Like a stubborn sphinx that refused to be interred, June 12 has risen after 26 years to get its rightful place in the annals of the country’s history. When those that procured and sustained the annulment of the June 12 1993 election thought they had successfully buried that epochal historicity in the thick grave that enshroud the country’s chequered political history, that date has shot up and assumed its rightful place as the foremost Democracy Day when the labours of the patriots and martyrs that fought against militarism and civilian democracy was restored and rightly documented.
This year, precisely June 12, 2019, Nigerians will celebrate the real Democracy Day which highlights the gritty and nervy fight Nigerians undertook to rout the military from the country’s politics and re-establish civilian democratic rule. This historical celebration of the rightful date that midwifed the present democratic dispensation was granted by President Muhammadu Buhari via a Presidential Order last year, which boldly decided to break from the sash of thick-hooded conspiracy that sought to bury that historical date and rather divert its glory to May 29 when civilian governments took off in 1999. In releasing the Executive Order that rightly accorded June 12 its rightful place as the country’s Democracy Day. President Buhari decided to lead the country to strike a clean break from a dubious past that was webbed to misappropriate the rightful roots of the present long stretch democratic epoch, deny the heroes of the struggle that brought democracy their rightful and earned places in history and replace these with impostors and transient fortune hunters who misappropriated the fruits of those that laid down their lives for the enthronement of the present democracy.
So after a long 26 years living in denial, the country is, this year, celebrating Democracy Day on its rightful date. In invoking that Presidential Order, President Buhari had rightly mended history, healed open and festering wounds and indeed brought to fruition those indelible words in our national anthem that ‘the labours of our heroes past shall never be in vain’. In recognizing some of the leading lights of the fitful struggle to bring democracy, the government demonstrated a desire to stop the misapplication of honours and recognize it for what it really is. That June 12 rose, several years after its brutal suppression and equally brutal efforts to sustain that wrong shows the staying power of truth over blemished lies.
As a core participant in the efforts to restore the sanctity of June 12 and accord it its rightful place in our country’s history, I see the decision of President Buhari to do right to the festering sore as a crowning of our efforts to do right and stand by that. I see the validation of June 12 as the right move Nigerians need to fire their moral unction and do what is right in all situations, no matter the cost. I see the hallowed place June 12 is getting from this year as a timely message to a citizenry that is being persuaded to trifle with lasting values and mores and embrace base interests because of their mundane pecuniary value. For me and millions of Nigerians who struggled against the brutal military and their civilian collaborators to restore the sanctity of June 12, the declaration of a National Holiday on June 12 and its recognition as Democracy Day is enough reward for the struggle. That this year, twenty-six whole years after that epic event, Nigerians are doing away with the lie that robbed the date of its value and are going back to the roots of this democratic order shows the staying power of truth. It can be persecuted, rubbished, deprived but it can never get buried.
Those who were undeserved beneficiaries of the June 12 struggle did everything to bury June 12. Those who anchored their selfish interests on suppressing June 12 did everything to kill it. Those who see their future selfish interests nestled on killing June 12 did everything to inter that date but, because it is a struggle anchored on justice, it rose triumphant when they least expected and this year, Nigeria is in one boundless crescendo celebrating this date for what it rightly is.
When we recall that some of those that made the loudest noise standing on June 12 are today seized by bitter pain and agony because June 12 is given its rightful place by the Buhari regime, we will better understand what fired some of the people in the struggle. It is obvious that most of these that hustled for photo-ops with Chief MKO Abiola and who vowed and swore to stand and die by June 12 were only hustling for their selfish interests. They neither had the conviction that encased this struggle nor the selfless desire to see that justice was served by the actualization of June 12. They were only positioning themselves for the anticipated nectars of the struggle. That is why most of them are seized with fits of bitterness and anger this year when they should be in their Christmas bests. Their anger is ruled by selfish desires and narrow interests that have made some of them disgruntled stakeholders in a PDP, whose leading lights played pivotal roles in annulling and sustaining the annulment of June 12. Their bitterness betrays their pretensions of standing for the lofty ideals of June 12. It was obvious that when Chief Abiola died, most of these players surveyed the ground for where best to attend to their carnal desires. Some of them were seduced to serve the subsequent military governments. With the advent of civilian government, most of them cozied up to Obasanjo and his PDP who were natural foes of June 12 and what it represents and for 16 years the PDP controlled power, these impostors were comfortable with the shoddy manner June 12 was treated. They went to bed with PDP and forgot June 12 and for them, the struggle was ended because there were no further prospects for their elephantine interests in a June 12 their new allies did everything to inter.
Like a Daniel come to judgment, not many were surprised that the Buhari regime restored June 12 when almost every Nigeria thought the date has become history and had cozied up with the lie that May 29 was the Democracy Day as Obasanjo and his PDP confederates sold. What was rather surprising is that many of those that struggled for photo-op sessions with Chief Abiola and were waving the bandana of June 12 are not happy today because the right thing was done by Buhari. Many of those that reveled as friends and associates of Abiola and who made loud noise about their pre-eminent roles in the struggle for the actualization of June 12 are today very sad that June 12 was indeed actualized. They felt at home that an impostor in May 29 was drafted as democracy day by their collaborators in PDP and are bitter that June 12, the real democracy day is being restored. What more, many of them had frantically tried to pour cold water on that gargantuan effort by Buhari because they are today activists for PDP and the very interests that killed and buried June 12.
But the flipsides of June 12 will not prevent millions of Nigerians from celebrating that historical date for what it is; the very root of the present democratic order. The betrayals that attend June 12 started from the very early days of the struggle when party chieftains that should protect its sanctity traded it to the devious regime that annulled it. It dates back to when the Vice Presidential candidate of that ticket sold out to the military for a price lesser than what Judas betrayed Jesus Christ for. The betrayals were enormous and expansive since then but even in their hefty nature, they are not strong enough to stop its triumph when the Buhari government declared it a national holiday, restored its status as the Democracy Day, apologized to Abiola family, presented Chief Abiola the country’s highest national honour, declared him the winner of June 12 1993 election and honored many who were prominent in the fight for the actualization of June 12 and the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. These were healing balms that attends to such open sore as inflicted not only on Abiola but Nigerians in general.
As Nigerians celebrate the actualization of June 12, its rightful role as the Democracy Day, its dethronement of the impostor of May 29, what should rule our minds is the resolve to say never again will some self-serving interests play the nation that hard card again. And never again will bestial interests deal us such evil bad card of injustice as was done to June 12. Happy celebrations to all Nigerians!
Peter Claver Oparah