June 12 Annulment: That Usual Yoruba Gragra; That Talking Drum By Adoyi Ali
As a Nigerian, I share the pains of other Nigerians all over the world who narrowly lost the June 12th presidential election to the Military junta under the self-imposed president, Ibrahim Babangida. Today IS a reminder of the day we all thought the military took its last breathe in the country. If not for anything, we would have had democracy before 1999. One other painful aspect of the annulment was the eventual action of the then Military government that consequently led to the arrest and the detention of MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the election. It’s painful that Abiola died in jail. Even as one sympathizes with his family on a day like this, it won’t be totally wrong to say that Abiola, like many Nigerians was only a victim of Military dictatorship and autocracy. Abiola was like every other person who died in pursuit of personal ambition. He stood for what he believed in and did not give up even when he knew he was playing with an intelligent Lion that may never kill one with its claws and jaws.
Expectantly, while flipping through different pages of newspapers, and searching the internet for important national news, all opinions that popped up for my perusal were all about MKO Abiola and the June 12 saga. Grant that today is a day to remember the incident of that day, the event does not make Abiola a special hero of any kind.
My analysis of all the different opinions with sensational headlines shows that they were written, not out chauvinism or patriotism, but out of tribal sentiments. My apologies, but I’m very much conversant with the Yoruba talking drum. It’s very small, yet makes the loudest noise. A typical Yoruba man walks about with his talking drum, and he is capable of making the loudest noise with his drum even when not necessary. For how long will they keep talking about June 12 and MKO Abiola? It is like telling us what we already know. Are these various reactions ways of sensitizing the public against further breakdown of laws and order in our country? Most people have completely ignored the essence of the commemoration and are beginning to refer to Abiola as a hero of democracy. How heroic? It took us more than a decade to return to democracy after June 12 election was annulled, so how did Abiola’s stubbornness help us return to democracy? Abiola’s high headedness of declaring himself as the elected president under a very stubborn and tricky military administration even complicated our situation, and we remained in darkness for more than a decade. Before 1993, democratic heroes had already emerged in the country. We have had people who voluntarily relinquished power when they had all the opportunities to hold on to power. Several Nigerians had been killed for protesting against endless military dictatorship in the country. Who do we call a hero of democracy then?
Like June 12, so the 1966 democratic government was truncated, and the Military took over, leading to the death of the then Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a northern Nigerian . Of course, Balewa was not the only victim of the truncated 66 democracy. Other notable victims of the coup were the Sardauna of Sokoto, Finance Minister, Okote-Eboh, who was rumoured to have been found murdered in Lagos lagoon, castrated, with his eyes gouged out.
What pinches me most is the unwarranted noise that the death of Abiola and the June 12 election have generated even in this present democratic era. Some have even suggested that today be declared a public holiday or made a democracy day, and I simply say, it’s the Yoruba sentiment backed up with their talking drum. Kudirat Abiola died more as a Hero than Abiola himself. Even though we all know she was fighting for her husband, it was a just, fearless, and selfless fight. Abiola died as a narcissist fighter. He was fighting to raise his personal political profile. Simple, he wanted to become the president of the country. No one knew what he would have done if he was given the opportunity to rule. Could he have been any better than today’s leaders? I’m not sure what he would have done to our supposed nascent democracy. To talk about the hero of democracy is to simply talk about those who went on exile, killed or imprisoned for fighting selflessly for the return to democracy, not because they wanted to rule, but to return freedom and egalitarianism to their fatherland. Abiola died out of excessive or what I may term inordinate ambition. That’s all I know at the moment. He should have been wiser and not to begin to make too much noise like the Yoruba talking drum.
How come Abiola’s name is repeatedly put in the Yoruba talking drum when nobody remembers the 7th of October 1995, when Chief Alfred Rewane, a veteran Nigerian politician, elder statesman, nationalist, social critic and NADECO Chieftain was brutally murdered in Lagos. His death was no doubt political.
On the 10th of November 1995, the renowned environmentalist, great writer, poet, social critic and human rights activist – Mr. Kenule Benson Saro-Wiwa and his other brothers were”judicially murdered” How many times have you beat your talking drums to salute these fallen heroes?
The list is endless if we begin to mention the names of patriotic Nigerians who suffered in the cruel hands of the military. What would you say of Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd), Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua (Rtd), Chief Gani Oyesola Fawehinmi (released December 1996), Mr. Chima Ubani, Mr. Lanre Lijadu, Mrs. Chris Anyanwu, Alhaji Ganiyu Dawodu, Mr. Kunle Ajibade, Mr. Gbenga Awosode, Alhaji Shehu Sani, Mr. George Mbah, Mr. Ben-Charles Obi, Mr. Olu Akerele, some pro-democracy Military Officers, journalists, Nigerian student activists and other pro- democracy Nigerians, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Senator Bola Tinubu, Mr. Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Chief Ralph Obioha, Mr. Dele Momodu, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Mr. Ledun Mittee, Major General Alani Akinrinade (Rtd), Alhaji Dan Suleimon, Colonel David Mark, Dr. Owens Wiwa, and other Nigerian democrats?
The crux of the argument is that we do not dispute that people rose to challenge those dark eras, however, we must not try to blow it out the ordinary proportion as the death of Abiola and the June 12th annulment were never our worst plagues as a country. We have had people who put their lives on the line for this country, not because they had any ambition, but because they were simply patriotic; because they wanted to ensure that freedom and peace return to their country. Such people are the true heroes. So my brother, while beating your talking drum, make sure it tells a better story and not out of sentiments.
As far as I know, the true hero of democracy who should be celebrated whether dead or alive should be Abdulsalami Abubakar; a man who had all the opportunities to keep power for another 10 years but willingly gave up power to the military. Beat the drum, but with caution.
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