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June 12: More lessons to learn

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the annulment of the 1993 most adjudged free and fair Presidential elections. In that singular historic  election, Moshood Kashimawo…

Today marks the 24th anniversary of the annulment of the 1993 most adjudged free and fair Presidential elections. In that singular historic  election, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party polled 8.3 million votes set to defeat  Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention with 5.9 million votes before the vote counting  was callously and casually  annulled by military ruler Ibrahim Babangida. A specter repeatedly hunts Nigeria’s democratic process and that’s the specter of June 12. There is no doubt that almost two decades and half after the annulment many political lessons have been internalized.  

One lesson learned is that regardless of their imperfections, elections must produce results. With five conclusive (some controversial!) presidential elections (1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015), Nigeria has commendably dammed the culture of impunity and annulment. Democracy is not about enthronement of a sinner or a saint. On the contrary, democracy offers opportunity for voters to freely choose out of candidates on offer. Voters can indeed foolishly make wrong choices, but same democratic process makes the voters to correct their foolery and hopefully get it right. Which probably explains why a sitting President Goodluck Jonathan was democratically retrenched by voters last year after a term in office. Goodluck and cheap sentiments of origin or birth do not build a nation. 

After twice beaten to it by medically challenged presidential candidates elected as presidents, namely Musa Yar Adua and Muhammadu Buhari, the hope is that Nigerians as voters would be rigorous in their assessment of the wellness of whoever volunteers to  govern them. Never again should any set of self-righteous Praetorian Guards annul elections. Voters must decide. With uninterrupted democratic process lasting 16 years, Nigeria and Nigerians have also made the point that no regime change exempt through the ballot box. 

The second discernible lesson of June 12 already learned is eternal vigilance. The national uproar which trailed an attempt of President Olusegun Obasanjo to subvert 1999 constitution in 2006 via tenure elongation was one appropriate lesson learned from annulment of 1993 election. Voters should never allow for complacency if we must defend democracy.  Every political observer saw the similarity between Abacha’s hurriedly contrived 1988 political confab and Obasanjos’s 11th hour Political reform conference in 2006; tons of reports and recommendations but one preference; sit-tightism through tenure elongation clause. It was commendable that mass vigilance terminated OBJ’s belated ambition. As a member of the 2014 National conference I bear witness that the current credibility crisis facing the report which contains hundreds of good recommendations stems from the legitimate suspicion of Nigerians that President Jonathan at 11th hour organized the confab to elongate tenure fully conscious of his imminent electoral failure if there was free and fair election as it was eventually. 

The radical English historian, Eric Hobsbawm (1997) in his book ON HISTORY reminds us that: “History… is literally the authority of the present”. During both ill-fated 2005 political reform conference and 2014 conferences, Nigerians rightly warned of the danger of some mystery draft constitutions. And why not? The statement which purportedly annulled June election was actually unsigned and still remained a mystery. The back-door “constitution” peddling of 2005 and 2014, drew inspiration undoubtedly from similar criminal impunity of June 1993. The methods are the same; subvert openness and avoid accountability! Nigerians should never in hurry forget that there are some lessons from conspiracy theory and act which midwives  June 12 annulment.

But there are still more lessons from June 12, some we dare to ignore to the peril of good governance which democracy is expected to deliver. Today more than ever before Nigeria almost by a spell has become a divisive polity with imaginary labels to legitimize national wealth sharing among the political elite. June 12 offers a lesson in inclusiveness and pan Nigerianism. We should improve on this and add pan Africanism and rescue our politics from insular “regional” and “religious” corrupt chieftains.  Let’s pause a bit and ask for the bio data of the presumed winners of June 12 elections. Does anybody remember the profiling of Abiola-Kingibe ticket, namely; Muslim-Muslim, civilian-civilian with nation-wide mass votes, issue-driven campaign? Both Abiola and Kingibe were great Nigerians as defined by the constitution. They were good candidates who vigorously campaigned on the pan-Nigerian platform of Farewell- To-Poverty which resonated with the then 14 million voters regardless of their callings. This means as recent as 1993, there was a Nigeria in which so-called regions and religions were non issues in electoral process. There were also millions of voters willing to use the votes to bring about a peaceful political revolution. 

The point cannot over stated; there is nothing like “Northern poverty” or “Southern poverty”, no less than there is a “Christian” or “Muslim power failure”. We are all united by poverty, electricity outages insecurity and corruption of the few. Or better still we must all be united with wealth generation, equity and prosperity as envisaged by 1999 constitution. June 12 connects us to the spirit of 1999 constitution which with all its imperfections (it’s never a holy book!) defines us Nigerians and not what we wrongly call ourselves. It is a sad commentary reading the recent divisive diatribes between elder stateman, Ango  Abdullahi, and  misguided youths. As the received wisdom has it if the youths are so misguided, what of the elders? Without Nigeria the former special adviser on Food Security under former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former vice chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Prof Ango Abdullahi, would probably not have been known as we know him today. He presided (or almost ruined some would say) over a national university, not a regional enclave.  

Unemployed and unemployable youths in their frustrations may doubt Nigeria’s relevance, but for those of us Nigeria has invested much on without adequate returns in terms of development it’s time for sober reflections not impulsive verbal wars of attrition of dubious value to national development.

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