Twenty-four years after the botched June 12, 1993 presidential election, which was presumed to have been won by the presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief MKO Abiola, regrets still rent the air, as prominent Nigerians insist the country’s fortunes still plummet.
Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, spokesman of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, Executive Secretary, Nigerian National Summit Group, Tony Uranta, and member of the 2014 National Conference, Wale Okuniyi, yesterday, lamented that the expected results from the struggle have remained unrealised.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s 24th anniversary celebration, Agbakoba, who said he was not totally disappointed with the June 12 struggle because it eventually led to the exit of the military from government added, “that is not to say I am happy because the situation in the country today does not justify the risk, danger and sacrifices we made to ensure the return of democracy.”
After a cursory look at the nation, he said: “Some of us have been tempted to ask whether the military regime we fought to a standstill is not better than the civil rule we struggled to attain, for which the likes of Ken Saro Wiwa; the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief M.K.O. Abiola and others paid the supreme price, and some of us were imprisoned for standing against military dictatorship.”
He agreed that a big blunder was committed by the refusal of civil society groups to participate in the government when the military invited them to join it in reorganising the country. “Imagine what would have been the situation now if we had joined them?”
The prominent lawyer, who accused the political elite of perpetrating underdevelopment said: “If you take a critical look, those mismanaging our fortunes are above 65 and 70 years and they are ready to compromise anything as long as the stay in political offices, and enjoy political relevance among others.”
Uranta, also admitted that the struggle was not a total waste “although, one may conclude that this is the situation, looking at the state of the economy and the chronic poverty in the land. However, one thing that the agitation for democracy, which the June 12, 1993 debacle achieved is an end to military rule.”
He commended Nigerians for their determination to sustain democracy this long, at least for the first time in the history of this nation since independence. This is also a gain but the expected development and benefits of democracy, which the struggle was expected to achieve are not yet there and it is very painful.”
He added: “We must agree that every democracy across the world is having its challenges and people are trying to modify or adjust it to suit their needs, even in the advanced world. Therefore, most of the challenges our democracy is facing now are not peculiar to us. It is, however, incumbent on us to continue to do the right things.”
Insisting that the country still runs a type of unitary system of government, which was brought in by the military after the 1966 coup, Uranta said that “corruption has done a lot of damage, and caused us serious setbacks as a country to the extent that our democracy no longer has a definition. The constitution we operate is another major challenge because it did not go through a referendum, but was foisted on us by the military. The consequences of all these is that the country now operates a shoddy federal system that cannot take us anywhere.”
Odumakin on his part said this period is a season of regrets, looking back at what the June 12, 1993 presidential election struggle hoped to achieve.He said in that one election, Nigerians shoved aside ethnic and religious chauvinism and came out in unity to vote for Abiola and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe, both Muslims.
The North, South West, East spoke with one voice through their votes. If that election was not annulled, we wouldn’t have been in the situation we are today.“There is serious tension in the country today and we are celebrating the 24th anniversary of June 12 without the hope that Nigeria will survive or remain together any moment from now.”
Okunniyi in a statement said there would be a gathering of well-meaning Nigerians, leaders of thought, political activists, and elders statesmen to mark the event titled: “June 12 and the Hope of Equitable Restructuring for Nigeria,” tomorrow at Abiola’s residence in Ikeja.The event is expected to attract personalities like former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and Nobel Laureate, Prof Woke Soyinka.