There is something mortally wrong with this government. It is either they are not thinking rightly or they are too much in a hurry to do a critical appraisal of issues before they take decision. I could not stop laughing to the roof top when I heard that the climax of all the media hypes about June 12 last week was the proposed renaming of Abuja National Stadium after MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 election. There is nothing extra-ordinary about this proposal except that it exposes the hypocrisy of the APC-led Federal Government. When former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan renamed the University of Lagos after MKO Abiola, as a recognition of his place in Nigeria’s democratic struggle, he was almost crucified on the cross by those who now sit on the front row to clap for this present effort.
They rained abuses and some even threatened court action. Every notable person from the itinerant South-West political conclave criticised the recognition. With Abuja stadium that is almost overgrown with weeds and a national monument that gives a fitting testimonial of Nigeria’s bad maintenance culture, renaming it in recognition of late MKO Abiola is, in my view, a national embarrassment. Why not rename Aso Villa as MKO ABIOLA VILLA OR JUNE 12 VILLA. That would make more meaning to me and some Nigerians than a National Stadium that has been taken over by rodents and cockroaches. But blind supporters of this government would readily come to President Buhari’s defence. They would readily say, the proposal for renaming is worth an effort, even when they are reminded that another stadium in Abeokuta, Ogun State was already named after MKO.
But what bemused me more was the hoopla about the Democracy Day celebration. Having snubbed Nigerians on May 29, after his second term inauguration, without a word for them, we heard from the grapevine that there would be an “explosive” speech on Democracy Day, that would signpost the direction of the government. It was like reserving your best for an auspicious occasion to make the right impact. I waited with bated breathe to listen to what promised to be the democracy speech of the year. Alas! my expectation exploded to the thin air. Boom, it was deflated like hollow ritual, a characteristically drab presentation, lacking in soundbites and punchlines, offering no direction except some exoteric promises that spoke volume of the absent-mindedness of this government. The president made reference to China, Indonesia and India as copious example of countries that have lifted their citizens away from poverty. He declared that his plan was to take away 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years as though he was voted on a10-year tenure.
In trying to curry the favour of the South-West geopolitical zone in the build up to the 2019 presidential election, he did show a desire to rake up the June 12 discourse to make an impression in the minds of the undiscerning. He thought that would shoot his rating to the ceiling, but the results from the South-West zone after the election showed that PDP’s Atiku Abubakar was neck-to-neck with APC’s General Buhari. With reports of massive rigging of the 2019 election, the latest being that of the European Union, it was obvious the presidency needed something that would stimulate public discourse to take away attention from its numerous failures. Growing insecurity has been a consistent feature of this APC-led Federal Government. Armed banditry and kidnapping have become the fastest growing industry in a country with increasing poverty and hunger. The government appears to have reached its apogee, seeking recourse to fasting and prayers rather than taking holistic steps to arrest the decline.
So, the “Democracy Day” event was some form of elixir for a government that lacks uncommon initiative to pursue her goals in fulfilment of her constitutional responsibility. Any government that fails to guarantee the safety of lives and property of her citizenry is not worth any commendation. Celebrating June 12 without synchronising the lessons, is like applying a wrong prescription for an ailment. Those who occupy the front row with flowing gown (agbada) during the June 12 celebration were predominantly those who never believed in the efficacy of June 12 as Nigeria’s Magna Carter. They used June 12 as the assured meal ticket in their political trajectory to deceive the masses and confuse the elite. The roles some of them played in nailing the coffin of June 12 would be unveiled soon. The sheer opportunism and hypocrisy of a struggle that exposes the dubiety of persons, and the commercialisation of same, using June 12 for political negotiation, are some of the flip side to this unending discourse.
The Aso Villa, the National Assembly Complex and the Supreme Court represent the physical structures of the three arms of government. They are the epitome of our collective sufferance. They represent what makes democracy thick. A National Stadium does not represent a democracy. If in truth, the APC power officialdom wants to recognise MKO Abiola as the man who paid the ultimate price for this 20-year-old democracy, one of the three structures should have been named after him; change NASS COMPLEX to MKO ABIOLA COMPLEX or JUNE 12 COMPLEX or Aso Villa to MKO ABIOLA VILLA or JUNE 12 VILLA. That way, you would have succeeded in making late Abiola the symbol of democracy. But to name a decrepit stadium after a man known to be a pillar of sports in Africa, is to convey the wrong message. A stadium in Abeokuta is already named after him. Another stadium in Abuja named after him would readily convey the impression that you were honouring Africa’s pillar of sports.
MKO Abiola died for democracy and the restitution of his acclaimed mandate, and not sports. Democracy is better served in the National Assembly where elected representatives of the people assemble from time to time to make laws that would deepen democracy. The Aso Villa as a symbol of our democratic authority has an elected President from time to time who presides over the country in line with the provisions of our constitution. That is where late MKO Abiola belongs, not in the stadium, where football is played. If you want to be generous with awards, name Abuja Stadium after late Samuel Okwaraji, who died on the pitch playing for the glory of his fatherland. The place of MKO Abiola must be properly situated beyond the rubrics of naming monuments to immortalise his name. It must convey a deeper meaning as the martyr of our collective democratic struggle, when Nigerians spilled blood to recover political power from the grip of General Buhari and his military colleagues. If you are so shy as to deny this recognition, make June 12, MKO ABIOLA DAY. Anything short of this, is tantamount to scratching the surface of an issue that defines the pendulum of our democratic trajectory.
The speech delivered on that day did not convey the right import. Too many rhetorics. Too many loose ends. President Buhari’s speech writers must undergo refresher course to breathe live into their speeches. They must set the right template, use the right anecdotes and create hope where there is none. What keeps a citizenry going is hope. The utility value of hope cannot be over-emphasised, as it represents the stimulus that oils the wheels when all seems lost. President Buhari doesn’t have to tell us about taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty when he has taken more people into poverty and deprivations. His allusion to other first rate countries doing same was an overkill. There are no infrastructural awakenings in Nigeria let alone the solid human capital development needed to drive the country on the super highway of China, Indonesia and India. 100 million out of poverty in 10 years without a discernible roadmap is a product of democracy day comedy. The president is serving a four-year tenure, and having failed woefully in his first four years, I expected him to speak about achievable proposals this time rather than setting bogus targets. With insecurity and gloomy economy occupying the “Olympian height” of our public discourse, factors that are not showing any sign of abating soon, I wonder how he intends to drive this rather ambitious proposal. But like every under-performer, they love setting bogus targets, and caressing empty rhetorics.
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