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June 12: At A Time Like This! - Abiodun Komolafe

June 12, 2020, marked the 27th anniversary of ‘June 12’ in Nigeria. On this day in 1993 – and, for the first time in her post-colonial history – Nigerians went to the polls to elect a president. Unfortunately, the election, won by the late Moshood Abiola, was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, then, Nigeria’s military president.

Well, while the last of that crime against humanity is yet to be heard, 27 years after, there are those who might be tempted to insist that, since June 12 has acquired a life of its own, it lives on. The hard truth, however, is that the ‘June 12’ mantra has become stale, dead and buried! Presently, no matter how Nigerians look at it, June 12 neither possesses the driving force capable of driving a socio-political movement, nor does it provide needed answers, clarity and adequacy of meaning to the knotty issues troubling the country. It is no longer a goal, set to be actualized; and its symbolic relevance is fast waning!

Abiola, the owner of the mandate, has paid the supreme sacrifice. Babangida, the evil genius, who brought the trouble upon the country, has limited influence in Nigeria’s current political space while Sani Abacha, who arrogantly inherited the mess and made it even messier, has reportedly become a victim of an uncanny apple fruit and vanished forever. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who feigned the ‘ _good man_ ’, is also no longer relevant in the national equation. Coincidentally, too, majority of those who formed the party on which platform Abiola contested and won the election, are also gone while those who are fortunate to be alive have long forgotten the essence of the struggle, switched political camps, feeding fat on its carcass, without caring a hoot about whose ox is gored. In a word, June 12 is now confined to national history, only to be stoked by political actors, some activists and others, at will; but, more often than not, for selfish reasons. Which therefore explains why, very soon, children born around June 12, 1993 may not likely understand why people will be shouting ‘ _June 12_ ’. Of course, that’s a sad note! Had it been premised on an ideological prism, its sustaining life strength would have been so solid that even generations yet unborn would understand the very principle and the ideological bent upon which the struggle was based, and what it aimed to achieve.

Yes! June 12 has come and gone! But, at a time like this, Nigerians need a deep-seated appraisal of the past, a projection into the probable future, and an audacity to adopt a plausible and pragmatic development plan for the country. For instance, Nigeria, as at June 12, 1993, was in palpable multiple crisis. Sadly enough, twenty-seven years after the annulment of the fairest, freest and the most credible election in the land, Nigeria is still battling with the crisis of identity as a nation! Twenty seven years after, everything has changed but nothing has changed! Nothing has explained to the outside world that Nigeria has evolved as an organic nation, talkless of being portrayed as a serious people of vision, who want development.

There was a time in this country when the destiny of _premium motor spirit_ , _pms_ , was surrendered to the whims and caprices of the marketers. Not too long after, it had to change when the marketers allegedly bastardized that awesome privilege; and the society suffered for it. If we may ask: what has changed that government has now decided to revisit its vomit, a policy that has glaringly failed Nigerians? Part of the explanations offered by the government, then, was that the marketers were ‘ _shylocks_ ’ who were only interested in their pockets. Some of them were even accused of hoarding the fuel so that the price would jump up. Why is the government now going back to the same ‘ _shylocks_ ’ to determine the price of Nigeria’s most important commodity? Or, do we now have a new set of marketers who dropped from heaven? Aren’t they the marketers who, more than two weeks after the government slashed the ex-depot price of pms to N108/l, are still dispensing at the old rate of N123/l in Ijebu-Jesa and its environs? Where lies the place of the agencies statutorily responsible for ensuring compliance in all of this?

In December 1983, Brigadier-General Sani Abacha (as he then was) had described Nigeria’s hospitals as _“mere consulting clinics.”_ Well, this is 2020! How do we still describe our medical centres? Aren’t they now worse than mere consulting clinics? Again, where do we go from here? If Nigeria had upgraded her hospitals in line with international standards, why should her medical personnel act Usain Bolt on mere rumours of COVID-19?

Let us come to the issue of the _National Youth Service Corps_ (NYSC). Has it achieved the objectives for which it was originally established? How far has it brought Nigerians together beyond what can be described as _‘scratching the surface’_ ? Has it in anyway helped to ameliorate the pains and sufferings of poor parents from resuming the struggle to feed and clothe young graduates immediately after service year? How can we leave posterity to make its own judgment of NYSC when our graduates are dangerously ill-equipped for the future; when they remain the problems and liabilities of their parents?

Anyway, the memorial of June 12 has again offered an opportunity to interrogate salient issues of development and decide how we can move forward as well as identify the tools we need to take along with us on the journey to nationhood. If we truly want Nigeria to grow, efforts should be directed at discouraging a return to the atavistic era when primordial instincts held sway. Instead, it should be our collective duty to prevent mean minds, anti-development experts and _‘turn-by-turn’_ irredentists from laying claim to the soul of Nigeria. How not to start repeating past errors should be of paramount interest to Nigerians.

Lastly, Nigerians owe President Muhammadu Buhari a debt of gratitude for eventually recognizing June 12 as Nigeria’s _‘Democracy Day’._ But, beyond the watershed which the experience has provided, Nigerians must also realize that June 12 is the harbinger of the democracy we currently enjoy. The symbolism, therefore, is that we should uphold democracy. The democratic system, no matter how fragile and imperfect it may be, must not be allowed to peter out!

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

_*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State ([email protected])_

abiodun KOMOLAFE,
O20, Okenisa Street,
Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.

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