I knew the time would come. When the gestation period is over for a pregnant woman, she must surely deliver. It does not matter how – whether through normal delivery or caesarian operation. June was all along like the pregnant woman. She was bound to be delivered.
On June 12, 2014, I had moved a motion at the National Conference that not only should June 12 be declared a national holiday and the real Democracy Day, but that Chief MKO Abiola and all the souls of the faithful departed who gallantly lost their lives fighting for the realisation of June 12 be remembered and immortalized. I demanded for one minute’s silence for those heroes. The leadership of the Conference, led by Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, agreed with me and a minute’s silence was accordingly observed. The details of this can be found at pages 185 – 192 of my latest book, “Nigeria, We Hail Thee”. The original motion for special recognition of June 12 had been moved by Hon. Orok Duke.
I thank President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring June 12 Nigeria’s Democracy Day and honouring Chief MKO Abiola, and my late mentor, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, with the highest and second highest honours in Nigeria.
To me, it is not the right argument that PMB did it for political reasons. Yes, he may very well have done it to shore up his battered political image and fast dwindling democratic credentials. But, the inescapable fact is that he has done the right thing for which history will remember him. This is the more reason, I believe the argument should now go, why he should retire quietly to his Daura home, having done one great thing for which he would be remembered.
When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wrote his scathing letter to PMB in December 2017, I applauded the letter for the import of its correct contents, even though I am not a fan of OBJ. I argued then that we should listen to the message and not look at the messenger. In the same vein here, we should look at the historical significance of PMB’s political master stroke on the June 12 brouhaha and not him as a person, or the ulterior motives for which he did it. I applaud him for this singular act that breathed fresh exhilarating oxygen into his tack luster performance.
Would Abiola and Gani have accepted these awards?
The argument of political pundits and critical voices should now turn to whether these honours, though well-deserved by Abiola and Gani, would have been accepted by them, given the prevailing atmosphere of morbid fear, executive rascality, recession of human rights, rule of law and civil liberties. The answer is a categorical “no”. Though well intended, even if for political reasons by PMB, I am convinced MKO and Gani would have outrightly rejected the national honours, if they were alive. I will give my reasons anon. This my write-up is shorn of all legal arguments as to whether PMB followed due process in making his declaration. This can be corrected immediately. Nothing good comes at a bad time, and nothing bad comes at a good time.
On December 14, 2008, barely nine months before his death, Chief Gani outrightly rejected the national honour of OFR (Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), bestowed on him by the then President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. In rejecting the honour and giving his reasons, Gani said, inter alia:
“Today I am 70 years and eight months old. I am struck down by lung cancer for which I have been receiving medical treatment outside my country because my country Nigeria has one of the poorest medical services in the world but is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of revenue.”
Question: has anything changed? Answer: “No”. Even PMB has himself been receiving medical treatment in London, outside Nigeria. Deprecating the poor socio-economic and political situation in the country, Gani was emphatic that: “whether now or in the life beyond, how can I wake up in the morning and look at the insignia of honour bestowed on me under a government that persecutes …Nuhu Ribadu?” (Whom he believed did a great job on the anti-corruption fight).
Does this government not persecute political opponents, opposition and critical voices? Answer: yes. This government is intolerant of opposition and plurality of voices or opinions.
Gani had continued:
“A government that covertly and overtly encourages corruption has no honour in its arsenal of power to dispense honour. Consequently, I reject the dishonor of OFR termed ‘honour’ given to me by the Federal Government … I wish to reiterate that, in all ramifications of human existence, the masses have found themselves in the doldrums of pain occasioned by gross mis-governance of the country … the decadent socio-economic situation does not engender the well being of ordinary people and there is no hope in sight. In view of the foregoing, I reject the award of OFR.”
The question is whether anything has changed for the better since December 15, 2008, when Gani, in rejecting the Yar’Adua national honour, listed eight critical areas the then government had failed. I am afraid, nothing has changed. The situation has rather gotten worse. The areas Gani had listed included “the abolition of poverty from the face of the country, the unqualified need to preserve, defend and protect the fundamental human rights; the governance of our country through democratic process; the subjection of everybody and everything to and under the rule of law; the right of the people to free and qualitative education at all levels; the right of the people to free and qualitative health services and facilities; the strengthening of our economy through sound development of infrastructures and corruption” (holistic and all-embracing fighting of same, without discrimination).
