No similarity between June 12 and 2011 polls
BY GBENGA OKE
IT was not surprising that many lovers and followers of the June 12, 1993 elections acclaimed winner, Chief M.K.O Abiola thronged the Excellence Hotel, venue of the 2011 commemoration of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. Abiola’s remembrance has always been a yearly event for the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) for the past 10 years.
By 10 am, the venue of the event was filled to capacity as different people from various destinations trooped in for the programme. They were clad in different attires and the environment was devoid of ethnic and religious divide just as it was in 1993 general elections.
Although, the event was to kick off properly by 11am, it did not start until about 12 pm, yet the people waited patiently for the organizsrs to pronounce the event open. For Otunba Gani Adams, there is nothing so important to him than the remembrance of Late Chief Abiola whom he described as the pillar of democracy in Nigeria.
Personalities present at the event included, Ambassador Segun Olusola, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Otunba Gani Adams, Dr Joe Okei- Odumakin, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, Comrade Ayodele Akele, Senator Suleiman Salawu, His Royal Majesty, Oba Sunday Adelakun, Professor Kolawole Waheed, Comrade Debo Adeniran, Comrade Goodluck Obi, Mr Tony Uranta and his wife, Barong Uranta and Juju maestro, Sir Shina Peters.
Speaking on his thoughts about June 12 and some other national issues, Otunba Adams said Nigeria had missed a lot by failing to learn from the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential elections and the gruesome murder of its presumed winner, Bashorun Abiola.
His words: “We are here today to remind ourselves our nation’s mistakes and failures of the past and to gather for the appraisal of our past so as to set a vision for our future and the theme of the programme, ‘Post election violence and the role of youths in Electoral recovery,’ was chosen to reflect on the issues that divides us as a nation.
“Unfortunately for this country, it has been all along politics of jealousy and ruthless games of running down and killing of our fellow citizens and if Goodluck Jonathan and Namadi Sambo had been killed in those days during their youth service, will they ever become leaders today?” he queried.
Adams continued: “As a people, our major task is how to chart a good course for a peaceful, orderly and progressive development for our country and we should all direct our efforts towards looking into the past, which has brought forward a catalogue of errors and mistakes that resulted in political chaos in our country.”
On the marginalization of the South-West at the federal level, Gani Adams lamented: “It is unfortunate that the Yoruba, who should have supported their fellow compatriots to have representation as the Speaker of the House of Representatives voted their own person out and allowed another tribe to get the position. In as much I am not trying to be tribally sentimental, the crux of the matter is that such attitudes of the South-West representatives are unpatriotic to the interest of the Yoruba nation and it calls for worry when the glory of our region will continue to be sold for partisan politics”.
He went further, “On Sam Omatseye’s sacrilege to the Awolowo family, Mama Hannah Idowu Awolowo has maintained the reputation of her husband since his death in 1987 and she ran the family business despite her old age. It is highly condemnable, wicked, un-warranted and provocative that Chief Obafemi Awolowo that we regard as a deity in the Yoruba race will be insulted. Any attempt to dent the image of Awolowo family is an attempt to stain the image of the Yoruba race and we therefore advise Sam to apologise to the Awolowo family and the entire Yoruba people.”
Also speaking, a leader of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Chief Ayo Opadokun expressed fear over the way and manner some Yoruba leaders had turned the name of Chief Awolowo to score cheap political points.
“I am a known Awoist and a creation of Awolowo and it is sad that some people in the name of Journalism try to cast aspersion on the person of the family that laboured so hard for this zone, a man none of us do not even fit into his shoes talk-less of living up to the expectation he left behind.
So many people claim to be Awoists but they do not know what Awoism is all about. They do not know what his standards, his level of education, his struggle and many battles and do not want to follow the footsteps of Awolowo. But at any convenience, they open their mouths and claim to be Awoists.”
He argued that June 12 remained Nigeria’s democracy day, adding that many of those who make so much noise about June 12 ceased to be consistent in the struggle since 1993.
“May 29 to me is a military democracy day. Without June 12 there can never be May 29 because June 12 engineered and pacified the Yoruba nation in its entirety and I must say that those comparing the June 12 elections to the recent elections we had in April are not being sincere because there is no similarity between both elections.”
Speaking on the theme of the day, “Election violence in Nigeria and Role of our Youths,” the Guest Speaker, Dr Derin Ologbenla of Department of Political Science, University of Lagos, said political violence had been a primary threat to democratic consolidation in Nigeria since independence.
“After 14 years of military rule (1983-1999) and return to civil rule, the attitude of politicians has remained largely unchanged. Rather, disagreements have degenerated into violence more than was the case in the First and Second Republic. Since political office is perceived to be a means to an end, the urge among politicians is to seek to return to political office through the use of force, election rigging and violence before and after elections.”
Ologbenla said, “reasons why youths are vulnerable to politicians and predisposed to violence include economic dis-empowerment, adventurous character and over exuberance, which make some of these political thugs brag publicly of attacking or intending to wreck havoc without fear of arrest or prosecution.”
Proffering ways out of political violence in Nigeria, Ologbenla explained, “government must criminalise and enforce laws against recruiting youths as thugs by individuals, politicians or political parties while state and federal government should enforce existing laws against political violence and politicians found responsible for orchestrating violence should face the law.”
Although for some politicians, June 12 seems to have come and gone, the memory lingers for others especially in the South-West zone, whose son paid the supreme price in the long trek to entrench democracy in the country.