JUNE 12 AND THE ‘DEMOCRATS’/Ebun Olu Adegboruwa


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On June 12, 1993, Nigerians from all walks of life trooped out en-masse to participate in what is still adjudged as the best election in the history of our nation. They voted massively for Chief MKO Abiola as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Their joy was however cut short by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida (Retd) who announced the annulment of the said election. What is today known as June 12 is the collective resistance to the cancellation of that election. What does June 12 represent for Nigeria? The main symbol of June 12
is the integrity of elections, in that the Electoral Commission under Professor Humphrey Nwosu gave all Nigerians a platform to express their will on the choice of leadership. Nobody was cajoled or bribed to vote for anyone. The atmosphere was very peaceful and conducive for people to exercise their mandate. Second is the transparency of the electoral process. Electoral materials arrived on time and the adoption of the Option A4 system was the main attraction. Voters only had to queue behind the candidate of their choice and then there was a manual voice count. The important factor was that there was no manipulation. Voters were peacefully verified and allowed the exercise of their freedom of choice, such that by the evening of that same day, the winner of the election was already clear to all. There was no molestation or harassment of voters. Third was the collation of election results, executed in a transparent manner devoid of rigging and the usual electoral malpractices. Those who organized the election, that is the military administration, were not directly interested in the outcome of the election, unlike in recent times when a sitting President is also a candidate in the election. For this reason, it would seem that the military officers were detached from the electoral process and they gave a free hand to the electoral body in the organization of the election. The overbearing influence of the incumbent President or Governor on the electoral process is a factor militating against free and fair elections presently. The electoral commission has gotten weaker and weaker over time, such that politicians have invaded the institution with their cronies and loyalists who act as fifth columnists to influence and corrupt the electoral process.

June 12 also represents unity and cohesion. Perhaps for the very first time in Nigeria, voters ignored religion and ethnicity in the determination of their choice of the leader. Hope 93 was a project for the political and economic emancipation of Nigeria, wherein the Social Democratic Party presented a blueprint for the revolutionary transformation of our beloved nation. The promise of an inclusive government raised the hopes of Nigerians for genuine representation by way of government of national unity, instead of the current syndrome of winner takes all. This has caused elections to become more contentious and acrimonious, as every candidate takes the struggle for victory at the polls as a do or die affair, since the loser loses all. Had the June 12 election been recognized, I believe that Chief MKO Abiola was planning to name prominent members of the National Republican Party as part of his government. To many of us, June 12 also represents freedom and justice, meaning that none should be oppressed in the land, none should be denied justice and none should suffer for his political beliefs and convictions. For the students then, June 12 represented autonomy for the universities and academic freedom, quality and affordable education as well as youth involvement in governance. For the activists, June 12 was the symbol of total liberation for our people, through participatory democracy, respect for and observance of fundamental and political rights, restructuring, true federalism, resource control, gender equality, viable opposition and many more, all to be achieved through a sovereign national conference. For the masses, the market women, the employees, drivers, traders and those regarded as common people, June 12 was deliverance from despair, acute poverty, neglect and abject misery. They genuinely believed that victory for MKO at the polls would liberate them from the hopelessness that had become their lot. Sadly, unfortunately and I dare say, regrettably, that election was annulled. The ensuing struggle to reclaim the June 12 mandate was itself exploited by politicians to satisfy various interests, for the ultimate goal of attaining or clinging on to power at all costs and by all means.

On June 10, 2019, the Bill to amend the Public Holidays Act was assented to by the PresidentMuhammadu Buhari, in a historic display of rare political sagacity, perhaps actuated by the desire to curry public support for his administration. The amendment effectively replaced May 29 as democracy day, with June 12 of every year. Five years later, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu would claim to fall for the heroes of democracy without any tangible improvement in the democratic experiences of the people. Since June 12, 1993, things have changed for the worse. President Tinubu himself recognized this when he christened his political campaign as Renewed Hope, being a true acknowledgement that the hope we had in 1993 has been shattered by successive governments, including the one which the President led as National Leader, to pave way for his emergence. The road to democracy in Nigeria is very bleak, paved with thorns and laced with mines. Toss the coin in any way that suits you, the politician will win and the voters will lose. Election has become a farce, wherein only a few people decide for the majority. We have since passed the stage of supremacy of the will of the people. Leadership recruitment starts with the primary election of the political parties, which is now virtually reserved for party leaders. The spirit, body and soul of June 12 have been killed and buried by the same politicians that claimed to be its apostles. Let us go over the statistics. Thirty-one years after June 12, the nation is groping in gross darkness, cycling around just 5000 megawatts for the past ten years or so. The theory is simple. So long as electricity supply is low or non-existent, then the economic buccaneers will keep feeding fat on the people, as you would have to patronize them to survive. You will buy your generator from or through them, you will buy fuel or diesel to power the generator and also fuel your car. And if you are unfortunate to be classified within the mysterious Band A, then you must brace up for the disappearing tariff. With a population of over 200 million people, it is a cash cow for the economic rentiers, who seem to have their best choice in power now.

The volume of election litigation itself says it all. According Senator Iyiola Omisore, the ruling All Progressives Congress spent N9B on litigation arising from its congresses. Democracy is presently on the reverse gear, wailing under the hypocritical weight of its bourgeois managers, who preach austerity with mouth but practice ostentation by conduct. In this crawling economy, N21B was spent to renovate the Abuja house of just one public officer, the Vice-President, while another whooping N15B has been earmarked for the transformation of his residence in Lagos. And if you think that is outrageous, then you may have to check the allocations that go to legislature, N500M constituency project each and N57B to buy luxury cars, thus ranking as the highest paid in the world. In contrast, workers are being persuaded to accept N62,000 as minimum wage, with a threat of mass sack if they refuse. Integrity has become a scarce commodity with government and those in power, with policy inconsistencies and somersaults. We were told that fuel subsidy has gone forever but the former governor of Kaduna State blew the lid when he stated that the Tinubu administration is paying more in subsidy than the Buhari regime. Of course this was faintly denied until leaked documents from the Minister of Finance revealed that a humongous sum of N5.4trn has been set aside for payment of fuel subsidy. The government says something today and by the time you wake up tomorrow, you hear another version. Now it is one year after the election, what will be the excuse for non-performance, especially in areas where no economic wizardry is required? Conducting free, fair and credible elections is not a function of funds alone but mainly that of character and willpower to do the right things and leave an enduring legacy of electoral transformation. releasing citizens from their unlawful custody has no relationship with economic success but rather a determination to abide by the Constitution which the President swore to uphold. When a democrat is in power, then we expect and must indeed see democratic changes.

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