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Cover Choice, POLITICS

June 12 Triggered Mass Movement – Odion-Akhaine

Posted: Jun 14, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

 Sylvester Odion-Akhaine was Publicity Secretary of Campaign for Democracy in 1993. He was detained several times by the military authority and almost lost his life during the confrontation. He is now a lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), Nigeria, and is Chairman, Board of Trustees of Lagos-based Centre for Constitutionalism and Demilitarisation. In this interview with IFEOMA ONONYE he expresses disappointment at the pace and direction of democracy since 1999. 



Do you think that the June 12 Presidential Election has any significance on the present power change in Nigeria?

Well, I think that talking June 12, it has a lot of significance for our country. If you recall very well, June 12 was supposed to be a shift from military dictatorship in Nigeria and was supposed to mark the beginning of civil rule. Then people expressed their consent and legitimacy for a new government. As it were, the military government that was in power truncated June 12 and annulled it. So it became a rally point for Nigerians to translate their will for a popular government into realization by will of agitation. During that agitation, a lot of people suffered. People like Soyinka was in exile; chief Anthony Enahoro was in exile; Alani Akirinade and a host of others. Gani Adams; my late chairman for the then Campaign for democracy, Late Dr Beko Ransome Kuti; Sani Shehu, myself and many others. We were all in prison. The agitation continued until Abiola himself died. We saw the emergence of democracy in 1999 when Former president Olusegun Obasanjo came to power. So, you can see that the Nigerian people have been struggling for a long time for a government of their choice. It predated June 12 but gradually it led to some form of democratic government in Nigeria. I use ‘some form’ because Nigerians have not had the opportunity for popular choice. People are praising the last elections because of the technology that was brought in, like the card reader and all. But we will still find out that to a great deal, a good number of the population was disenfranchised because a lot of people do not have their Permanent Voter Card. June 12 remains the trigger for the mass movement for democracy in Nigeria today.

So you are saying there is a lot to celebrate about the legacy MKO Abiola left for Nigerians?

I think there is a lot to celebrate, not in terms of merriment. It is a day in which Nigerians can reappraise their own will as a people in terms of the trend and direction that they wish for Nigeria. It is a day for celebration. It’s a day for looking back and also looking forward. But also we cannot say that Nigeria has achieved everything that democracy has to offer because democracy itself is an unfinished business.

Where do you think Nigerian democracy is lacking?

Generally, the Nigerian democracy today has a lot of deficit. First, the parties that we have here today are not really people with similar interests. Individuals join parties on the basis of their own individual aspiration for selfish interests and not for well conceived blueprint or ideology for transforming the society. Democracy in Nigeria has not translated into what our people have popularly called dividends of democracy. Many Nigerians are unemployed, we are still queuing for fuel; there is no electricity. The vacuum needs to be filled.