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by M.B.O Owolowo
“Indeed, Abiola contributed to the development of this country. He sacrificed everything for the development of this country,” – Olusegun Obasanjo, May 2014
Better late than never some would say, how honourable it would have been if Obasanjo had made this statement whilst he was President and honoured M.K.O Abiola accordingly. Maybe Obasanjo has come to accept the bitter reality that June 12 is symbolic and without the sacrifices of the likes of Abiola, he would never have returned to power in 1999.
But, this isn’t about the man who ‘blessed’ Nigeria with ‘Goodluck’, but something far greater. It is about sacrifices and defending our unity.
Quoting the words of another great man in our history, a supporter of the June 12 cause and the first man to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence;
“Eventually when things went wrong and he was in detention under Abacha, I had an occasion to request Abacha for a session with Abiola and this was granted. That was the last occasion on which I saw Abiola and I will always remember that as hideous and savage as things were for him, there was nothing chicken-hearted about him.”
“The Abiola chapter in Nigerian politics was historic in more ways than one, because he represented the dream of a new Nigeria and a modern Nigeria.” – Chief Anthnony Enahoro
Historically, Nigeria has survived many battles aimed at dividing the nation, often characterised by the sentiments of polarisation protagonists and separationist rhetoric usually based on unfounded ethno-religious suspicions.
We cannot forget the civil war and it’s aftermath. Some Nigerians are of the opinion that we fought to cement our unity, than fight to break-up. This test of unity was reaffirmed on June 12 1993.
The military was trying all conceivable gimmicks and possible schemes to perpetuate their rule, and one of the plans of the then Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida a.k.a the ‘evil genius’ was to promise a transition to democratic rule by conducting an election that would be eventually be marred by a supposed polarised polity.
Excerpts from the IBB annulment speech claimed divisions within the political class and by extension the whole nation, this was the predicted script, as a Southerner, M.K.O Abiola of SDP was pitched against a Northerner, Bashir Tofa of NRC. The orchestrated and anticipated division ploy failed and turned out to be a fallacy because the opposite of that happened; Nigerians shunned ethnicity and voted overwhelmingly for M.K.O Abiola.
What we learnt from this choreographed treachery is that, the politics of division isn’t new to our polity, and is a strategy often employed by those in power to confuse and cajole the masses. The ethnic or religious card are played not to suit any ethnic group or religious designation primarily, but to suit the greedy aggrandising few determined to hold on to power at all costs.
The June 12 1993 elections defied all ethnocentric theories and the ethno-religious primordial by uniting Nigerians across ethnic, religious and social divides. With the June 12 1993 elections we witnessed the possibilities of a united polity, even though the military put a spanner in that wheel of progress, Nigerians realised what could be attained.
Unfortunately, 21 years later, on June 12 2014, the polity has deliberately being polarised by a glutinous and selfish few determined to hang on to power. Their concern isn’t about good governance or accountability, neither is it about the welfare of the masses or the perpetually underprivileged, rather it is about the elongation of power and squandering of the nations resources.
Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to find certain overfed militants and ethnocentric bigots not worthy of mention, aligned with supposed activists who have allowed ethnocentrism or money, or both, to becloud their senses, making statements that could only be termed as what they are, reckless!
These ethnic bigots are fuelling hate, consequences that are not only psychologically unhealthy to individuals by socially detrimental to our polity. Current trends portray a situation where objectivity and rationalism have taken the back seat, with ethnocentrism and religious bigotry spearheading the pollution of our nation – a really sad state of affairs.
Societal challenges are imminent when a president is being reminded he represents the country and not just segment. When supposed ‘men of God’ have lost their probity and sense of good judgement, there would definitely be chaos. It is foredooming when the criteria for leadership isn’t about ability or performance, but about ethnicity and religion.
It is dangerous to use religion as the basis of support for any candidate – that’s not only parochial but counterproductive. Nigeria is a multi-religious State and would remain as such, so religion is the wrong paradigm for leadership.
Ideally, we shouldn’t care if a political contender goes to kneel down in front of some prominent religious figure, nor should it matter if such a person goes on pilgrimage, we should be more concerned about the qualities and capabilities of candidates, and their suitability for the coveted position.
The sooner Nigerians realise that only a particular class of heartless pilferers, headed by a cabal of conscienceless opportunists are benefiting from our disunity, the better for us collectively.
Nigeria desperately needs a dedicated leadership as poverty, illiteracy and unemployment pervades the polity. Consequential upheavals; ethnic clashes, lynching and killing of youth, terrorism oriented massacres and abductions, slaughtering of police officers, killing of armed forces personnel and the killing innocent unarmed civilians, and other nefarious activities.
The power-drunks currently abusing their positions of authority either through shielding corrupt public officials, intimidating political opponents, harassing citizens and their right of association, banning of peaceful protests with illegal injunctions, gagging journalists and clamping down on media outfits, should remember there are numerous Nigerians who sacrificed for the semblance of democracy we are enjoying today; Nigerians ready to defend our unity and do everything within our rights to defend our civil liberties.
Happy June 12 Day !!!
– M.B.O 2014©
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