Encounter With a Fellow Nigerian, By Dele Agekameh
Regrettably, what we experience on a daily basis in the country today is a call for restructuring that is taking a defaming turn all over the place. There are dissidents everywhere, with each one calling for a good bargain under the country’s sovereignty.
A few days back, I was engaged in a discussion with a fellow Nigerian, someone a bit older, around Surulere area of Lagos. The discussion centered around the goings-on in the country. At some point, the issue of Democracy Day, which has become an annual ritual, following the return to civil rule in 1999, with Nigeria having endured a torrid era on the back of the infamous annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, came to the fore.
I would never have thought that the issue of which day, between June 12 and May 29, should be regarded as Nigeria’s Democracy day could still stir up such raw anger in Nigerians. As soon as I struck that cord by just mentioning that this last Monday, May 29, 2017, had been declared a public holiday to mark this year’s Democracy Day, tempers flew.
You could vividly notice the anger in the arena, particularly in one man’s face as he looked casually at me and exclaimed:”Hmmm, Nigeria is a funny country. We like deceiving ourselves.” I quickly cut in and asked him:”Sir, I cannot understand your concern over this issue?” The man cleared his throat, and with subdued anger, he said:”You see, to be frank with you, Nigeria’s Democracy day is June 12 and not any other date all these political adventurers want to enforce on us.”
He went further:”Obasanjo is the architect of this whole grandiose confusion. He was a direct beneficiary of the pains, the labour and the anguish of a fellow Egba man, the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola. As we all know, Abiola won the June 12, 1993 presidential election but the powers that be at that time, prevented him from reaping the fruit of his labour by annulling, in the most brazen and callous manner, that election. That threw the country into total political darkness for which we are still to extricate ourselves till date.”
I listened attentively to the man without making any attempt to interrupt him whatsoever, until he got to a stage where he took a deep breath, fixed his eyes permanently on me for a while and then shook his head as if in regret. It was then I summoned courage to say one or two things. I told him pointblank that many Nigerians, including myself, share in the agony of that unjustifiable annulment which plunged the country into a serious political crises and further divided the country.
At this point, the man cleared his throat once more and exploded:”You see, I am sure you will agree with me that (Olusegun) Obasanjo was foisted on Nigerians as president in 1999 in order to placate the South-West. Not only that. He was considered a good replacement for a fellow Egba man who had been cheated. What then would you have expected from a person like that? The least anyone could have expected was for him to give honour to whom honour was due. That he never did. Instead, he went into a long roller-coaster and never, for once, acknowledged the great contributions of the prodigious MKO to national political development.”
“To add insult upon injury, the ungrateful Obasanjo or OBJ as he is fondly called, turned his own swearing-in date of May 29, as Nigeria’s Democracy Day. From then on, attempts were made to erase June 12, 1993 from Nigeria’s political calendar. Mind you, the date, June 12 means much more to the average Nigerian than May 29, which was just the beginning of another political jamboree in the country. So, if I may ask you, who actually is fooling who?”
…our leaders are standing akimbo as if waiting for divine miracle to come and right the wrongs in the society. It is high-time that the political merchants or political entrepreneurs in our midst gave way to genuine discussions on how to build a virile and united nation where every nationalities will find identity.
Honestly, the man’s admonition over the issue of which date deserves to be declared as Democracy Day in Nigeria brought back a feeling of nostalgia over the way and manner the late MKO was shuffled into Nigeria’s ever lengthening political casualty list. At the time of that election, I was a staff of Tell magazine, Nigeria’s foremost news magazine at that time, which was involved in the struggle for the emancipation of the country from the iron rule of the jackboots. So that annulment was another stab in the back of those of us who believe in democracy as a system of government that can guarantee equal opportunities for Nigerians to compete in the market place of ideas.
In MKO was a man loved by many across the spectrum of the country. He touched lives. He demonstrated humility and uncanny love for humanity. Though, as a human being, he may have had his own frailties because, as they say, no one is perfect, but it was obviously clear that his perfections and good deeds overwhelmed whatever imperfection anybody could attribute to him. That was why from the south, east, west and north, people trooped out in their large numbers to cast their votes for him only for his trusted friends to betray him at the end of the day.
The story of MKO and the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election result will forever remain a sore thumb in the political evolution of the country. It is quite clear that there are some anti-democratic forces masquerading as pseudo-democrats who, rather than see democracy practiced and nurtured to an acceptable political culture in Nigeria, will continue to cut corners and attempt to propagate their own concept of democracy, which is centered on “chop-I-chop”. It is these adherents of chop-i-chop democracy and their faceless collaborators all over the place that are the real enemies of the people. They will never allow any democratic structure to take proper roots in Nigeria as long as they continue to milk our common patrimony without any consideration of how to replenish it.
The nature of the political terrain in which we operate is infinitely more complex, requiring more transparency than it was when we embarked on a fresh path of nation building on May 29, 1999. The challenges facing us in the pursuit of that same task today are daunting. Obviously, there is a new global dynamic of increasingly interdependent nation-states. This means that specific questions of governance and society, the criteria of determining the source and focus of political power, its limitations and ends, require the highest level of intellectual acuity to analyse.
Paul Kennedy, a famous analyst once described Nigeria as a member of the Third World’s ‘third world’. We should, therefore, bear it in mind that this would seem to render the task of the country’s political thinkers even more challenging at this point in our evolution as a nation.
Regrettably, what we experience on a daily basis in the country today is a call for restructuring that is taking a defaming turn all over the place. There are dissidents everywhere, with each one calling for a good bargain under the country’s sovereignty. Many have turned it into their major pre-occupation, sowing seeds of discord everywhere at every available opportunity. Yet, our leaders are standing akimbo as if waiting for divine miracle to come and right the wrongs in the society. It is high-time that the political merchants or political entrepreneurs in our midst gave way to genuine discussions on how to build a virile and united nation where every nationalities will find identity.
My fellow countryman’s vituperation were clearly not off target. They were straight to the point. In fact, he said quite a lot of other unprintable things which I cannot feature here but one could see the concern and patriotism in him. He is one of the many Nigerians out there who are rightly very concerned about the way the country is being run or the way we are going. It is quite obvious that unless we carry out a quick, prompt and timely surgical operation on this entity called Nigeria, rather than deluding ourselves, we might be headed for golgotha or a catastrophe of very high magnitude.
By the way, why do we continue to have impositions in our democratic culture in Nigeria?
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