By Nze Nwabueze Akabogu
The historic proclamation of Jun 12th as Democracy day by President Muhammadu Buhari and immortalization of the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993 Presidential election late Chief M.K.O. Abiola “Kakanfo of Yoruba land” as the hero of Democracy was indeed a watershed in the annals of Nigerian Political evolution. The proclamation was obviously a rare act of statesmanship by President Buhari whose current popularity rating in the country is all time low occasioned by his uninspiring and inept leadership in the face of monumental security and socio-economic challenges confronting the nation. President Buhari’s lackluster leadership style no doubt had emboldened the Fulani herdsmen terrorist gangs as well as other criminal elements to continue to unleash unimaginable mayhem on innocent and hapless Nigerians particularly within the Middle Belt volatile region.
On the economic front, the nation has never had it so bad even as the masses are currently wallowing in abject poverty and deprivations despite the economic indices that point to the so-called rapid national economic growth.
Never-the-less, President Buhari’s bold and courageous action in recognizing the Supreme Sacrifice made by the late business mogul and legendary philanthropist, M.K.O. Abiola for the enthronement of democracy and rule of law in the country must be highly commended by all well meaning Nigerians and civilized society at large. By this singular action, President Buhari has finally laid to rest the ghost of June 12th 1993 which had haunted the nation ever since the demise of the Democracy ICON and great patriot Chief Abiola about twenty five years ago. A nation’s greatness is measured by the ability of her leaders to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and take appropriate action to correct or atone for the wrongs done in the past and forge ahead in great strength and unity of purpose.
The Abiola political saga that nearly consumed the nation in the wake of the national upheavals that greeted the criminal and unpatriotic annulment of the freest, credible, transparent and most peaceful election ever held in Nigeria by the despotic military regime will ever remain indelible in the minds of many Nigerians as the darkest chapter in the Nigerian democratic experiment.
We should now go into the nitty-gritty of the merits or otherwise of the Presidential proclamation in order to critically analyse the implications of that declaration. First of all, the Presidency apparently had failed to lay the proper foundation for the conferment of the highest national honour of GCFR on Chief Abiola, an honour which is exclusively reserved for Heads of State and Presidents in the country under the constitution.
Consequently therefore, for Late Chief Abiola to be properly and legally conferred with the highly prestigious honour posthumously, the Federal government must first of all recognize him as a former Head of State or President by promptly announcing the results of 12th June 1993 Presidential election and formally declare Chief M.K.O Abiola the winner of that election and subsequently swear him in Posthumously as the Second democratically elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This action will certainly place an official seal on the Presidential declaration in order to avoid setting a dangerous precedent and constitutional crisis that might arise in future.
Furthermore, the recognition of late Abiola’s running mate in the annulled Presidential election, Baba Gana Kingibe who was also conferred with the second highest national honour of GCON is seriously faulted, totally improper, and undeserving on the ground that Kingibe later shamelessly betrayed and abandoned the sacred mandate given to both late Chief Abiola and himself in that historic election by the fourteen million Nigerian electorate. To further add insult to injury, Ambassador Kingibe was known to have pitched his tent with the same discredited military regime that had effectively denied Chief Abiola the peoples mandate freely given to him by the electorate.
Alhaji Kingibe later joined the repressive and brutal Abacha military junta as a key Minister at such a critical period in the history of the country when late Gen. Abacha viciously clamped down on pro-democracy activists and groups who had insisted on the execution of late Abiola’s mandate. Many activists such as the indefatigable pro-democracy crusader and unrepentant civil rights activist, late Gani Fawehnmi, as well as Chief Obasanjo among others were incarcerated in various prisons across the country for their democracy struggles while many more including Kudirat Abiola lost their lives in the process. Many others fled the country and went into exile to escape Abacha’s repressive and brutal regime including the foremost nationalist and an ICON of Nigeria’s independence struggles, Chief Anthony Enahoro of the blessed memory. Late Chief Abialo himself was arrested and detained by the notorious Abacha regime for his insistence to reclaim his mandate but later died in detention in mysterious circumstances that was shrouded in complete secrecy which is yet to be unraveled. The pro-democracy struggles by these fallen heroes and heroines later gave birth to our current democratic dispensation in the country.
