June 12, 1993, is a date that should linger long in our memories because it’s the dawn of a new era in Nigeria. Like every other year, special celebrations were observed in honour of late MKO Abiola and the birth of democracy in Nigeria. ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with the children of the late hero about this special day…
‘Government has not been fair to MKO’ -HAFSAT ABIOLA COSTELLO
June 12 is here again, any special celebration in remembrance of late father, MKO Abiola?
More than two decades now, what will you say you miss about him?
Everything. He was special, larger-than-life.
What is the effect of June 12 on democracy?
I think June 12 democratised democracy, forcing the fight for power out of its hitherto intra-elite confines to accommodate the demands of all Nigerians for a political system that could meet the needs of all our people. Before June 12, a military solution to our political problems would have been seen as the final word. With all their weapons and in spite of their liberal use of the instruments of repression, the military regimes of IBB and Abacha could not silence the June 12 movement and the popular demand for true democracy, not the negotiated kind that Professor Soyinka described as the five fingers of one leprous hand. Now, Nigeria is at a stage where it is generally accepted that the people confer legitimacy on the government through the electoral process.
Will you say the government has been fair enough to MKO and his wife?
No, it has not been fair as it has done little to acknowledge the role they played in the course of the struggle.
MKO has not been properly immortalised. In what way do you think it could be done to remember the great hero?
I leave that to the government to work out. There are several viable options.
Do you think the coming generation will still remember June 12?
It’s not likely that the coming generation will remember June 12 or anything else since history is not taught in our high school curriculum. We should change that. We can’t on one hand say that our people have short memories while on the other fail to teach our children our history. The latter will result in the former.
Should June 12 be declared a public holiday nationwide?
Why not? It’s a landmark event in Nigeria’s political history where people known to be ethnocentric and biased in favour of their religious affiliations set aside such narrow concerns and united behind a man, conferring him with a democratic mandate that he and many others fought to actualize at great costs. June 12 was a national election. The annulment betrayed the hopes of all Nigerians and the struggle to end military rule resulted in democracy that is enjoyed across the country. So, of course, there should be a national recognition of it. The breach is what is mysterious and inexplicable.
Can you assess former President Jonathan’s regime?
I think the former President meant well for Nigeria but was caught up with political concerns and did not face the governance challenges squarely, perhaps believing he could address them in his next term. Unfortunately, politics crowds out governance. If a leader priorities the former, it will be at the cost of the latter. Yet, the truth is, it is the governance issues that will address the needs of the poor, and our failure to address them leaves the poor and everyone else vulnerable to the threats of terrorism, vandalism and other social ills. So, it’s unfortunate that leaders continue to get distracted by concerns about power to the detriment of delivering solutions to our governance challenges.
What are the things you want Buhari to do in his first month of reign?
President Buhari is already doing what Nigeria and Nigerians need him to do by focusing on the security issue, after which he will likely begin tackling the corruption hydra in the public sector. In short, he is facing governance. This is to be commended. One hopes that all political leaders will begin to prioritise governance now that elections are over, for which we need leaders to work together to deliver real benefits to the impoverished citizenry. My dad spoke about Nigerians saying farewell to poverty. That can’t happen when all our time is spent fighting over political spoils instead of figuring on how to make the political system work for the poor.
‘Government should pronounce MKO winner of June 12 election’ -JAMIU ABIOLA
Any special celebration for June 12?
Yes, we had a programme that was well attended. One was coordinated by. Otunba Gani Adams, a lot of people were in attendance.
What is the effect of June 12 on democracy in Nigeria?
It produced democracy. We thank God for it. At least, power was taken away from the military.
More than two decades now, what will you say you miss about your father?
He was a dynamic person, he could fill any void. It is so unfortunate that he can’t again. We believe he is in heaven right now.
MKO has not been properly immortalised. In what way do you think this could be done to remember the great hero?
It will be great if the Federal Government can take the fact that MKO won that election. He should be post humorously pronounced the president. A monument should also be built after him.