Eric Hobsbawm, the British historian, once reiterated a point Cicero had made long ago: “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of a human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” On June 12, 1993, democracy was castrated, gang-raped and its tenets were defiled through mass coercion, and brutal killings by ex-Military President Ibrahim Babangida’s monopoly of the means of violence. That was the day po-faced Esaus, Judas, unpatriotic military officers, conspirators, annulment Jihadists, Yoruba haters, anti-democrats, beneficiaries, traitors, rebels and unfriendly friends of Chief MKO Abiola prevailed on the military junta of Babangida to annul Nigeria’s freest, fairest and nationally accepted election in our history.
Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was the lion who died for the flowering of our democratic renewal. Abiola presents a complex portraiture for any writer. His memory is sharply emotive. June 12 celebration is equally emotive as a yearly anniversary for the remembrance of brand Abiola and the near turmoil his death would have plunged this nation.
Chief MKO Abiola was a rags to riches story. He grew up eating snakes, rats, okete and agborin as sources of protein. Part of his colourful past saw him moonlighted with a band as a nomadic minstrel – alagbe. Realising that he had a gifting deficit as a nomadic minstrel, Abiola invaded his local forests and became a woodcutter – asegita. Firewood gathering could not offer the young Abiola the monetary thrill he yearned for and thus began a total divine makeover of his destiny. He began to shed off the homely Egba self-effacing humility to become a more urbane, rambunctious, and no nonsense persona that endeared him to the hearts and minds of the military leaders of the day.
The 80s and 90s were Abiola’s decades. He was a friend to kings and paupers. He was the spender’s spender. The tentacles of his financial philanthropy crisscrossed from Adamawa to Zaria. He embodied the literal meaning of his name: someone born into wealth. Side by side with his wealth, he became a hobbyist. His money and natural charisma gave him access to women. They flocked to him in boatloads. He became a magnet for women looking for merriment, money and the moment. He embraced them voraciously, unmindful of their age, tribe or educational background.
Today, many Nigerians still sing his praises in death. And many enemies, even among his Egba kinsmen and women, still sing his dispraises to itchy ears. Yes, MKO Abiola’s name is highly emotive and could draw friends and family to dagger depending on where your bet is. The epochal June 12 was grudgingly canonised to placate the South West on the loss of their illustrious son. We celebrate it yearly as democracy day and a day to reflect on the ongoing political marginalisation of the Yoruba and Igbo under a sustained Hausa/Fulani internal colonialism.
Babangida’s annulment of the election of June 12 1993 election was shaped both by irrational stupidity and Rottweiler instinct for brutality. It was conceived from a parochial mindset and executed to sink the Titanic Abiola who was emerging dangerously into a political heavyweight across the Nigerian landscape.
The Yoruba nation that sacrificed its lion is still bitter. The gains of Abiola’s struggle and sacrifice still elude his tribe. To them, the worst benefactor of Abiola’s death and by extension June 12, was his virulent enemy, former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In social, cultural and political posturing, Obasanjo was Abiola’s unrepentant enemy who gave no damn for his June 12, 1993 presidential triumph. Having said that, President Muhammadu Buhari’s belated recognition of Chief MKO Abiola’s democratic struggle against the enemies of the state was a well-targeted hand grenade specifically lobbed at both Babangida and Obasanjo for maximum effect. It was a short, sharp and the best assassin’s way to deal with hidden enemies and shut them up forever. It was political brinkmanship at its glorious best. Today, the progressive Yoruba are happy that, at last, justice delayed, has now been recalibrated, corrected and honoured. It was a symbolic gesture but underneath was poetic justice against those who conspired to annul Abiola’s victory.
In all his past life as president of Nigeria, Obasanjo built a fortress against all protestations, appeals, pleadings and supplications to recognize June 12 and honour Abiola, a fellow tribesman. Rather than reverse the saga, Obasanjo the ugly recidivist, serial liar, godless, traitor, Northern stooge, vengeful, jealous and unforgiving man played the God on Abiola and shut down all avenues to heal the festering wound of June 12 injustice. Obasanjo who has never hidden his weakness for self-exaltation would later morphed as the number one enemy of the Yoruba race in Nigeria. Till date he is anti-Oduans in their quest for separate homeland.
The 90s national solidarity to disannul June 12 is yet to be matched. Sadly, the vision, determination, vigour and eternal vigilance of those old hands that guarded and defended Abiola’s victory are no more. Apathy, cussedness, violence, win-or-destroy, mayhem, greed and selfishness have all settled on our electoral landscape. The new generation of politicians we have are bad gene pool. Many of them should have been aborted from birth. Majority of them are hostile, selfish, wicked, unreasoning, acquisitive and the most villainous set of bad humanity.
