Awka – Nigeria can rise again if its and government citizens can explore the gains of the spectacular June 12, 1993 election, to create a new era of transparency and possibilities in the nation’s electoral system.
The Anambra State Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Dr Webster Okonkwo made this known in Awka, while speaking with TNC correspondent at an event over the weekend to mark the 2021 Democracy Day celebration in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s Democracy Day was initially marked every 29th of May, to recognize the official return to democracy in Nigeria which took place on the 29th of May, 1999.
However, the nation later adopted June 12 as its Democracy day, to recognize and celebrate the only election in the country’s history that was adjudged free, fair and credible.
On the 12th of June, 1993, MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party, SDP beat Bashir Tofa in an election conducted by the National Electoral Commission, NEC headed by Prof Humphrey Nwosu.
Results were declared in only 14 states before the regime of former military president, Ibrahim Babaginda annulled the exercise.
After the annulment, another military Head of State, Sani Abacha took over from IBB, declared himself military ruler and arrested Abiola for declaring himself “President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” and proclaimed “a new Government of National Unity.”
Abiola spent 4 years in prison and eventually died on July 7, 1998, on the day he was to be released.
Speaking on the significance of the date, the Anambra SDP Chairman, Dr Okonkwo, recalled how the Nigerian electorate set aside ethnic and religious considerations to elect a President of choice.
“June 12 1993 election established that it is possible for Nigerians to put aside their inherent differences and disagreements, to peacefully and in the most responsible manner, elect their leaders in an atmosphere that is comparable to what obtains in the best democracies in the world.
“Secondly, on June 12 1993, Nigerians proved to the whole world that it is possible to rise above religious bigotry to elect their leaders. It will be recalled that despite the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the then SDP, Nigerians still massively voted for the party. This simply means that those people using religion today to divide the country are just feasting on our weaknesses.
“Thirdly, on the same date, Nigerians demonstrated beyond doubt that it is possible to put away all tribal and ethnic differences, to speak with one voice for the progress of Nigeria. This political unison was unprecedented in the history of post-independent Nigeria,” he said.
He regretted that today, the corporate existence of Nigeria is under increasing threats of hunger, starvation, poverty and security, as the foundation for a new Nigeria laid by the June 12 election, has been totally destroyed.
According to him, the aftermath is hunger, poverty, deprivation, starvation, poverty, religious extremism, insurgency and other vices competing to destroy the fabrics of the country.
He however said in the face of all these, a new Nigeria is possible.
“It is possible to rebuild the foundation of this country on the stronghold of justice and fairness. It is possible to enthrone honesty, transparency and good governance in this country. It is possible to reestablish the bonds that hold us together as a nation and rekindle our hope and aspiration for greatness. That possibility is alive in the SDP,” he noted.
He maintained that it is possible for the SDP to win the upcoming governorship election in Anambra State, as it remains untainted and tilted towards the greater good of the masses.
Dr Okonkwo further paid glowing tribute to those he described as the heroes of the present democracy enjoyed in Nigeria including the late Chief Moshood Abiola, Pa Alfred Rewane, Mrs Kudirat Abiola, Pa Anthony Enahoro, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Dr Fredrick Fasehun, among others,
Contributing, a Public Affairs Analyst, Dr. Jude Akpua, who recalled sacrifices made to enthrone Democracy in Nigeria, urged citizens to join hands in deepening it, regardless of present challenges facing the nation.
He regretted that in Nigeria today, the people no longer enjoy the real essence of democracy such as freedom of speech and expression, saying that Nigerians and their government have so much to learn from the June 12 episode.