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Published On: Sat, Jun 16th, 2018

Buhari, June 12 And Small Minds

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I was quite taken aback when a friend of mine sent me a message on the decision of President Buhari to immortalise the June 12 struggle as well as its hero, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. At first, I thought it was a ruse, the concoction of some fake news by some mischievous fellow, who had then hoodwinked some others by virtue of the forwarded as received trends we see these days. However, on second thought, I wondered what there was to gain from the propagation of such news? I mean understanding the fact that the propagators of such fake news seek to score cheap political points, what then was there to gain in the propagation of the immortalisation of June 12 and Abiola. I quickly made a flurry of calls and each call confirmed what my friend had initially told me. I was old enough to witness the June 12 elections, I followed the debates between Abiola and Tofa as an 11-year-old inquisitive chap; listened to the discussions between my father and my uncles on who was the best candidate for the nation. I also recall my father coming back home on that fateful day to announce to us that he had voted for Abiola. I cannot forget the tensions that followed afterwards and the annulment proper itself that faithful night as we all sat glued to our television and watched General Babaginda who, in one unfair stroke, threw this country into monumental confusion. I recall witnessing a number of riots then as the whole country burst into flames. I recall my father refusing to take flight to his village, a flight that was real and was rechristened as “Oso Abiola” owing to the threats and fears of another civil war. The struggle did not end there, nor did the confusion, and even after Babaginda stepped aside, putting an Interim National Government headed by the debile Ernest Shonekan, Nigerians all over clamoured for the restoration of Abiola’s mandate. Eventually, Sani Abacha, using the confusion as a pretext, assumed power and looked much like the man who would right all wrongs, so much that MKO Abiola was the first to pay him a solidarity visit in the aftermath of his palace coup. Sadly, this was not to be as Abacha clamped on Abiola and those who clamoured for the restoration of Abiola’s mandate. Year after year, the nation witnessed the ding dong affair between the military class and Nigeria’s crop of activists; this resulted into jailing a number of these activists, who were dubbed as, “prisoners of war”, whilst also harassing their families and their businesses, assassinations were rife, while a good number of these activists escaped to safety. To add salt to the nation’s wounded conscience, Abacha was planning to foist himself on the nation with his own transition programme, after all, the “ Youths “ were supposedly or is it earnestly asking for Abacha. Also, five political parties, which were said to have been lepered by Abacha’s leprosy, had endorsed Abacha as their sole presidential candidate. The rest is history, Abacha died on June 8 and Abiola was to join him in mysterious circumstances. The military junta that succeeded Abacha seemed too eager to put the ghost of June 12 as a topic for history discussants; he also dealt the sham of a transition programme under Abacha the deathblow. Nigeria was to take a fresh path unto democracy!
Thus, whilst Abiola and his June 12 disciples had paid the price for standing doggedly by that mandate, a new set of Pharaohs that pretended not to know Abiola became beneficiaries and for 16 years scorned, denied, danced ajorojarajoro and pussyfooted on giving June 12 iTs rightful place. It was that bad that even Bill Clinton, then president of the United States, in his historic visit to Nigeria, was allegedly lobbied to drop Abiola’s name from his list of heroes who struggled for democracy. Thankfully, a number of other Nigerians disagreed or should I say refused to get bitten by the “Forget The June 12 Bug”, these democrats majorly of the Alliance For Democracy (AD), then insisted on honouring the unsung heroes of the nation’s democracy, this way the June 12 flame was kept alive. Thankfully, President Buhari has corrected such injustice with the stroke of his pen and he deserves our commendation. Let me state that Buhari’s action is indeed altruistic as a number of Nigerians know that Abiola was the chief financier of the coup that toppled his administration. In a country where politics with bitterness much thrives, Buhari could have looked at June 12 with a, “He deserved it posture”, he could have chosen to look the other way, waving his hands tepidly in protest that since this matter seemed beyond his predecessors, then who was he to act differently?

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