As June 12 resurrects…

As issues triggered by the decision of President MuhammaduBuhari to honour the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election and others with national awards resonate in various political quarters with implications for the 2019 general election, writes KUNLE ODEREMI.  

 

LEADING lights in the bitter struggle that began on June 12, 1993, which culminated in the exit of the military from political power on May 29, 1999, were prophetic from the beginning. The political leaders, drawn from different political and professional persuasions, had expressed confidence that truth would prevail over falsehood, no matter how long and sorrowful the journey they were embarking on then. They were not under the illusion that the battle would not gulp enormous sacrifices — both personal and collective — from them, because of totalitarian and hegemonic mentality of the Established interest at the architecture of political power in the land.

To the leaders, June 12 represented more than an idea. It was beyond the personality of Chief MKO Abiola, who was given the mandate of millions of Nigerian voters as president. Even when the establishment recruited such civilians as Uche Chukuwerije, Wadas Nas and the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu to impute ethnicity and other primordial sentiments in the struggle for the de-annulment of the election, the leaders rose above all divisive tendencies because justice against one was tantamount to injustice against all.

Former President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN)
Agbakoba

Thus dogged fighters, including nationalists like late Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Bola Ige; Senator Abraham Adesanya and Chief Ayo Adebanjo, as well as Commodore Ndubuisi Kanu; Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, to name a few other eminent citizens, formed the nucleus of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). The list of heroes and heroines of June 12 also include Pa Onasanya Solanke, whose Surulere residence was constantly under siege by security operatives for hosting NADECO meetings; Pa Adekunle Ajasin, Dan Suleiman, Commodore Ndubusi Kanu, Ayo Opadokun; Lieutenant-General Alani Akinrinade (retd); Chief Frank Kokori, who was the general secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG); late Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, late Comrade Chima Ubani; Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and eminent clerics like Bishop Matthew Kukah, Archbidshop Olubunmi Okogie,

Prelate Sam Mbang, and late Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye.

NADECO was an amalgam of mass-based organisations such as Afenifere; Movement National reconciliation (MNR), Eastern Mandate union (EMU) under Dr Athur Nwankwo; the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) ably led by Dan Sulaiman and South-South leaders, as well as pro and human rights bodies. In a desperation to frustrate those leaders, the establishment unleashed terror on the leaders, killing some, ruining their businesses, inflicting lifelong physical and mental injuries on their families, as maiming so many innocent citizens. Yet, like the proverbial beetle that would never die, June 12, as idea, remained constant, outliving many that even constituted the anchor of the harrowing struggle.

Adebanjo

It is recalled that then, the military government had resorted to subterfuge to crush opposition to the annulment and the cry for justice. The establishment sponsored used fifth columnists in desperation to infiltrate the ranks of the protagonists of June 12 and recruited the enfant terrible like Daniel Kanu of the infamous Youth Earnestly Asked For Abacha (YEAA) to organize a one million march with some hitherto respected politicians as palace clowns just as another an unknown Yomi, Davies complemented the infamous role of the notorious Association for Better Nigeria in the macabre dance orchestrated by government. The coterie of palace jesters also included entertainment artistes. A counter- rally tagged five million man-march put together by Olisa agbakoba and other uncompromising activists came under heavy assault from security operatives resulting in Agbakoba almost losing one of his eyes after being brutalised by the armed men.

Only a very few of the victims of such brutality and other dehumanizing experience eventually became direct beneficiaries of the struggle. Quite a number of them rose on the crest of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the South-West to political power as governors and members of the National Assembly and state Houses of Assembly in the zone.  Some pragmatic steps taken by the lawmakers in the state Houses of Assembly to sustain the June 12 even after the demise of MKO Abiola in highly controversial and suspicious circumstances, included proclamation the date as Democracy Day and seeking immortalisation of the owner of the sacred mandate.

Overtures by the parliamentarians from the zone to the Obasanjo government to key into the arrangement fell on deaf ears as the then president remained obstinate and adamant. Regrettably, those legislators from the South-West that sustained the lobby at the centre to immortalize June 12 and its symbol between 1999 and 2003 suffered a setback when Obasanjo succeeded in arm-twisting the process that led to the 2003 elections.

Abraham Adesanya

Twenty five years after, June 12 has resurrected with a bang with some implications for the next general election in the country.  It also underlines the supremacy contest among political godfathers/kingmakers like Obasanjo, Babangida, and their core loyalists in the main political parties like the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Social Democratic Party (SDP), and perhaps the African Democratic Congress (ADC), which Obasanjo has shown sympathy for through his Coalition for Nigerian

Movement (CNM).

But does the decision of Buhari to bestow national honour on the martyrs and heroes of June 12 put paid to all issues bordering on the widely acclaimed fairest and freest election in the annals of Nigeria? Is the action tantamount to taking to the next level, what has been tagged the battle of the Generals ahead the 2019 elections, as the political space has become the chessboard of the former top military brass since the country restored civil rule 19 years ago?

Is that decision not just a mere gimmick, to distract attention from the alleged failings of the government? Or put differently, is the recognition not a Greet gift against the background of the clamour for effective restructuring of the country?

Ige

In a war situation, the combatants often believe all weapons are legitimate to prosecute a battle; that the means justifies the end of every major confrontation. After the combat has been fought and won on the field, the ‘soldiers’ could return to the negotiating table for rapprochement.  So, the battle for the 2019 is taking place at different fronts, and in different shapes and sizes with what appears like Machiavellian tactics are fast gaining ascendancy with the camps of the president, his hitherto allies but now adversaries like Obasanjo and Babangida individually involved in serious plots on how to gain the upper hand with the 2019 election about eight months away.

Sympathisers of the three leaders have continued to throw jabs at opposing principals over perceived weak-points, with loyalists of Buhari accusing Obasanjo of perennial antagonism against other leaders who failed to dance to his whims and caprices. For example, they recalled that in the 1990s, Obasanjo had thrown punches at a former Head of state, General Yakubu Gowon over speculations that he was nursing a presidential ambition. What does Gowon want again? He was quoted as saying then.

They also accused him of pretence when he was to run for the 1999 presidential race after a cabal negotiated his safety from the jaws of death following his incarceration by the regime of Abacha. According to them, Obasanjo had queried: how many presidents do you want to make of me? On the other hand, his loyalist have since latched on the relationship Buhari enjoyed with Abacha whose reign was generally regarded as the worst in the history of Nigeria and perhaps in the orgy of blood letting. Buhari had willingly accepted to serve as the chairman of an intervention agency, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) which was dogged by allegations of corruption and ethnic consideration while the regime descended on Nigerians for exercising their right to protest against injustice and oppression in the country. There was spontaneous outage when the president decided to eulogise the late maxim ruler.

The outcry by Obasanjo over an alleged pplan by the Buhari government to implicate him as part of a grand plot to arrest him also raises the stake in the battle of supremacy among the leading political actors ahead the election year.  No doubt, the coming weeks promise more dramatic episodes in the hide and seek among these actors in one hand and their loyalists and sypathisers in another.

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