By Igboeli Arinze Napoleon
As our darling, great and prosperous nation marks its 60th Anniversary as an independent nation, there are a number of mixed feelings that have greeted October 1st as a day when we broke free of the shackles of colonialism as an independent nation with its destiny in its hands to make manifest. Simply put, our nation Nigeria has failed far more than she has succeeded, and the reasons for such failures have stared us down in the face via a number of events that occurred in our past. These events have given shape to our course on nation-building, and if we agree that we have built wrongly or that the super-structure upon which we have built the fundamentals as a nation upon is faulty then it is deductive to impute such fault lines to these events.
Let us however note that I am no historian, at least not yet, and though my knowledge of our history as a people is not in hazy straits, I am however keen to draw a line to my readers that all I offer here is a contextual interpretation of such events as I see it, i may be accused of bias, revisionism, idealism, and even the damning tag of a reactionary and every other thing under the sun as I write, much as I do not lay any claims to the infallibility ascribed to popes and a number of Pentecostal pastors by their followers, I will simply urge those who may choose to disagree with me to simply write their own and let posterity judge us all.
No event has had a greater effect on the Nigerian people and psyche other than the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections. The event not only trampled on the democratic rights of over 80 million Nigerians who’s votes had spoken in favor of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, businessman, publisher and philanthropist who had contested the 1993 elections under the banner of the Social Democratic Party, SDP against a Bashir Tofa, who had also run for that election under the banner of the National Republican Convention, NRC.
The 1993 election which had been adjudged as the freest and fairest in the annals of the nation’s history was annulled by a clique within the Nigerian Army which seemed not to be comfortable with an Abiola presidency. It is stated that the clique had initially raised their opposition to the Abiola candidature but had backpedalled as misleading intelligence reports had wrongly called a Tofa victory. Thus Abiola, a Southerner and Yoruba had created an upset at the elections, the clique who were majorly officers from the Northern Region and included even Christians from the Middlebelt region, mounted pressure on the helmsman then, Ibrahim Babaginda to annul the elections. Babaginda was to cave in to such pressure, distorting the process and dashing the democratic hopes of the Nigerian people.
Another event that was to have a great effect on Nigeria was the eventual demise of Chief MKO Abiola. Abiola, who had defied the military and insisted on the actualization of his June 12 mandate had been incarcerated by the Sani Abacha regime in 1995 following his Epetedo declaration where he had declared himself as President. Following Abacha’s demise, the successor regime led by General Abdulsalami Abubakar did not know what to do with Abiola, who was still in detention then and had insisted on his June 12, 1993 mandate. Entreaties were made by leading dignitaries, both local and international with a number of options and opinions to Abiola to renounce his mandate as a condition for his freedom, but an Abiola would not budge, refusing to give in to the unlawful annulment, he was to die later in rather worrisome circumstances, a martyr and hero of democracy.
With his demise, the lid was finally placed on the June 12 mandate. A new process was thus begun, its foundation laid on June 12 with its prevailing sentiments even narrowing the election of a democratically elected president to the narrow origins of Abiola’s ethnic group. Sadly, those who benefited from the June 12 mandate struggle struggled to confine the date to the status of an ordinary day in the Gregorian Calendar, until the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari,who sought to give some justice to the June 12 mandate.
The coup of January 15, 1966 will also stand out. The coup, ruptured our democratic experiment process, helping to terminate six years of democratic rule. Carried out by young officers, the putsch was allegedly an attempt to overthrow the then Balewa government and replace it with an Obafemi Awolowo. The coup though a genuine attempt to halt Nigeria from drifting had like a collage of some ugly pictures, such as the killing of leading citizens of the country and senior military officers, thus its most unfortunate tag as an Igbo coup.