Politics and Policy

Democratic Parody: Before and After HOPE ’93 – By Olaniyi Ayodele

We shall complain, appeal and arraign. We will make the world listen to the facts of our condition, we will fight in every way we can for freedom, democracy and social betterment – (Resolution of 5th Pan-African Congress).

Everything was literally in shambles, as there was no political stability. If it were today, no one would invest in such uncertain fate. That should explain the reason why there have been only a single set of political profiteers in the country for decades now. There was need to return to a more lenient and user-friendly dispensation – many call it democracy but with what I have seen, it doesn’t really go and do beyond what it is described as. “Government of the people, by the people and for the people”.

 Mandela fought to replace minority rule with majority rule, we are fighting for the same in Nigeria as only a partition of our armed forces are ruling us – Abiola 

Nigeria witnessed a lot of power topple because of two significant reasons; dissatisfaction in political development and the culprit itself “corruption”. It is ironic, however that, the so-called reformers who had their roots and backed up in the security wing of the nation did not do any better in the leadership capacity.  Instead, I can only say they made matters worse. Safe to say, no one gives it up after tasting so much power and access. As you have presumed,  today is not about the ‘whats’ and ‘what nots’ of Nigerian military administrations, though a few of them played significant roles in toppling what most saw and still see as the most democratic affair that has ever occurred on the Nigerian soil, if not Africa as a whole.

June 12, 1993, is, unfortunately, not widely regarded as a remarkable day in Nigeria today.  However, history is so dynamic that even the ones that ruined the future are not at the liberty to expunge their roles from it. When we tell the tales of the Nigerian state and how we got here, the popular belief is that if only the 1993 General Elections had not been annulled, Nigeria would have become the foremost nation in Africa under a leader with actual plans. I cannot disagree, because this notion was created the moment Nigerians were not given the opportunity to decide whether it was going to be a good or bad Government. Since historical trails are all about perspectives and futuristic assumptions, let’s try a little of both.  Not to worry, this is intended to be fictional.

What Nigerians Thought

Young Nigeria experienced a lot of shift in power within the period between independence and the inception of the Fourth (4th) Republic. Democracy and good governance were the promises of all the leaders who assumed office, be it elected or by military assumption. Democracy and its provisions, especially the issue of human rights, was a myth that existed but was not present within the Nigerian state. Dissatisfaction was recurrently expressed and the remedy was toppling of the already existing structure by a group of more dedicated and strategic young military officers. This was already the norm and we were fine by it, though I was an embryo.

The cat with nine (9) lives was once seen as the messiah, as he had a good plan of restoring order in Nigeria and making sure that democracy thrived, but Nigerians ignored certain questions: Was anyone of the Military Heads of State democratically elected? With the ego that accompanies the camouflage military color, is it possible to relinquish such absolute power to a bloody civilian, as they would refer to the man in danshiki or the woman in iro and buba attire. Subconsciously, Nigerians knew it was a wild goose chase but being desperate can calm you enough to get a clear head-shot within what might not really be a close range.

Nigerians were desperate for change. We needed hope and you know what? MKO Abiola brought exactly what was wanted. He saw through the cajole of the ruling few and equated them with the minority rule that was being fought against in South Africa. He made himself a viable opposition by doing what most people feared and still fear today: spearheading a resistance.

What the world thought and still think 

The world thought Nigeria was ready. Everyone in the international political scene was excited to see Nigeria accomplish the feats that at the time was prominent only in the Western Bloc. MKO was popular, wealthy and influential. He had friends in high places, both the ones he made and the ones that made him. He was ready, Nigeria was ready – Military rule was done for. Little did they know that “when an African man is on uniform, rule of law is as good as what he dictates“.

Nigerians and foreign observers described the election as the freest and fairest Nigeria had ever experienced at the time, which recorded that Abiola was leading the polls. What the world did not know was that there was a plan already on ground which had counter plans in case of unforeseen or well calculated circumstances. The world, till today, believes Abiola won the election but there was a win for the elements responsible for the sabotage as the annulment, though described with technical and bureaucratic terms, was just a few person’s counter plan in case things don’t go as they anticipated.

What Nigeria thinks – My perspective

This is not an avenue to delve into descriptions or factual representation of the series of events that precipitated the Nigerian democracy which was finally delivered in a broken jar. However, it is a raw expression of what I feel happened. The different toppling of administrations before the Fourth (4th) Republic were all calculated plans of the few minority that Abiola called out in the speech that caused his detention and death. I un-apologetically say that Nigeria was and has remained victim of misplaced priorities and evident misappropriation of common knowledge.

Only a few who have always being at the helm of affairs still remain there today. Though some seem incapacitated, but not obsolete as they have long procured shares in the future of the country, reaping massive dividends today. That date, June 12, 1993. I had not being born – in fact I would spend 15 extra days in my mother’s womb before coming forth to join in the protests – means my knowledge of the events that preceded and followed the annulled general elections were gained from books, classrooms and historians. I have recorded observations, cheap talks, sentimental discourse, objective view, e.t.c. All of them obviously vary, and there won’t be any need to start listing them out one after the other.

It is, however, pertinent to note that, Nigeria missed its chance at democracy – just like that popular saying, “Opportunity comes but once“, in this case with hope of continuity. Nobody has taking up the mantle to continue what this martyr Abiola started.

Democracy is a wide and wild concept and still remains one of the most controversial topical issues across the world today due to different representations and misrepresentation over the years. Though, there was hand-over of power from military to civilian administrators, but who did they deceive really? A Military man handed over power to a military man on a full traditional regalia, with much emphasis on his previous interest in democracy due to his decision to hand over power to civilian as promised by his predecessor who was murdered in cold blood (the conspiracy to that is not ours to discuss, or maybe it is).

It all boils down to the fact that the Nigerian political arena is still arranged along military and ethnic lines, and the only time Nigerians have exercised their democratic rights to decide who rules them was June 12, 1993. Unfortunately, it was taken away from them and replaced with what the few minority in uniform deemed better than a bloody civilian who wasn’t good enough.

Up until May 29, when a previously known duplicitous fellow was unconsciously forced down Nigerians’ throats.

Olabode Adeniyi, of, where this post was orginally published. Minimal editing has been effected, with the consent of the author

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