If I were 18 at the time, I doubt if I would have voted for Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, aka MKO, considering that MKO as I later discovered in my historical research, was a man who appeared too ambitious.
From what I previously read about him, I did not know him to be over-ambitious until the heated debate I had with Cornelius Erohubie in 2019, when President
Muhamadu Buhari honored MKO with a posthumous president and declared June 12th henceforth as Democracy Day in Nigeria.
In the short article which I wrote that day in remembrance of June 12th, 1993, titled, “JUNE 12TH 1993, A DAY TO ALWAYS REMEMBER IN OUR HISTORY,” I described the late MKO as the true but dashed Hope of Nigerians based on his presidential campaign slogan of HOPE. Hope to ease the burden of schooling, eradicate poverty, and most importantly; hope to bridge the tribal and religious divide of Nigerians. But which sadly never came to fruition.
More so, growing up I learned from the penny catechism of the Catholic Church that “Hope is a supernatural gift of God, by which we firmly trust that God will give us eternal life and all means necessary to obtain it if we do what He requires of us” (“What is Hope?” Penny Catechism, Qs 136). So putting the penny catechism meaning of hope side by side with MKO’s presidential HOPE slogan, I saw MKO’s dashed hope as a gift, though not supernatural, but natural, by which Nigerians believed that MKO will lead them to the promised land, by doing what was required of them (exercise of their franchise) through the best adjudged presidential election ever conducted in Nigerian’s democratic history.
But Erohubie an older brother and a friend of mine, drew my attention to some mind bugging issues concerning my celebrated hero, whom I knew only little about at the time. Consequently, I was moved to further my research on the late business mogul, philanthropist, and presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of June 12th, 1993 election. In my curious research, I discovered that he was at some points accused of aiding and abetting coup and counter-coup for his self-interests.
Nevertheless, what I find so interesting about the man MKO was not so much about him, but about June 12th. Now, it is important to know that prior to his political ambition, the hostility between the two main religions in Nigeria, Islam, and Christianity at the time was in its boiling point, following Nigeria’s full membership of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), in 1986, barley a year after the then military head of state, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, overthrew General Muhamadu Buhari. A situation that saw Christians’ repeated accusation of the government of the time of nursing an Islamisation agenda.
Those accusations at the time later metamorphosed into interreligious/tribal clashes in Kafanchan, Kano, Zaria, Illorin, and other parts of the North, which led to the loss of many lives.
But in the midst of the growing animosity and hostility between Christians and Muslims, which was equally visible in Babangida’s political appointments, where all the service chiefs of the time were Muslims (which sadly is evident and even worst in today’s supposed democratic system), it would have been expected that to calm the already created hostilities, each political party would choose candidates from across ethnic/religious lines. But that was not the case with SDP, which produced two Muslim candidates, with MKO the presidential candidate from the Southwest, and Babagana Kingibe from the Northeast as vice-presidential candidate.
Who would have believed that with the growing animosity and hostility, such political combination that went against expected statuesque would eventually emerge victoriously, and the election seen as the best ever conducted in Nigeria’s history? But obviously, that was the fact. Nigerians put aside their tribal and religious sentiments and voted based on their consciences and campaign promises that hinged on ideologies, which they saw as hope for a better Nigeria, irrespective of tribe or religious background.
The election saw MKO defeats his opponent, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Party (NRC), in the latter’s own state of Kano, winning 9 states out of the 16 states in the North. And even gained 49.45% of votes in the East that had Dr. Sylvester Ugoh as the vice-presidential candidate of NRC (cf. “CHIEF MKO ABIOLA’s HOPE 93 A SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC TEMPLATE FOR THE NIGERIAN POLITY!” by Youthful President for Nigeria, June 12th, 2019).
Honestly, June 12th was a demonstration that Nigerians at the time amidst the tribal and religious hostilities, were concerned not on tribal and religious sentiments, but on ideologies, good governance, and a dream of hope for a better Nigeria.
But sadly, since after June 12th, the obvious has been that Nigeria is more divided than ever. If June 12th taught me anything, it taught me that the problem with Nigeria is not so much about whether who becomes a president is from a particular tribe, religion, or geopolitical zone, but a president who is able to use our diversity to unite us.
Thus, in my opinion, the real problem of Nigeria is the political elites, a miniature of the country’s population that continues to catch-in-on our rich socio-cultural and religious diversity to divide us, rather than unite us, all for their selfish reasons.
For 21years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria, since 1999, how has Nigerian leaders shown Nigerians that there is beauty in diversity? Is it by seeing Hausa politician wearing Igbo attire for political campaigns or an Igbo politician wearing Yoruba attire for political campaigns? Is it not obvious that those fashion parades are nothing but mere deceptions, and hypocrisy, aimed at cheap popularity? If my opinion is false, why have those fashion parades during campaigns not translated to date into governance that considers the interests of all, by carrying everyone along?
Under the current administration, I make bold to say that Nigeria is more divided today than ever. The reason is not farfetched; it is clearly seen in the lopsided appointments by this administration. Many public office holders have retired without promotions, because those who occupied the positions that they would have reached, refused to retire in order for them to move up the ladder. The case of service chiefs dominated by those from the North, who have overstayed their appointments with little or no success in the fight against Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping, etc., is only an instance.
While I was on a mission in Abuja Archdiocese, I was opportune to visit many of the public offices/ministries, but disappointedly, in all the offices/ministries that I visited on several occasions, nearly everyone who occupies key position is from the North, including gatemen, and cleaners.
Is this the Nigeria of our dream? Is today’s Nigeria the HOPE presidential campaign slogan of MKO’s June 12th, 1993?
The Nigeria of our dream and MKO’s HOPE campaign slogan of June 12th, 1993 can only be actualized, when our political elites stop thinking of “I think, therefore I am,” and begin to think, “I am because we are.”
Our political elites must begin to think, feel, and act in ways that show that Nigeria is one united entity that consists of three major tribes, with over 300 ethnics groups. Anything short of this will continue to divide and take us far away from the Nigeria of our dream.
May the labours of our heroes and heroines past never be in vain. Amen.
*@?✍?Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP*
* *(June 12th, 2020, on the First Anniversary of June 12th as Democracy Day)*
Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on a mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon at the time of writing this piece
photo credit: allAfrica.com