The big question: Where were you on June 12, 1993? I was 40 years old and was editing Weekend Concord, the breezy, hottest, human angle, Saturday tabloid newspaper owned by the celebrated Chief MKO Abiola. We all found ourselves at the ringside of history covering the worst theft, the worst political corruption and the worst blatant violation ever inflicted on Nigeria: the annulment of the June 12 Presidential election. An annulment of the votes and the hopes of the people of Nigeria packed and offered by Abiola under the name “Hope 93.”
It was supposed to be the dawn of a new day, a new era. A day Chief Abiola was making history and emerging as the Nigerian dream. Here was the man we all buried our differences to vote for as our President, irrespective of tribe, ethnicity, religion and other divisive factors. We buried them all to vote overwhelming for the people’s man Bashorun MKO Abiola but the “nabobs of negativism”—apology to Spiro Agnew—aborted the baby and threw Abiola into solitary confinement where he was only allowed to read the Bible and the Koran until he was eventually poisoned to death by being offered a lethal cup of tea.
We the people that voted for Abiola and fought for him never imagined we would live to see a day like this when we would sing redemption song. We thank God that justice has been done and the wrongs of the past 25 years righted with tons of apologies to the Abiola family and all Nigerians who elected Abiola as their President. In the words of my outspoken good friend Femi Fani-Kayode, “If God can use a donkey to do the right thing in the Bible then he can use Buhari to do the right thing for MKO Abiola and June 12. Those that are complaining about his gesture should desist from doing so.”
I am going back in time to bring you my Weekend Concord Press Clips column which I wrote 25 years ago on the week of June 12, 1993 at the point they were stealing our votes and raping our democracy. Today, like the phoenix, we have risen from the ashes of sadness to be anointed with the “oil of gladness.” (Psalm 45:7)
Our World Cup campaign kicks off today. In the euphoria and spirit of the moment, I wish the Super Eagles good luck as they face Croatia. All we are saying: Go and win! Win it for MKO—Nigeria and Africa’s Pillar of Sports. May the Good Lord give us victory. May we score as President Buhari has scored for Nigeria with June 12. Cometh the hour, cometh our men in Russia!
Nigeria’s saddest week
Americans call it the majesty of democracy. The majestic feat of conceding defeat soon after you have been defeated in a democratic election. The majesty of George Bush standing at the podium on election night and telling Americans shortly after his defeat by Bill Clinton: “The people have spoken and we respect the majesty of the democratic system.”
In America, the land where democracy is king, it can be treated with all royal majesty. But here in Nigeria, democracy is a slave girl waiting to be raped. Here, democracy is nothing but a poor prisoner momentarily set free, only to be returned to the cage and to be raped. They are raping her right now. Don’t ask me: who? I can hear the poor girl screaming for help.
I can see the man with twenty-five million “signatures” raping her. There is another strong man behind the cloak also taking part in the rape but I can’t see his face. Nobody else can see his face. But you can see his hand in it. You can even see his famous legs kicking the poor girl and asking her to stop screaming. They are raping our democracy!
An American tried to raise an alarm, warning that his country would not take kindly to the gangsterism of violating the innocence of the poor girl. But what did they do to the poor American? They bundled him out of this country within 72 hours. All because he was poking his nose too deep into the internal matters of the poor girl, to verify whether she is being raped or not.
They waited for the American to leave the country. Then they started raping the girl again and withholding our election results. It’s so sad. It’s so shameful. Last week was Nigeria’s defining moment. A moment of hope. The hope of democracy that we were promised. A promise that not everybody trusted because of fear. The fear of a hidden agenda.
“I swear by Allah, I have no hidden agenda,” the man at the top would have to cry himself hoarse from the top of his rock. But still his followers wouldn’t believe him. It is a terrible thing if people lose their faith in a man they are supposed to believe in. What is leadership if it is not anchored on truth, on credibility, on hope? The hope of a leader who you can trust. The hope of a leader who would make tomorrow better.
Last week was the defining moment for Nigeria. A week to choose and to reject. A week to start a new beginning. A week to choose the man who would start mending our cracked walls. A week to bring in the plumber who would fix our leaking pipe. A week to call in the electrician who would ensure that we don’t continue to live in darkness. A week to vote for the man who rose from poverty to riches and is promising to lead us to the Promised Land where poverty is abolished.
After eight years of solitude, the iron cage was opened and the bird of democracy flew out into freedom. Into the light of the morning sun. Into the frontiers of a fresh start. Into the Cape of Good
Hope. Into the arms of a man called Bashorun MKO Abiola.
It was the proudest week to be a Nigerian. Nigerians voted as if they were voting with vengeance. They voted against the system that had impoverished and frustrated them all these years. They voted to free themselves from the peaceful graveyard of a bad economy. They voted against a system which concentrates wealth in the hands of kings and their horsemen. They voted with their heads and from the emptiness of their stomachs.
It didn’t matter whether the man they were voting for is from the north or south or east or west or centre. They voted for a man of proven integrity. A man whose yes is yes and no is no.
It was the proudest week to be a Nigerian as the figures filtered in showing the man was in the lead.
It was a great moment to be a Nigerian as we all voted with one accord. Even the international observers praised us for succeeding in conducting a free and fair election.
And just as you are waiting and waiting for the good news to be announced, they announce the bad news instead, showing the rape of democracy. This is Nigeria’s saddest week.