Those who were not born before June 12, 1993, may not know what is all about. For record purposes, June 12, 1993, was the day Nigerians from the East, West, North and rose voice, in amity, in unity, in concord and tandem to elect Chief M.K.O as the president of Nigeria. But on 21st June 1993 the former military president, retired General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the historic election and set Nigeria on the path of crisis, leading to many deaths including the winner and the wife , Kudrirat Abiola.
In my book, Heroes of Democracy (1999) the struggle for the revalidation of that mandate and the consequences was documented for posterity and generations yet unborn. Today I want to talk about the historical importance of that election, the pains, the sacrifices, the losses and the lessons.
Recall that the consummate winner of that historic election, a Yoruba first class leader, a Chartered Accountant of note, an international scholar, and a very successful businessman was hounded and incarcerated for five years and was eventually poisoned on July 7, 1998.
The wife, Kudirat Abiola was shot in Lagos on June 4, 1996. It was a calculated attempt and carefully planned work to provoke the Yoruba to war in order to destroy the economy Lagos but did Yorubas play into their hands? NO! A lot of high profile Yoruba leaders including the late Chief Abraham Adesanya, the late Chief Bola Ige, Ayo Adebanjo, late Olaniwun Ajayi, Ayo Opadokun and others were incarcerated, some like Suliat Adedeji, Admiral Omotosho , Admiral Elegbede, Toyin Onagoruwa etc were killed. Former president OBASANJO was sent to jail for an alleged phantom coup.
Great minds like Professor Wole Soyinka, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Kayode Fayemi and many others were chased into exile .Yoruba leaders were abused, humiliated and ridiculed but did they resort to self-determination, abuse, hatred and ethnic bigotry? No! with pen and paper, and with common sense, sound education and civilization they faced those who planned to decimate them.
No wonder the presidency was zoned to them in 1999 even though they did not allow them to use their choice, Chief Olu Falae. The powers that be chose Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. That singular mistake almost made Nigeria to lose almost everything in 16 years of PDP. Obasanjo was not prepared for leadership. He just came out from prison with no agenda, no plans, no strategy.
Then came the late Umaru Yar Adua who died in office and then Jonathan and in those 16 years Nigeria, many including this writer still talk about it as the years of the locusts. Now the questions people like us have been asking is whether Nigeria would have been where it is today had Chief Abiola been allowed to rule Nigeria at least for 8 years? Abiola would have brought to bear his cognate and very deep experience in the business world to transform Nigeria.
Chief Abiola would have set the template for a prosperous Nigeria, he would have brought the hope he promised Nigerians, he would utilized our oil revenue to transform Nigeria as a Chartered Accountant and he would have changed for the better Nigeria’s course of history.
Denying Chief Abiola his mandate caused Nigeria a great and monumental setback in 18 years .Today 24 years after, the annulment of that mandate is still haunting Nigeria.
What happened from June 12, 1993, to July 7, 1998, provoked the Yoruba nation to hate other Nigerians especially the Hausa- Fulani and Igbo for decimating a free mandate given to their illustrious son and killing him thereafter. But did the Yoruba go to war? Today southwest is the richest zone in Nigeria. In fact, the IGR of Ogun state is bigger than that of the entire South East States. Lagos IGR is bigger than that of 33 states in Nigeria put together.
If Yoruba had gone to war where would they have been today? What would have happened if Igbo or Hausa-Fulani had suffered what Yoruba went through? I have no doubt in my mind that they would have gone to war but see what tact, common sense, education, intelligence, civilization and power of critical thinking can do in the life of a wise people.
The same Yoruba was later to form an alliance with Hausa – Fulani in 2014 to box Igbo and their collaborators in the South South to a corner in 2015 general elections.
Now, what are the lessons? There are no permanent foes or friends in politics. If you can wait and not tired of waiting the world and everything in it belong to you. Chief Abiola would have given up his mandate and still be alive but he chose the path of human dignity to liberate his people.
Chief Abiola’s supreme sacrifice gave rise to May 29 we now celebrate as Democracy Day. I do not know any Nigerian multi-billionaire today who will do what Chief Abiola did yet other people think Yorubas are cowards. Perish the thought. They are the toughest and most advanced Nigerians I know today.
Today, is South West not better than those who seek to humiliate and destroy them? Those who seek to destroy and decimate others suffer more than their victims. June 12 lives on. Chief M.K.O Abiola lives on.
Joe Igbokwe, Lagos