Gani had ended his rejection of the national honour with a “clarion call on the suffering masses” to “unite and fight for your legitimate right to the abolition of poverty. Why should you continue to suffer while your leaders and their families continue to enjoy the best at your expense?”. Thus, Gani would have rejected the honour of GCON. But even then, I thank PMB for doing the right thing, just like Yar’Adua had done.
As regards the matyr of democracy, Chief MKO Abiola, who paid the supreme price in his quest for genuine redemptive messiahnism, he would also have rejected the GCFR given him, except certain things were first done.
Recall that Abiola had rejected his bail which was burdened with unacceptable conditionalities. If Abiola were alive, he would demand that before he accepts the GCFR honour (reserved only for presidents and Heads of State), the presidential elections in which he clearly emerged the winner in the freest, fairest and most credible elections ever held in Nigeria, should first be declared by the present INEC which succeeded Professor Humphrey Nwosu’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), which had conducted the election. He would insist that he be first formally pronounced “President, Commander-In-Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria”, before accepting same. He would insist that his campaign slogan of “farewell to poverty” be accomplished, and the masses raised from doldrums and their state of nadir.
To me, the argument of what reasons actuated PMB in declaring June 12 our democracy day, and giving post-humous awards to Abiola and Gani, does not arise at all. If anything, the very acts themselves form the very prong and catalyst to hold PMB strictly accountable to the ideas, philosophy, and democratic credentials and convictions that drove these two great sons of Nigeria, nay, Africa, which his government lacks in tons.
These include socio justice, egalitarianism, respect for human rights, observance of the rule of law and due process, treatment of all Nigerians equally, wholesome and non-selective fight of corruption, good, transparent and accountable governance, respect for the will of the people through a fair, just, credible and respectable electoral process, etc. this government is short of these glittering credentials.
In endorsing and applauding PMB for this historic feat, let me add that he must carry out the necessary legal, constitutional and legislative requirements to bring this to fruition. For now, the pronouncement remains in the realm of executive fiat. PMB should also go ahead, with the necessary political will, to immediately restructure the lopsided Nigerian federation, remove the glaring nepotistic, tribalistic and cronyistic imbalances and enthrone true, fiscal federalism. He should also ensure that the June 1993 presidential election results are officially declared and Abiola formally pronounced the winner, and, therefore, president of Nigeria. His name, undoubtedly, will be inscribed in gold in Nigeria, whether or not he goes ahead to contest the 2019 presidential election. To me, he should not bother to contest, even though it is his constitutional right to do so. He should play the Nelson Mandela card. God bless Nigeria.
The need for truth and reconciliation committee
Perhaps, what the June 12 imbroglio has thrown up is the urgent need, aside from immediate restructuring, for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Many questions are left unanswered: who killed Abiola? How and why did Abacha die? Who killed Abiola’s wife, Kudirat, the Amazon who died in the June 12 struggle? Who killed Bagauda Kaltho? Who flaming killed Alfred Rewane? Who killed Bola Ige? Who annulled the election? Why was it annulled? Why were the Igbo massacred during the three-year pogrom of a civil war? Why were the three R’s of Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation never achieved? What has happened to our oil wealth since its first discovery at Oloibiri in 1956? Why is Nigeria burdened with exceptionally bad leadership and a shamelessly docile followership that is too scared to hold leadership accountable and responsible to it? The Oputa Panel report will be very useful here also. We need answers to the whys, wheres, hows, whats, etc, etc.
Nigeria, we hail thee.
Thoughts for the week
“I’ve learned that fear limits you and your vision. It serves as blinders to what may be just a few steps down the road for you. The journey is valuable, but believing in your talents, your abilities, and your self-worth can empower you to walk down an even brighter path. Transforming fear into freedom – how great is that?”
– Soledad O’Brien
“A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.”
– Bob Dylan
“I’m saying, to be a hero means you step across the line and are willing to make a sacrifice, so heroes always are making a sacrifice. Heroes always take a risk. Heroes always deviant. Heroes always doing something that most people don’t and we want to change – I want to democratise heroism to say any of us can be a hero.”
– Philip Zimbard