emergence of genuine leaders that would harness the values of June 12 for a greater tomorrow that we all can proud of. Indeed Nigeria on the match again and we must protect our stolen mandate through the sanctity of the ballot box now and always!
Finally, as country if we do not know where we going but at least we should remember where we are coming from and June 12 remind us of that past that change is inevitable and the time is now. Nigeria can do it again.
Orovwuje is Founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons. Lagos.