On June 12 we stand’ was a refrain made popular by pro-democracy activists seeking the validation of the popular election that was presumed to have been won by the late MKO Abiola. ‘Standing’ on June 12 thus became a symbolic assertion of belief and faith in the evolution of a truly people-oriented democracy, unencumbered by the kind of somersaults that eventually prevented Abiola from claiming the coveted prize of his dream and aspiration as a politician and a Nigerian.
But President Muhammad Buhari appears ready to right the wrongs associated with that historic phenomenon with his historic decision to award MKO and others on the journey to democracy, the highest national honours from Nigeria. Every man of conscience must appreciate the decision by Buhari, even if as some have vigorously argued, the decision was deeply political. Those in political offices are bound to make political decisions and that is why we must always ensure that we put trustworthy men and women in power so that when times come for them to make such decisions, it would be a just, fair and balanced political decision.
By honouring Abiola and others, Buhari has reinforced the cry for the building of institutions in the nation, instead of men. The election that Abiola is believed to have won was conducted by an institution, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) under Professor Humphrey Nwosu. However, men who thought they were more important than the national institution; men who believed they had more wisdom; mortals who ascribed more power to themselves than the nation stopped concluding process of announcing the winner and threw the nation into needless crises that was only brought to an end by the mercies of God.
Annulment, stepping aside, military intervention all were not able to secure the institution of democracy that the election was built upon because like the learned men of the wig do say, you can’t build something on nothing. But we thank God and the men of conscience who have seen the need to respect institutions instead of building individuals as the only way for our democracy to thrive; as the only way to cleanse the land and create a reliable future for our offspring. We thank the men and women who stood firm for the sanctity of the day, June 12.
Today the institution that was called NEC, which later transformed to the present Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has been seen as credible and one that will outlive individuals like those who shot the peoples dream down after June 12, 1993. This is the only way to build the real Nigeria of our dream; having institutions that are bigger than individuals, even individuals who control the armed forces of the federation or any other organ of government. That is what is enviable in the way democracy is practiced in other nations that have made a success of it.
I can only hope that our police men are watching and interpreting the scenario surrounding the June 12 palaver very accurately. One basic interpretation of the times that must not be lost on anyone is the fact that men would fade away but institutions will remain. One is perturbed that almost all the major opponents of this administration have one burden of allegation/accusation or the other from the police; Dino Melaye in Lokoja, Shehu Sanni in Kaduna, Saraki in Ilorin, etc, all because of the ‘need’ to protect a man at the expense of the institution where these men belong.
If MKO were alive today, the only true meaning that June 12 will have for him will be in the respect of institutions, in respect to human rights, in allowing freedom of expression without fear of being harangued with one heinous crime or the other. But where we have June 12 being celebrated while men are afraid of speaking the truth to power then we are yet to come to the reality of a true June 12.
June 12, 1993 was the day Nigerians decided to downgrade the influence of ethnicity and religiosity on our political decisions; we had a Muslim-Muslim ticket that was approved from the far north to the the far south; we had a Yoruba man that was to lead an Hausa man in government and nobody frowned at that combination. The election was supervised by a Christian from the south but nobody doubted him because of his faith or tribe.
Unlike what we have today; where every decision made by a government agency is first viewed from the prism of ethnicity or religiosity. And why not, you wonder? When we have appointments that are openly grossly seemingly in favour of one group instead of being fair to all. When you have killings that are concentrated against a particular set of Nigerians and there is hardly a whim against their murderers by those paid to secure our lives and property. It has come to a point Nigerians no longer trust the institutions created to secure them. And that is happening in a democracy? That is not the democracy that MKO fought for. We have all read his acceptance speech at the Jos Convention of his party then, the SDP. We have also gone through his now infamous Epetedo Declaration. Were these his dreams, a Nigeria broken into pieces of religious and ethnic conscious citizens?
My humble take is that our current actors in the corridors of power must decide to allow institutions to flourish. Let the legislative arms flourish. Let the judiciary flourish, according to their own mandate. Don’t force feed them; don’t forcestop them, don’t beat them to silence with spurious allegations just because of the need to protect an individual. May I repeat again that institutions will remain while men will fade away, no matter their years and even wickedness or best of intentions. When such men look back in the years to come how would they feel seeing what they had guarded jealously being dismantled just as Buhari today has dismantled the myth around June 12? We all say Abiola would be happy in his grave today. Good! But can we say that of you tomorrow, after you are gone?
Surely, on lessons of June 12 I stand. God bless Nigeria. God bless our president. God bless Nigerians.