Beyond June 12 Proclamation

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In what is ostensibly a smart move to shore up the image of his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2019 general elections in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, June 6, 2018, declared June 12 as national holiday to be subsequently celebrated as the authentic Democracy Day.
In a statement entitled: “June 12-Pro-Democracy Heroes”, the President also announced his decision to confer a post-humous honour of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.
That was not all. Abiola’s running mate in that election, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe was conferred with the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON); an honour many believe he was undeserving, having served as Foreign Affairs Minister in the General Sani Abacha government that incarcerated Abiola.
Similarly, the late revered lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, bagged GCON for his contributions to the growth of democracy in Nigeria.
The statement, which also apologised to the Abiola family on behalf of the Federal Government over the annulment, stated that the recognition and honours bestowed on the June 12 actors were aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25-year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12 elections.
The President said: “Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating and appreciating the positive side of June 12; the June 12 that restates democracy and freedom, the June 12 that overcomes our divide and the June 12 that produces unity and national cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation”.
The presidential declaration has been resonating in the polity as not a few Nigerians have engaged one another in heated debates in support of or against the decision.
Being an issue that had lingered in the nation’s political landscape for some 25 years, most views expressed in the debates have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. This is moreso as successive governments had ignored the clamour by most Nigerians to immortalise Abiola who died on July 7, 1998, in the custody of the Federal Government for declaring himself President-elect.
Even political associates and some Nigerians, especially from the South-West, appreciates the recognition of the June 12 heroes, the opposition and indeed, many other Nigerians, argue that former President Goodluck Jonathan had taken a major step to immortalise Abiola when he renamed the prestigious University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University on May 29, 2012, at a time he was not seeking re-election.
Jonathan had, in a nationwide broadcast to mark that year’s Democracy Day, said the honour was in respect of Abiola’s sacrifice in his pursuit of justice and truth.
“Destiny and circumstances conspired to place upon his (Abiola) shoulders a historic burden, and he rose to the occasion with character and courage. He deserves recognition for his martyrdom and public-spiritedness and for being the man of history that he was,” Jonathan said.
The gesture, rather than earning Jonathan commendation, elicited protests that forced him to reverse the decision. The rest, they say, is history.
Thus, rather than considering the political motives or otherwise of the FG’s decision, what should be uppermost in the minds of all Nigerians is to imbibe the lessons of June 12 and look beyond it with a view to strengthening Nigeria’s fledging democracy.
The fact that Nigerians, for the very first time, regardless of tribe and creed, voted massively for the duo of Abiola and Kingibe, both of whom are Muslims, speaks volumes of how Nigeria lost a rare opportunity at achieving the much-needed national unity and cohesion, peace and progress that have eluded it since the 1914 Amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates.
As it is, we must strive to internalise the spirit of June 12 to achieve the desired greatness. What this means is that the will of the electorate must prevail at all times without any form of interference from the powers-that-be.
The Tide, therefore, condemns in its entirety the impunity and executive recklessness exhibited by the APC-led Federal Government over the opposition.
We think that the Buhari’s administration should go beyond honouring Abiola, Kingibe and others, but rather face squarely the insecurity plaguing the country as well as other socio-economic challenges staring the citizenry on the face.
It is our candid opinion that proclaiming June 12 as the authentic Democracy Day is a mere smokescreen to score cheap political point, especially among the Yorubas, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
We agree with Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, and others that Buhari is merely playing to the gallery. Let him confront the real and present challenges facing Nigeria now!