“How was your Democracy Day?” “I woke up early, listened to President Bola Tinubu’s nationwide address, and I went about my daily affairs.” “Yesterday was a public holiday. You were expected to stay at home and have a good rest.” “I can understand if some people enjoyed the holiday, after all it is now more expensive to buy litres of fuel for your vehicle. As things are right now, Nigerians would jump at any opportunity to save fuel costs. Those days of going about like small-pox are gone. People now calculate how they move about. But people like us who always have one thing or the other to do, we have no option. We have to keep the hustle alive. The hustle is real, men.” “Some people don’t know how to relax in this country, and you are one of them. By the time the high cost of fuel drills holes in your pocket, you will adjust.” “How does one relax? How can anyone in this pressure cooker of a society in which we have found ourselves relax? What has democracy brought us?” “A lot. We are no longer under the shackles of military rule.” “Democratic rule is better measured in terms of its dividends. Where are the dividends?” “I can point to a few. Democracy has given the people the power to choose their own leaders. It has created a new set of leaders. We are in the seventh transition within the Fourth Republic. In 1993, the military may have annulled the presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola and denied the people the Hope that he promised them, but here we are in 2023, President Tinubu says he is determined to restore Hope.”
“I saw the same connection that you are trying to draw in President Tinubu’s speech yesterday. I have also heard some people saying that Tinubu and MKO share common traits. You know, I have this gut feeling that the comparison may be overstretched.” “Tinubu was part of the pro-democracy struggle. He stood at the barricades. When he talks about Democracy Day, he has the requisite credentials to do so.” “I sort of like the speech though. The only part I find funny is the reference to Arnold Toynbee. Has Tinubu ever read Toynbee? His speech writers should make him sound natural. They should maintain a consistent tone that projects his ownership of the thoughts. One of these days, they would even make him quote Noam Chomsky. Ha Ha. Ha. But in terms of sentiments, the speech was on point” “My brother, don’t worry about quotations. Leaders are allowed to show knowledge. Tinubu can even quote Socrates if he wishes. My own take-away is that the President paid tribute to MKO Abiola, as hero and martyr of democracy, the man who stood for democracy, and whose sacrifice became the catalyst for Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999. The President has asked us to embrace the idea of sacrifice and emulate Abiola and that his government will reward us all with infrastructure, and welfare programmes. He also paid tribute to the heroes of democracy.” “We are all used to that rhetoric. That is the same rhetoric that has been drummed into our ears since states of the South West began to celebrate Democracy Day on 29 May, until the Federal Government separated 29 May, the day of presidential inauguration from 12 June, which the Buhari administration set aside as Democracy Day and National Holiday. That is one good thing President Buhari did.
He also gave MKO a post-humous GCFR award. But who has sacrifice helped in this country? What has been the gain of the MKO Abiola family? What has anybody done for them? What has anybody done for the families of all the other heroes and heroines who led the struggle for Nigeria’s “second independence”, as Tinubu calls it. Joe Igbokwe has written a useful book titled Heroes of Democracy (1999) in which he provides a comprehensive list of persons who participated in the June 12 struggle, and those who died. Remember the founding General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Chima Ubani. Remember Bagauda Kaltho. Remember those four young men who hijacked a Nigeria Airways Airbus A310 in October 1993, in protest against the annulment of the June 12 presidential election. They were teenage students of Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA).” “What are you driving at? Neither MKO Abiola nor his supporters resisted military tyranny because they wanted to die so that their families could benefit.” “Have you ever heard of any revolutionary, change agent or defender of progressive causes who sets out to die as an ambition? Such persons are often consumed by the contradictions of their societies and their times. But they leave lessons behind. They alter the course of history for good. Please, tell me: have we learnt any lessons from Nigeria’s debacle between 1993 and 1999, and after?” “Societies evolve.” “And in what direction is Nigeria evolving?” “We have hope.” “Hope. What hope? In 1993, Abiola’s slogan was “Hope 93”. In 2023, 30 years later, Tinubu is still looking for that hope. He wants to capture and restore it.
In 1993, Abiola preached a message of “farewell to poverty”. In 2023, that same poverty has developed such roots and metastasised so badly like a cancerous organ, we are now told it has a new identity: multidimensional poverty. I guess 30 years is long enough for anything to become multidimensional.” “You should learn to look at the positive side of things.” “I am trying. In 1993, before the Babangida administration stopped the announcement of results, the then National Electoral Commission (NEC) had reported that Abiola was leading in 19 out of 30 states and the Federal Capital Territory: all the states in the South-West, five of the nine Northern states including Kano; three out of the seven states in the SouthEast, and four out of the seven states in the Middle Belt. Abiola ran on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Ethnicity did not matter. Religion was not an issue. It is a crying shame that 30 years later, Nigeria has gone back in history. Today, the politics of ethnicity and religion has divided the country. We have gone from bad to worse.” “1993 is not 2023, my friend. The times have changed. Our democracy continues to grow.” “Tell me how.” “Today, for example, on the 13th day of June, in the year of our Lord 2023, President Tinubu shall proclaim the inauguration of Nigeria’s 10th National Assembly and the lawmakers shall choose their own leaders.” “Very good. A major event immediately after President Tinubu’s first Democracy Day in office. Have you been reading the news?” “What about the news? Journalists are always spinning the news to suit their own biases and the expectations of their sponsors.” “Don’t say that. Journalists hold a mirror up to society. The leadership race in the National Assembly has been dogged by so-called party supremacy, the hypocrisy of the political elite, rancour, corruption, division and manipulations. Quite typical.” “Nothing will happen. It shall be well. The APC has spoken. Tinubu has spoken.” “Spoken what? Are you not aware that there are aggrieved parties who are ready to assert the independence of the legislative arm of government? In fact, are you not aware that the Chairman of the ruling APC advised the anointed persons for positions of presiding officers to arrive early at the Assembly or camp out there overnight to prevent what happened in 2015 under similar circumstances?” “What happened in 2015?” “Go and find out.
CONTINUES NEXT WEEK