Exactly 25 years ago Nigeria went to the polls in the Third Republic of its Democratic dispensation to elect a President.
June 12, 1993 precisely was the date and the two major political parties then were the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). The candidates were African business icon Chief Moshood .K.O Abiola (SDP) and Alhaji Bashir .O. Tofa (NRC).
Unfortunately the election was annulled when results already indicated a massive victory for Chief Abiola.
In this article, we highlight five reasons June 12, 1993 is being marked in some parts of Nigeria.
1.Forerunner to Nigeria’s Democracy Day
June 12, 1993 according to a political-economic school of thought is the real “Democracy day”, when Nigerians came out enmasse to vote for a democratic government, free from the shackles of military regime. It was the annulment of the election by the then Head of State Gen Ibrahim Babangida that gave birth to progressive and consistent agitations for a democratic government that finally materialized on May 29, 1999. This election was regarded as a credible one and rated by international observer groups as the “freest and fairest” in Nigeria.
2. M.K.O Abiola and his Mandate
Like Late Dr Nelson Mandela, Chief Moshood Abiola (Late) stood for his mandate as the winner of the June 12, 1993 elections. He paid with his life and did not accept any other offer aside the one he was given by the electorate. This is one of the reasons why the South-West states remember him by declaring public holidays to mark the day, while there have been repeated calls for the Federal Government to immortalize Chief M.K.O Abiola as an icon of democracy in Nigeria.
3. Reflection on the role of CSOs in shaping the Nation
It is a day to reflect on the role of Civil Societies Groups and Organizations like the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), and how they contributed immensely to the consistent agitation for democratic governance post-June 12. Some leaders who played significant roles in this regard include; Chief Gani Fawehinmi (Late), Dr Beko Ransome Kuti (Late), Dr Ayo Opadokun, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, Mrs Ayo Obe amongst others.
4. Remembering how Trade Unions aligned for Democracy
The Trade Unions were also vital in the quest for the mandate of Late Chief Abiola and the actualization of democracy in Nigeria. Post June 12, 1993 groups like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) led by Dr Asisi Asobie, and the Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) workers with the efficient Secretary-General then Mr Frank Kokori, carried out industrial actions persistently calling for democratic governance in the country.
Other groups include the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN).
5. Paying Tribute to the Advocates of June 12
Amongst those who died in the course of agitating for the June 12, 1993 mandate are Chief Moshood Abiola, his wife Mrs Kudirat Abiola and Chief Alfred Rewane. The efforts of Chief Adekunle Ajasin (Late), Chief Abraham Adesanya (Late), Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Olu Falae, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chief Dele Momodu, Prof Wole Soyinka, Dr Frederick Fasehun, Col. Tanko Umar (Rtd), Dr Clement Nwankwo, Mr Chima Ubani, Lt.Gen Alani Akinrinade (Rtd) , Dr John Fayemi, amongst others were valiant, determined and resolute that democracy will be practised in Nigeria.
What Nigeria is witnessing today as “Democratic Rule” will not have been possible if the June 12, 1993 annulment did not elicit resistance, consistent agitations and resolute demonstrations against the military regimes of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd) and Gen Sanni Abacha (Late) for democracy.
It will therefore be uncharitable to forget the role of this date in Nigeria’s socio- political development as a nation, and it will be befitting for the Federal Government to explore how to make this date a memorable one for Nigerians.
This becomes imperative, to ensure posterity does not forget the democratic labours of our heroes past.