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June 12, Our Collective Amnesia – By Arnold A. Alalibo

By Arnold A. Alalibo | NNP | August 5, 2017 – Most countries create their destinies around their pleasant or tragic memories. They document and engrave the experiences they collectively share from such incident. I think every important historical event ought to unify a people and foster deeper understanding among themselves. Most developed climes understand the significance of mobilising their people using positive or negative experiences to build their nation and establish a national character. The United States of America is a veritable example. It uses the September 11, 2001, national calamity into nation-building through constant remembrance of the event and every remembrance evokes the very idea of the country. Rememberances of this kind elicit patriotism and commitment to motherland. This pattern of deploying catastrophe and serendipity is discernible in many parts of the world where narrow-mindedness and primitive sentiments don’t confound historic national moments.
If the current feeble remembrance of the tragic annulment of the June 12 presidential election is anything to go by, it is clear that the Nigerian nation is yet to acknowledge the fundamentals of nation-building. The June 12 presidential election which Chief M. K. O Abiola won and died for, was adjudged the freest and fairest election ever conducted in the country. The election was so historic that it changed the entire configuration of Nigeria and gave every part of the country a sense of belonging whether minority or majority tribes or persons. Abiola’s victory was indeed unprecedented in Nigeria. To borrow late Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu’s expression, the election symbolises the “first time handshake was made across the Niger”. After military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, annuled the results of the election, there were calls by Nigerians and civil society groups to validate the results. These calls were protracted and almost destroyed the nation. The annulment became a reference point in our journey towards democracy because it negated the will of the people.
Nations are built on the principles of justice and the absence of justice breeds resentments. For instance, almost five decades after the civil war in the country, the scars remain as fresh as ever because there was never a firm process of national healing. The June 12 election was unique and the most peaceful election ever held in Nigeria. Both Abiola and his vice, Babagana Kingibe of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), were Muslims. In other words, it was a Muslim-Muslim ticket. No cases of violence, intimidations, ballot snatching, multiple voting and rigging were reported. To cap it all, there was no protest against the results from any quarters until they were annulled. The sudden abrogation of the election results severely harmed the country and almost led to disintegration. It caused so much damage to the very cord that ties the country together. The action of the Babangida’s military government put the country in a dangerous path.
The mandate freely given by 14.2 million Nigerians to Chief Abiola was subverted. In saner climes, the military junta that perpetrated the act would have been charged with treasonable felony and punished. Unfortunately, the absence of sanctions could not push Nigerians to clamour for justice. However, restitution can only be done when the infraction is remembered annually. That is why the memory of June 12 must be kept alive. It is sad that only few states in the south west make efforts annually to remind Nigerians of that day when our collective mandate was plundered; when the soul of our nation was stolen. The June 12 event has left a precarious legacy to young and upcoming generations of Nigerians that impunity, injustice and subterfuge are acceptable values of the Nigerian society. Rather than use the occasion to promote national understanding and cohesion, the country’s elite dresses the moment in sectional garb.
What should have been an occasion to unite against those who willfully divide us is littered and thrown into the gutters while the many injustices that bleed the system are left to thrive. It is indeed pathetic that 24 years after the sad event, only few voices have deemed it necessary to commemorate the event. In the end, what did Babangida’s military junta hand over to us? Crises and instability. It took the resilience and firm belief of some Nigerians in democracy to eventually bring about civil rule in 1999. Regrettably, some of the national issues the late Chief Abiola canvassed during his electioneering  remain unattended to. 24 years after, Nigerians are still grappling with the enervating effect of poverty, unemployment, insecurity, and a moribund economy.
Therefore, a national consensus based on dialogue is needed  to resolve the age long questions thrown up by the June 12 debacle. But beyond the memories of the mandate is the necessity to restructure the country to correct the existing structural imbalances that have agonised us since independence. Fortunately, a number of such issues were addressed in the last national conference. Despite the limitations of that conference, some of the recommendations could be utilized to reposition the country.

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Posted by on Aug 5 2017. Filed under Arnold Alalibo, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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