June 12: The Democratic Journey So Far | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Cover Choice, POLITICS

June 12: The Democratic Journey So Far

Posted: Jun 14, 2015 at 12:01 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Augustine Adah Lagos

23 years ago, Nigerians went to the poll and voted in the presidential election described to be the best in the history of the country by some observers. It was one of the rare elections where religion and ethnicity played insignificant role in the way people voted for the candidate of their choice. It has been argued that people voted the way they did because the elections were properly planned and well conducted. There were pre-election debates and it was easy to know who was intelligent and who was really dull. The primary election conducted produced Bashir Othman Tofa as the candidate of National Republican Convention (NRC) and MKO Abiola as candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Cover ChoiceThe people voted and the results were rolling in more to the favour of MKO Abiola. When it became evident that Abiola would win, Bashir Tofa (the opponent) was reported to have sent him congratulatory messages until Nigerians received a rude shock from the then Military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, that annulled the election. The annulment was greeted with a lot of protests that almost paralysed the economy of the country.  Both labour and Nigerians students were fully mobilized and took part in the protests. Many people died in the struggle to actualize that mandate popularly called JUNE 12.

Many democrats, human right activists that championed the resistance against June 12 annulment, ran out of the country to protect their lives from the military junta. People like Pa Alfred Rewane were not lucky as he was killed in the struggle.  It is also believed that though June was not actually realized, the struggle forced IBB, popularly called the Evil-Genius, to hand over power to an Interim National Government led by Ernest Shonekan who was later removed in what some people have described as a palace coup on November 17, 1993, by late Sani Abacha who was a General and Chief of Army Staff at that time.

The coming of Abacha did not stop agitation for the actualization of June 12 mandate won by Abiola described as most industrious, philanthropist, and pillar of sports in Africa.  In the course of the struggle, the wife of Abiola, Kudirat was killed on June 4 1994 in Lagos while on her way to Canadian Embassy.  Nigeria have been in battle for the return of democracy until May 1999 when the last Military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar conducted a general elections that ushered in a new democratic governance in the country.

Democracy was ushered back on May 29th, 1999, by the then military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, a man who would go down forever in history as the father of the Fourth Republic, as he did willingly transit power to a democratically elected President, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Nigeria in this democratic process can still be described as nascent when compared to the “Big Boys” of the advanced first world countries, based on their achievements of the key features listed above. Having gone through 16 years of uninterrupted democratic civilian rule, we seem to be making progress with periodic elections that have began to gradually earn the “free and fair” status, the emergence of a vibrant opposition party who have for the first time dethroned the ruling party at the helm of affairs hence upgrading Nigeria from a one-party dominance state to a multi-party democracy.

Although some progress has been made in the practice of rule of law, observance of human rights, the independence of the judiciary, and the 16-year record of unbroken democracy, Nigeria’s story is still a source of agony to many of its children and friends.

The system has been characterised by wide spread corruption, ethnic and religious crises. Besides the civil war which claimed over a million lives between 1967 and 1970 as well as the Maitasine religious riot of 1984 in the North in which 3,000 were killed, the current spate of killings by terrorist group, Boko Haram, has been Nigeria’s most dreaded nightmare in recent times.

The Military authority in Nigeria is yet to rescue over 200 Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram sect in April 2014. Boko Haram insurgency has been on the greatest security threat to the country. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s effort to bring down insurgency did not yield much result. The new administration of Muhammadu Buhari has also been saddled with the task of curtailing the insurgency.

In addition to the Boko Haram insurgency caused by ethnic distrust and chauvinism and religious bigotry, inept and corrupt political leadership has beset Nigeria during this period. Some analysts believe that the imposition of leaders which was entrenched in the country by the departing British imperialists, has dealt a severe blow to Nigeria. Consequently, the country has never been led by its first eleven. Alhaji Tafawa Balewa beat his political and intellectual superiors and became our Prime Minister in 1960. A political dark horse, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, emerged as president in 1979. In order to placate the indignant Yorubas over the annulled June 12, 1993, presidential elections, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was helped to become our President in 1999. But, did these leaders who got into political leadership through the imposition of leaders transform Nigeria to a great country? The answer is a categorical no.

President Jonathan inherited most of the problems that are afflicting us, today. But, has he done much to tackle them, effectively and decisively? Nigeria has the potential to become an economically and technologically advanced country, but inept and corrupt political leadership stands on our way to development. Our leaders, who are the third eleven, perceive leadership as an opportunity to amass wealth by corrupt means.

So, Nigeria appears to be a country in stagnation. Our educational system is in tatters with millions of unemployable university graduates roaming the streets. Power supply, which is the chief driver of industrial development in any country, is erratic, here. Some major Federal roads in the country are so bad that they bring back memories of dilapidated thorough-fares in war – ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Cambodia and others. Now, well-heeled Nigerians seek medical treatment for minor ailments like headache and malaria in Europe and America.

The Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Comrade Debo Adeniran, has described the 16 years of democratic experience in Nigeria as a charade. He stated that real democracy is yet to be practiced in the country because the experience so far has not better the lives of average Nigerians.  “What we are practising as democracy in Nigeria is nothing but a situation where some people grab power and use it to amass wealth to the detriment of the majority,” he said.  He advocated the cancellation of May 29 as democracy day in Nigeria because there is no true democracy yet in the country.