I have never told any of these men this – they will always be one of the true heroes of Nigeria’s democracy in my eyes. Sometimes I wish they will shed their humility, climb aboard the hills of Abuja and shout their bravery to the entire nation.


It’s been a great week for Nigeria’s democracy.

The country celebrated twenty years of uninterrupted civil rule.

And, that was like a psychological coup, like Muhammad Ali doing the rope-a-dope. President Muhamadu Buhari took a stroll through Eagle Square on May 29 just to cool the jets of his detractors that would have assailed him had he chosen June 12 as his swearing-in date.

Buhari, a retired general, saw the wisdom in moving from a date the military fixed for the nation to remember they did us all a favour by leaving power, to a date Nigerians actually came together as one to make their democratic voice heard.

It’s really heady days in Nigeria. The Nigerian elite lives for today. Tomorrow almost never tracks into their reality, except when it comes to banking enough state loot for the great grandkids they will never meet. They talk about legacies but don’t really have a clue what that means. For the most part, their stories die with them. But here is Buhari; a leader who actually seems to care that tomorrow remembers him for the right reasons.

It’s an unlikely story really. This is Buhari we are talking about. The man they say never forgives. The Northerner they say detests all Southerners. The man they say is such an Islamic extremist he would wipe out all Christians if he can. This is the retired general who a legend claims hates M.K.O Abiola for helping overthrow him back when Nigerian leaders lived by a bus stop called Dodan Barracks.

In the course of researching and filming a documentary on the June 12 crisis, I discovered stories that literally drove me to a hospital bed. Of self-styled heroes who, in reality, shoved Abiola to death; how so-called democrats screamed, “On June 12 We Stand” during the day and dined with the dictators at night.


Now Abiola and Buhari are eternally united in one of the best chapters of Nigeria’s history. Fate has a way of playing tricks on the history books and history has a way of rewarding the bold. Olusegun Obasanjo had a glorious opportunity to honour the man he had known for much of his life and who was the main reason he was president in the first place. But, Obasanjo likes to be the alpha, the sun and the moon and he may have felt that Abiola would have been in the way of that. Goodluck Jonathan had an opportunity to do right but boldness was not the man’s strongest suit.

As with every good thing in our land, the tribe of outrageous follows. This week, that tribe hired praise singers, stormed the radio and television stations and filled the pages of newspapers with tales of their heroism during the June 12 crisis. The truth is that most of them are liars. Some of the men and women telling you they stood with Abiola in his darkest moments were actually the ones who cleared the path to his death. For the most part, the true heroes have remained silent.

In the course of researching and filming a documentary on the June 12 crisis, I discovered stories that literally drove me to a hospital bed. Of self-styled heroes who, in reality, shoved Abiola to death; how so-called democrats screamed, “On June 12 We Stand” during the day and dined with the dictators at night. Once, I had lofty dreams of showing the world the truth of the crisis but I don’t dream that dream anymore. Nigeria is the graveyard of truths.

But, something great came out of the experience. I met men and women who were the real heroes of Nigeria’s fight for democracy. On days like Wednesday, I whisper thanks to God and the ancestors for giving Nigeria men and women like these. This June 12, I took a few minutes to dwell on the gallantry of three of them. When the voice of freedom was on life support, these men hooked their hearts to it and made sure we got to where we are today. Between them, they kept the voice of democracy alive when the army put the muzzle in the throat of Nigeria’s democracy.

One is a governor, another is a publisher and the other is a broadcaster. This is the tale of ultimate bravery. It wasn’t a matter of life and death. It was a matter of what type of gruesome death and when. These men gave voice to democracy. The crazy thing is that these men did not really believe in Abiola as a president. They felt he was too close to the military lords. But, they believed fair was fair. Abiola had won fairly and he deserved to be president. It was not personal. It was what was right. And, that is what Buhari has done.

…there is Dapo Olorunyomi, the unassuming newsman who was one of the first names on General Sani Abacha’s kill list. With his colleagues, they ran a magazine that literally gave dictators fits. When they were driven underground, he teamed up with Uncle Lemi to dream of a voice for freedom.


Gbolahon Olalemi is a name you probably haven’t heard much of. That may be because Uncle Lemi, as I call him, hugs the background. He could have been king but he loves the air outside the palace. He made that first broadcast on Radio Freedom. Jumping from pillar to post, hiding in a car with the late Beko Ransome Kuti as his driver, broadcasting freedom from rooftops and darkened rooms at midnight. When his luck ran out and the military caught up with him, he was marked for a certain death.

Many of you know Kayode Fayemi as the second-term governor of Ekiti State. But long before today, there were times tomorrow was a future he was destined not to see. With Professor Wole Soyinka as his anchor and very few comrades in arms in Europe, he was the force behind Radio Freedom and Radio Kudirat. He escaped death a few times, once a stone throwaway in a hotel room in the Republic of Benin as he plotted to smuggle a radio transmitter into Nigeria. He was a man who stared death in the face so Nigeria may live.

And, there is Dapo Olorunyomi, the unassuming newsman who was one of the first names on General Sani Abacha’s kill list. With his colleagues, they ran a magazine that literally gave dictators fits. When they were driven underground, he teamed up with Uncle Lemi to dream of a voice for freedom. That led to the birth of Radio Freedom. Later, he took that dream to the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), who helped transform it into Radio Kudirat.

I have never told any of these men this – they will always be one of the true heroes of Nigeria’s democracy in my eyes. Sometimes I wish they will shed their humility, climb aboard the hills of Abuja and shout their bravery to the entire nation.

Ose is on twitter at iam_ose