It is instructive to note however, that Amb. Kingibe by his betrayal and abandonment of the sacred mandate given to his principal late Chief Abiola had morally and legally forfeited all the rights and privileges attached to the office of the Vice President if late Abiola had been sworn in as the President of Nigeria hence, Kingibe was not expected to reap where he did not sow and as such would rightly be treated as an enemy of democracy.
This writer therefore, make bold to state here and now that Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe does not deserve to be conferred with the highly prestigious national honour of GCON based on the above analysis of his ignoble role in the aftermath of the June 12th 1993 Presidential election.
The Presidency is hereby urged to rescind its decision to confer the highly prestigious national honour of GCON on the renegade “Vice President” that never was, Baba Gana Kingibe in the interest of morality, decency and good conscience so as to avoid setting a dangerous precedent and constitutional crisis that might arise in future. It will be recalled also that Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe later served in the administration of late President Ya’radua as the Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF) and was however removed from office unceremoniously due to some inexplicable reasons bordering on the alleged disloyalty and vaulting ambition.
It is a cheering news and heartwarming therefore, that President Buhari had equally conferred the prestigious national honour of GCON on the indefatigable legal luminary, civil rights ICON, and pro-democracy crusader late Chief Gani Fawehnmi-Senior Advocate of the Masses (SAM) and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). The honour was well deserved and merited as late Chief Fawehnmi had always been in the vanguard and championed the cause of the downtrodden in society, and the enthronement of justice, equity, human rights, the rule of law as well as the egalitarian society in the country.
Late Chief Fawehnmi had suffered unimaginable persecutions and indignities as well as mental and psychological tortures in the hands of successive military regimes in the country particularly during the darkest era of late Abacha military dictatorship when he was constantly harassed and clamped into detention for his struggles for the enthronement of democratic governance in the country as exemplified in his unrelenting noble crusade for the actualization of late Chief Abacha’s Sacred mandate.
In conclusion, the Presidential declaration to honour our past heroes and heroines much as it is a positive development, aimed at healing the nation’s wounds and reconciliation, nevertheless seem not to have gone far enough to achieve the desired objectives. There must be a comprehensive and sincere approach to the healing process in order to achieve genuine reconciliation in the country.
It is a common knowledge that certain sections of the country particularly Ndigbo had since lost their sense of belonging in the country having been subjected to third or even fourth class citizens in the country they had made enormous contributions and huge sacrifices to build as a nation. The unfortunate civil war that ended forty eighty years ago had continued unabated to haunt Ndigbo in the country especially in the political sphere.
It is heartwarming and a well come development that President Buhari during his recent interactions with officials of the Nigerian Red Cross Society at the Presidential Villa had declared that the Civil war was merely “a quarrel” between brothers. This pronouncement had indeed underscored the urgency to address the present plight of Ndigbo in Nigeria so as to achieve a total and genuine reconciliation in the country. One practical way to achieve this noble cause is for President Buhari to equally extend his gesture by honouring the late Ikemba Nnewi and ex-Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu with the second highest national honour, the GCON posthumously as a clear demonstration of true healing and genuine reconciliation.
It is worthy of mention that at the end of the war in 1970, Gen. Yakubu Gowon declared that there was ‘no victor and no vanquished’ and hence it has become imperative to demonstrate in practical terms that truly genuine peace has finally returned in the country. The late Ikemba Nnewi was eminently qualified to be honoured posthumously in view of his tremendous contributions to the nation before the civil war and after his return from exile in 1983 when former President Shehu Shagari in a rare act of statesmanship granted him an unconditional pardon as a free Nigerian citizen.
President Buhari would be writing his name in gold and history will certainly be kind to him should he summon the courage today and follow the footsteps of his predecessor, Shehu Shagari by conferring the national honour of GCON posthumously on late Ikemba Nnewi as a mark of honour and high regards for Ndigbo as an integral part of Nigeria. He should also back up his gesture by ensuring that all forms of discrimination, injustice, inequality and marginalization in the affairs of the nation which had become the lot of Ndigbo as a people in the country called Nigeria since after the end of the civil war in 1970 are urgently addressed once and for all.
Nze Akabogu (JP), a Public Affairs writes via: email@example.com