June 12 was the day our beloved country Nigeria assumedly had the freest and fairest election that produced, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO) ‘GCFR’ as winner. Incidentally, MKO was neither declared winner nor sworn in by the military oligarchy which annulled the election for inexplicable reasons. The botched June 12, 1993 presidential election has become one of the most epochal political events in Nigeria – the event has vestiges that are difficult to erase, owing to its relevance and significance.
June 12 carries huge significance for many of our citizens. It was on this date in 1993 that presidential elections were held for the first time since the 1983 military coup. It was an event many observers have described as the most significant in Nigeria’s post-independence political history. It is still viewed as the freest, fairest and most peaceful election ever held in Nigeria – our democracy hero, ‘MKO’ his sacrifice, doggedness and contribution to democracy are legendary and still yielding positive impacts.
Arising from the events of that day, an estimated 14 million Nigerians – irrespective of ethnic, religious, class, and regional affiliations, (in a period when religious acrimony and tension had reached its zenith) – defied bad weather to elect their president with the hope of ending eight years of military dictatorships – the rise from the ashes – the blood of our martyrs watered the seed of the democracy that many are opportunistically enjoying today.
Interestingly, this year’s Democracy Day is quite auspicious for a number of reasons. Firstly, it marks the 29th Anniversary of June 12, 1993, which remains one of the historic moments of our nationhood. That day, the idea of a “government of the people, by the people and for the people” came alive in an unprecedented manner. Secondly, it is coming barely a few months to a major event: 2023, general elections. Thirdly, it precedes the thirtieth anniversary of June 12, of which plans are underway for a ground ceremony, immediately after the swearing in of our next President – two books are already in place for unveiling in the epoch occasion.
Instructively, the values of freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights. These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which enshrines a host of political rights and civil liberties underpinning meaningful democracies.
Ironically, there are a few iconic dates in the Nigerian political history. These dates are reminiscent of landmark events that played significant roles in shaping Nigeria. The annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election represents an unforgettable political timeline. The winner of the election was thus never declared as the elections were annulled by IBB, citing electoral irregularities. The annulment led to protests and political unrest, including the resignation of IBB and a weak interim civilian government, and culminated in the continuation of military rule in the country with Sani Abacha ascending to power as the military head of state via a bloodless coup later in the year.
Ironically, when the British Union Jack gave way for the hoisting of Nigeria’s national flag, which symbolized the end of colonial rule in Nigeria, millions of Nigerians poured into the streets and erupted into shouts of joy. They’re both Jubilant and expectant. And they believed that Nigeria’s attainment of political sovereignty would pave the way for the rapid development of Nigeria and the deepening of its democratic culture. Their high hopes for a united, better, and progressive Nigeria were not misplaced given the fact that Nigerians, who were the leading lights of our democracy during that political era, were erudite men, who possessed leadership qualities, political experience and sagacity, and integrity.
In conclusion, permit me to dedicate the democracy day celebration of 2022, which falls on the occasion of the 29th anniversary of June 12 – to the victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT). He came, he saw and conquer. He has been on this trajectory for over 30 years. He learnt and copied MKO’s template, built bridges across the zones and states and personal relationships with people. Truly, an advocate of “True-Federalism” courageous and a dogged fighter.
Similar to the circumstances of President Joseph Robinette Biden, during the last American’s general elections. “BAT” was more concerned about building bridges, focused and kept his eyes on the ball. He wasn’t doing photoshoot and posting video clips on social media. He connected with stakeholders, who directed delegates on how to vote, despite the hurdles placed in his way. Ultimately, God Almighty who rules in the affairs of man, crowned his efforts with huge success. While others were waiting to be anointed or crowned the consensus candidate he was travelling and doing three states in a day and meeting with delegates.
Unarguably, ‘Akanbi olodo ide’ your victory is a walkthrough the valley, symbolized spiritual re-awakening and evidentially the result of steadfastness – ‘oko Remilekun’ you epitomizes the ‘rise from ashes’ – in you: MLK will rise again; Nwalimu will rise again; Nkrumah will rise again; Madiba will rise again; MKO will rise again; Africa will rise again and our beloved country Nigeria will rise again and take her rightful place in the comity of Nations.
Finally, I salute all our democracy heroes; particularly, millions of our compatriots home and abroad. Let me leave you with a biblical exhortation as we celebrate our 29th anniversary of June 12 and Democracy Day celebration; “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18); “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” (Psalm 30:11) ARISE ‘O COMPATRIOTS.
Richard Odusanya is a Social Reform Crusader and the convener of AFRICA COVENANT RESCUE INITIATIVE ACRI