June 12, 2009 marks the sixteenth anniversary of the brazen annulment by the former President Ibrahim Babangida-led administration of a presidential election adjudged both nationally and internationally as the freest, fairest and the most credible election ever to be held in Nigeria.
Through an election that saw a Muslim-Muslim ticket, depicted by the emergence of the late Chief MKO Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe of the now-rested Social Democratic Party, SDP, against Alhaji Bashir Tofa and Dr. Sylvester Ugoh of the National Republican Convention, NRC, Nigerians were prepared to say 'enough is enough' to military dictatorship and they not only made known but also made good their promise with their votes on June 12, 1993. But, the military regime, then, led by General Ibrahim Babangida, on June 23, 2003, shamelessly annulled the people's mandate.
As Nigeria marks the 16th anniversary of Babangida's barbaric act, the Campaign for Democracy, CD, takes an incursion into the past and is saddened to conclude that nothing spectacular has changed 16years after. While the sacrifices that went into the struggle to revalidate the annulled election cannot go unappreciated, it is particularly pathetic that the democratic height expected of the country is yet to be attained.
While we cannot but acknowledge the current 'step aside' posture of the military as well as the urgent need for us to as a nation improve on the civil rule which we call democracy, it is sad that, 16 years after, it's been so far, so sad! In truth, there is no doubting the fact that Nigeria is at a crossroads. While those who had struggled for the enthronement of democracy and the betterment of Nigeria have been consigned to the backstage in the day-to-day affairs of the country, those who had known next-to-nothing about the struggle for democracy as, well as those who were practically opposed to the spirit of ‘June 12’ are now at the corridors of power, power-drunk and further unleashing on the country what can rightly be referred to as democratic dictatorship.
Sixteen years after, the democracy, which Nigeria had earnestly craved for, still remains practically elusive. Even, the more preferred 'transition to civil rule' option is still subject to critical evaluation. The agenda of imperialism, which Abiola and his team had promised to wipe out, still remains with us. Sixteen years after, Nigeria is still being oppressed and exploited locally and internationally. Fundamental objectives of state policy remain sabotage and poverty still remains unbanished as lives of the ordinary Nigerians still remain impoverished. The issue of power supply remains unaddressed even as successive governments continue to sink billions of the taxpayers' money into phony projects. Our hospitals are glorified morgues while education and infrastructural facilities remain moribund.
Sadder still, while sister African countries like Ghana and South Africa are making resounding progress in their search for democratic expediency, Nigeria continues to retrogress not only democratically but also socio-economically. Still, those who joy in Nigeria's backward, and, now, 'no movement', characteristics have been deceiving us that our democracy is at its best. And, so, while they daily swim in affluence, the people are with each passing day getting poorer for it.
Therefore, as we celebrate the heroes and heroines of Nigeria's democracy; and, as Nigeria marks yet another in the history of her democratic watersheds, CD once again harps on the need for patriotic and democracy-loving Nigerians to go back to 'June 12' for the answers to the mirage of problems that are currently confronting our nation state, chief among which is the need to get our politics right.
We therefore call on Nigerians, irrespective of creed, race or religious inclination, or affiliation, to re-dedicate themselves to the struggle for genuine democracy; for credible elections; and for a new and an enduring constitution that will no doubt address the many socio-economic crises confronting Nigeria. It is the inalienable right of the people to vote and make their votes count.
Similarly, it is the duty of the current holders of power in Nigeria to always remember that, since there is no other country which we can call ours, utmost wisdom must be applied in reshaping the politics of Nigeria for, if we can get our politics right, all others aspects of our national endeavours will definitely fall in place. We need to do these so that the labour of our heroes past will not be in vain.
Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin,