Lawyer and activist, Olukayode Ajulo is the former National Secretary of the Labour Party (LP). He goes down memory lane on the events of June 12, 1993 presidential election recalling how Nigerians overcame primordial sentiments of tribe and religion and spoke as one in electing a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
What does June 12 signify to you?
June 12 is undoubtedly the most significant and remarkable change in Nigeria’s political evolution. Throughout the chequered political history of the country, you will note that it has been fraught with diversity, disunity, ethnicity and tribalism. You will recall that during the struggle for independence, there was no uniformity as regards the date for declaration of independence after Anthony Enahoro first moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence in 1953. You will further recall that his motion for Nigeria’s independence suffered set-backs in parliament on several occasions with the northern members of parliament staging a walkout. Similarly, the civil war experience which was brought about on the heels of ethnicity and disunity is one of the several instances of disunity in the country. It is worthy of note that the significance of June 12 as ‘Democracy Day’ therefore reside in the fact that never in the history of elections in Nigeria had the electorate spoken in unison about who they wanted as their leader. Only on June 12 did Nigerians jettison the choice and pairing of president and the deputy on the basis of religion and tribe. It was the first time Nigerians voted for a Muslim/Muslim ticket. June 12 is therefore an allegory of the biblical story of the building of the towers of Babel. Even God said: ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language…’ Thus I would rather refer to June 12 as unity/consensus day.
President Muhammadu Buhari has proclaimed the day as Democracy Day; some allege the move was part of the design to play on the sentiments of the South West votes. What is your take?
Firstly, it is a disservice to democracy to ascribe June 12 to a section/region of the country considering the facts that people from all walks of life fought for the emancipation of democracy and rule of law. You will agree with me that many of the comrades and activists who spearheaded the June 12 struggle were not even from the section of the country the acclaimed winner was from. Persons like Colonel Abubakar Umar, former military Governor of Kaduna State is a northerner, Chima Ubani, Dan Suleiman, Alfred Rewane, Ndubuisi Kanu, Olisa Agbakoba and several others who are not from the South West. If I may take you down the memory lane, I remember during the struggle I was a student at the University of Jos and I witnessed how several northerners took to the street en mass in the spirit of nationalism and brotherhood to protest the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election. Several people, from North and South lost their lives during the June 12 struggle. I don’t believe Mr. President’s declaration of June 12 as democracy day is jiggery-pokery and the declaration of June 12 as the new democracy day didn’t come on a platter of gold as it is symbolic and instructive. Finally, it may interest you to know that the National Assembly passed the Public Holiday Act Amendment Bill to recognise June 12 as the new democracy day on the 16th of May, 2019 which was after election.
By proclaiming June 12 MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe were honoured, but surprisingly, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, who superintended that election seen as the freest and fairest ever was left out. Is that fair?
I am an advocate of reward and punishment and deserving persons should be rewarded accordingly. It suffices to chip in the fact that Prof. Humphrey Nwosu who is an Easterner superintended the election which was adjudged the freest and fairest ever. I believe he deserves to be rewarded and honoured accordingly. For instance, he may be honoured with Commander of the Order of Federal Republic and other befitting honours. However, it is important to note that it is not only Nwosu that should be honoured. Prominent among those who fought for the June 12 struggle were: Prof. Wole Soyinka, Frank Kokori, Anthony Enahoro, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Ndubuisi Kanu, Alfred Rewane, Abubakar Umar, Ayo Opadokun, Abraham Adesanya, Ayo Adebanjo, Frederick Fasehun, Ibrahim Tahir, Balarabe Musa, Bola Tinubu, Ebitu Ukiwe, former US Ambassador to Nigeria Walter Carrington, Bola Ige, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba, Joe-Okei-Odumakin, Chief Fasheun, Kayode Ogundamisi, Gani Adams, Dele Momodu, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and several students leaders living and those that lost their lives in the struggle whose goals were to end military dictatorship and to ensure a thorough democratisation of the polity, should be honoured as well.
Also on that list is Comrade Bunmi Ojo a true comrade who fought tirelessly side by side with me in the June 12 saga. He is however no more as he died recently. I would have loved to mention Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, but I believe he has been duly compensated and being compensated. I believe the Federal Government should recognise the efforts of these comrades who laid down their necks and lives for the realisation of democracy in Nigeria. I would suggest to the government to build a national monument in remembrance of these unsung heroes so people can lay their epitaph at the tombs of these compatriots. And I have promised myself that in the unlikely event that the Federal Government doesn’t do this, I will personally do it.
What lessons do you think we have learnt as a country from the struggle?
It is important to reiterate that the fact that we are enjoying democracy today is a lesson to be learnt from the June 12 saga.