Many of those who suffered for the actualization of June 12 both at home and abroad have hung their fighting gloves. This writer met and consorted with Late Pa Anthony Enahoro, Chief John Oyegun, Chief Bola Tinubu, General Alani Akinrinade, Uncle Tunde Fagbenle, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Prof. Adebayo Williams, Dan Suleiman and many other brave souls when they were washed ashore in London as political rebels or NADECO escapees. Many have receded into the wilderness of political observers. Today, the gains of June 12 are being mercilessly harvested by a battalion of ill prepared, dodgy, unpatriotic, looting and heartless politicians who were not in line of fire when Nigeria burned under the inferno of June 12. These usurpers now sit imperially on the mantle of power, privilege and perversions.
In 2018, President Buhari revisited history and unfreeze the frozen memory of Chief MKO Abiola and rescued it. He unpacked it. He invoked the spirit of fair play and justice and today we are celebrating the second commemoration of June 12 as our democracy day and 27 years of inhuman rape of our democracy. June 12, 1993 was the day the destiny and the will of the Nigerian people was subverted through cruel impunity. June 12 was not just a mere avoidable trajectory, it was a monumental mistake. The annulment was symptomatic of the kind of barbaric military dictatorship of Babangida, Abacha and Abdulsalami lawless junta.
In 2018, when the posthumous honour became a social discourse, this writer read all the chattering silliness of the Ndigbo and many enemies of Bashorun Abiola and by extension, the Yoruba. The Ndigbo tribalised the whole issue of Abiola’s posthumous and belated glory by importing and darkly suggesting that Prof. Humphrey Nwosu also deserved to be garlanded for his contribution to today’s stable democracy.
Also were the empty, rejectionist gasses from Dino Melaye and Justice Alpha Belgore, the Chairman of the National Honours Commission. Dino’s comment that MKO Abiola was no longer a Nigerian and therefore has no right to our national honour was a vindication of what he is notorious for: a deranged, demented and clownish toad.
It is inhuman for anybody who is enjoying today’s democracy to be reading shaming innuendoes to Buhari’s redemption of Abiola’s memory. Whether the reversed injustice against Abiola was done in desperation, illegal, unconstitutional, belated or was a suave way to woo the Yoruba, President Buhari was able to open the past in order to heal the present and look forward to a better future. The President took the case to the court of the people and they welcomed it. Sovereignty, we have to remember, is vested in the people. So, the case of unconstitutionality or illegality of institutionalizing June 12 was closed forever.
Today’s celebration of democracy day should be a day of sad reflection on the performance of PresidentBuhari five years into his administration. We are trapped in a daily lament. As we lament our plague of generational poverty (we are the poverty capital of the world), unemployment, corruption, damaged judiciary, banditry (40 killed two days ago in Katsina), insecurity (Boko Haram killed 69 two days ago in Zowo village in Borno), kidnappings, raping and the whole host of attendant social pathologies that define the millennium Nigeria, there is yet no breath-taking therapeutic remission from any quarter. Nigeria is now on assorted bar charts of any conceivable global misery indices.
President Buhari’s cavernous nepotistic blind spot will not allow him to see the real yawning needs of Nigerians. Yes, Buhari is the peacock that will not see the imprints of his misrule; his misreading of our national aspiration, his inability to break free from the arresting power of his fruitcake Fulani acolytes who counsel him daily on how to turn Nigeria into an experimental workshop of Fulani Republic.
In contrast, Abiola was a blast of fresh air. In life, action and deed, Abiola united all Nigerians regardless of tribes under a large umbrella of benevolence goodness. This president on the other hand, is a Hausa/Fulani menacing scoundrel whose unhidden granite will is to defang the influence and power of Southern Nigerians and put them to collective servitude under the authority and born-to-rule mentality of Northerners.
Unlike President Buharii, Chief MKO Abiola was a detribalised Nigerian who would not have populated his government with mainly Yoruba had he ruled Nigeria. In all his businesses and political posturing, it was a rainbow coalition all the way. Yes, the Yoruba may have been quieted with the memorialisation of June 12 as democracy day, but closure of the sore of June 12, 1993 is still a distant dream. The 27 years of deafening silence, half-truth and irrational cockiness of all the living actors of the annulment are all high mockeries of our collective sense of crime and punishment. Happy democracy day! Happy Jun 12 celebration. Long live Chief MKO Abiola!