Since after the elections of June 12, 1993 several human rights activist including the spokesperson of Pan-Yoruba Socio-cultural organization Afeniferere, Comrade Yinka Odumakin has relentlessly advocated for the restoration of the legacy of Chief M.K.O Abiola, the hero of that historic event. He discusses the fading symbolism of that democratic struggle in today’s Nigeria with Uchechukwu Ugboaja. Excerpts
Question: Could you remind us what June 12 represents to you?
Response: June 12 was the finest moment we had to forge a nation out of the Nigerian country. It was the day we almost resolved the nationality question with predominantly Christian states voting en masse for a Muslim Muslim ticket of Abiola Kingibe and an Egba man defeating Tofa in his Kano home state. But the annulment of the result wiped out all that and we are today more divided as country than we were before amalgamation.
It unarguably remains a landmark in the history of electioneering in Nigeria because it records the freest and fairest ever. The victory of MKO Abiola was so overwhelming that his rival, Bashir Tofa, could not contest the result. It was also significant in that it was the first time a Southern candidate would be winning a presidential election with a landslide. Above all a Muslim-Muslim ticket won convincingly in predominantly Christian areas.
This was why the annulment of the poll by military dictator, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was so shattering and a fatal blow to the growth of democracy in Nigeria and the boldest move ever to resolve the nationality question in the country. The resistance to the annulment remains also historical as it remains the longest drawn political struggle in the country spanning five years.
Question: With the current events in the country today do you think the significance of June 12 still holds any meaning?
Response: The events in the country show that the mindset that annulled June 12 is still afflicting Nigeria. The born to rule mentality of a section of the country that would not allow Abiola to assume his mandate still locks the country down in the politics of domination, iniquity and inequality. The whole concept of dual ideology that sabotaged the emergence of a nation on June 12, 1993 is still on rampage. Nigeria remains trapped in the stranglehold of feudal forces.
That election is different from other elections because every issue that has brought post-elections disputes was absent. It was the first and only time any presidential candidate in the multi-ethno-religious entity called Nigeria would have a mandate that cuts across all the fault lines.
June 12 is the road we missed or refused to take to the city of democracy and its ghosts will continue to haunt us eternally. All the shenanigans we have engaged in after it have always turned out to be hollow rituals. We must embrace the true tenets of June 12 for Nigeria to experience real democracy.
Question: Can you examine the current anti-corruption crusade being championed by the President Buhari led government through the lenses of June 12?
Response: June 12 was the promise of a nation that work based on rejuvenating of our institutions and the smashing of the architecture of corruption. The present anti-corruption is about scapegoatism in the arena of sacredcowism. It is a non-staeyer, a rehash of the shambolic outing of 1984.
Even though I support the review of anti-corruption war going on in the country, because corruption is evil but there is need to quickly warn that this war against corruption ought not to be selective or sectional as it apparently is, it should be all embracing and encompassing. It should be fought within the confines of rules of law, but at the same time should not be the only pre-occupation of the government. The government should concentrate on rebuilding the economy Building the economy is important. The naira is collapsing, the cost of living has increased even while the job loss in various sectors is at an unprecedented high, and in fact attract almost every sector is going down. Investors are leaving our country. This should the attention of any people oriented government which June 12 epitomizes, but not to continue to sectionalize and sensationalize the ongoing anti-corruption war. So until the Nigerian government restores the legacy of June 12, the structures of corruption will continue to hold our nation back.
Question: Finally Sir, the average Nigerian or the common man as we know is at the core of what June 12 represents, has this symbolism been lost?
Response: The symbolism is still very much with us. For as long as Nigeria remains in the grip of legendary mediocrity and elites not laced with vision and wobble and fumble on its misadventure to doomsday, the unrealized potentials of June would always come alive.
It is also important that you understand that the unique selling point of June 12 was Abiola’s “Farewell to Poverty,” a manifesto that spoke to the issues confronting the electorate. The politicians of today must cast a vision that can arouse the people the way Abiola did in 1993. It was a spectacle to behold when a man fell from a tree top in Kano, when he heard Abiola say that no Nigerian would go to bed without food in his belly if he became president of Nigeria. Those who believe that mobilizing thugs and snatching ballot boxes is the way to get power cannot galvanize the people the way MKO did.
Thank you Sir.