TWO DECADES DOWN THE LINE, BUHARI GIVES MEANING TO TRUE DEMOCRACY
Special Review by Remi Adebayo
What is in a name, critics may ask. What is important in a mere nomenclature, a pessimist will say. But for millions of citizens, like this writer, who still believe in the continental giant, Nigeria is making history, surefootedly! `
Come to think of it, while democracy remains unsteady in many African countries, Nigeria is making a steady progress with two decades of unbroken democratic rule. With all the imperfections, the Buhari Administration has displayed a deep commitment in promoting the tenets of democracy and giving hope to Africa.
As the administration takes stock of its four year mandate, the real celebration has ben deferred till June 12, 2019. So, what will Buhari and his team celebrate? It is not yet Uhuru, for sure. However, there is a lot credit for this government in giving hope for a more organised, transparent and credible governance, going forward.
Besides leading proactive political reforms typified by the credibility of the recently concluded general elections, the Buhari Administration has continued to institute laudable economic reforms and initiatives contained in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
The Plan is a medium term, all-round developmental initiative focused on restoring growth, investing in people and building a globally competitive economy. It was unveiled in March, last year and is largely supervised by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who has initiated and coordinated a number of socio-economic reforms aimed at stimulating the economy. On the list are the Ease of Doing Business, inclusive pensions scheme and the impactful social investment programmes for which countless citizens have lauded the Administration.
Gladly, the agricultural sector is receiving a lot of boost especially in the rice sector where Nigeria is poised to attain total local sufficiency with the prospect of exporting the ‘golden grain’ to other African countries.
Unarguably, should the Buhari Administration press ahead with determined implementation of these and many other initiatives like the Anchor Borrowers Programme being coordinated by the Central Bank of Nigeria, expanding its coverage, capturing strategic crops as cassava and maize, it is certain that the attempt to achieve food security, crime reduction and job creation would race faster to the target goal
President Muhamamadu Buhari had on assumption of office four years ago promised to fight corruption, tackle insecurity and stimulate economic growth. His triumph at the last election with a renewed mandate is a testimony that Nigerians’ believe in his ability and sincerity to move the country to a higher level in sustainable development.
Symbolism of June 12
No one saw it coming; not after twenty-five years of spirited efforts to situate fittingly, the place of June 12, 1993 in Nigeria’s political history, in line with the strength of the legacy it represents.
Millions of Nigerians will recall, that on Saturday, June 12 1993, voters across the country lined up to pass a verdict in which ethno-religious politics was defeated in an election where they overwhelmingly voted for the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party,SDP, the late business mogul, Aare Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, popularly called MKO.
Abiola paired with Ambassador Babagana Gingibe, both Moslems, to defeat Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention, NRC, even in his native Kano. The election was widely regarded to be free and fair. It was annuled in a broadcast by then military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, now retired.
Not just that Abiola was denied his mandate, but his incarceration by late Gen. Sani Abacha, aftermath of the Epetedo Declaration where Abiola claimed his mandate, later led to his questionable death in the custody of the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar government on July 7, 1998, barely a month after Abacha himself died in unclear circumstances on June 8.
While in detention, Kudirat, Abiola’s senior wife who was in touch with the pro-democracy forces and the international community, was brutally murdered in Lagos. Political observers said the death was to weaken Abiola’s spirit in pursuing his mandate and to thereafter renounce same. But MKO surprised his captors by maintaining high spirit against the expectation of the Abacha regime and the anti-democratic elements.
Expectedly, the nation was plunged into political crises causing the formation of several groups, but coordinated by the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, a Pan-Nigeria pro-democracy platform that confronted the military. Indeed, some prominent politicians like Alfred Rewane, Suliat Adedeji, Lai Balogun and others paid the supreme price.
Others who were lucky to escape the lethal metal were hounded into exile. Nobel Laurette, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and few others fled to avoid being killed.
No doubt, the sacrifice made by the late MKO is believed to have paved the way for the series of events that forced the military out of power and the return to civil rule in 1999. President Olusegun Obasanjo, an Egba man like Abiola, was elected president. Regardless of that, Nigerians, especially those of the progressive fold kept mounted pressure on Obasanjo and succeeding administrations to honour Abiola with recognition of June 12 as authentic Democracy Day, aside the May 29 initially adopted by government.
Not until May 2012 that a semblance of honour came for Abiola when former President Goodluck Jonathan renamed the University of Lagos after the late politician. “The Federal Government has decided that late Chief MKO Abiola should be honoured. In honour of Chief MKO Abiola, the University of Lagos is renamed the Moshood Abiola University,” Jonathan had said.
The move was vehemently resisted by stakeholders and was abandoned.
However, last June President Buhari took the nation by surprise when he named June 12 as new day to commemorate Nigeria’s democracy and honour the late Abiola and other pro-democracy activists. Buhari went further, apologizing on behalf of the nation to the Abiola family and other victims on the annuled election.
“On behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of late MKO Abiola and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of the June 12 struggle,” Buhari said while acknowledging that MKO had majority votes, which made him winner of the 1993 presidential election.
“We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings, recognise that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and ease the future for the sanctity of free elections.
“Nigerians will no longer tolerate such perversion of justice. This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country.
“Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12 — side of ill-feelings, hate, frustration, and agony. What we are doing today is celebrating the positive side of June 12. The decision at this event is not meant to be, and is not, an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong”, President Buhari had stressed on June 12, 2018.
The unanimous concurrence with the House of Representatives by the Senate endorsing June 12 as Democracy Day throughout the country will go a long way to situate the place of President Buhari as one patriotic Nigerian nationalist and leader whose reign redressed the injustice that once tore the nation into shreds by the time he assents to the Bill.