Anayo Ezugwu reports on how some Nigerians who were involved in the struggle for the actualization of June 12, 1993 presidential mandate of the late MKO Abiola through the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) reflected on the struggle and its essence
For prominent Nigerians, who participated in this year’s National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) June 12 symposium, the quality of governance and democratic ideals in Nigeria are still far from reality. They believed that the essence of the struggle, which most of them were incarcerated for, is still far from being met.
The frontline campaigners in the struggle, who participated in the movement to actualize June 12, 1993 presidential mandate of the late MKO Abiola, said although the nation has since 1999 returned to civil rule, the people are yet to enjoy the dividends of democracy. Speaking at the symposium to mark 2021 Democracy Day, with the theme: “Federalism: Antidote to National Insecurity,” the pro-June 12 agitators said governance in Nigeria has degenerated to an unbelievable low level.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in 2019 declared June 12 as the Democracy Day, which was hitherto celebrated on May 29. Following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Abiola, former military President Ibrahim Babangida stepped aside and installed the interim national government led by Ernest Shonekan.
But Shonekan’s resignation and General Sani Abacha’s takeover of power provoked activists and political leaders to form NADECO, to press for the revalidation of June 12, 1993 presidential election. Most of them were detained by the military junta at the time.
Some of the NADECO members who spoke at the symposium in Lagos said the Nigerian state has failed to protect the lives and properties of most Nigerians. A NADECO chieftain, Fred Agbeyegbe, said political office holders have abandoned the tenets of democracy in pursue of their personal benefits. He noted that the 1999 constitution is responsible for most of the challenges confronting the country.
His words: “There is nothing strange from what we are seeing today in Nigeria because they all seek to upturn nature’s decisions. For example, the constitution that was not made by you but right at the beginning of that instrument you will see that it was said that you Nigerians once sat together and decided to have a constitution called Federal Constitution of Nigeria 1999, which is an abrogation of the constitutions with which you can have a federal situation. “Governance has become a fairy tale and you can call it whatever name you like.
Just now, we are supposed to be in a democracy but if you see what is being practiced, it is no less than feudalism and reckless pursuit of power and we have seen how rascally the so-called representatives of yours, whom you never choose at elections but were forced upon you clearly protecting you, looking after you and doing your bidding.
“But guess what is happening at the National Assembly, they look after themselves and they are the first to come out and oppose some of the things as good as the governors of southern Nigeria did recently. Why because you have threatened their comfort and pockets.
So as you criticize, the foreigners come in for what they can get and subject you to what you are suffering now, you must remember that your fellow so-called Nigerian citizens also wishing that the situation continues for their personal benefits.”
On his part, a retired army colonel, Tony Nyiam, said Nigeria is under security challenges. He said there are a lot of killings going on in the country especially in the South-East. He painted a picture of the ongoing trans-border conflict in most border towns in South-West region. “If you come to the South-West many bordering towns are witnessing trans-national Fulani herdsmen coming in and attacking and taking peoples land. “We have in the far North, in the Hausa land. The Hausas are being killed in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto. You may have heard a few days ago, the governor of Katsina that is the President’s home state crying out.
In Niger, the bandits have taken over many local governments and of course, we have in the North-East, Boko Haram, which is now a window for the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) that is the deadly of all, those who killed the Boko Haram leader.
“So, we are under challenges. Apart from these challenges you see, we have a demographic challenge that is population. If you look at many cities and states, you will see an influx of young people coming in and taking over. Take a city like Ikoyi for example, if you check the residents of Ikoyi are about one resident owner to about ten settlers not to talk of other cities in Lagos.
Having given you a picture of the challenges we face, what then is the role of the people? Let me remind us that a country is made up of people and people are sovereign. “The nation-state is an agent of the people and there is a distinction between nation-state and government because at times we mix them up. The nation-state is an agency of the people; it is not the other way round.
The government is an agency of the nation-state. What I’m saying is that the people have the power but in Nigeria, we become so docile that we do not realize the power of the people. It is the power of the people that make the changes in Egypt and Tunisia,” he said. Nyiam noted further that the Nigerian government needs to understand that without appropriate national security architecture, a constitution can only be on paper because the constitution would not be enforceable. Apart from Agbeyegbe and Nyiam, another NADECO chieftain, Amos Akindade Akingba said Nigeria democracy is not working. He noted that the best way to resolve a contraction that refuses to work is to dissolve it. According to him, most of the people who truncated Abiola’s mandate is the one ruling Nigeria today.
He said: “The theme of the symposium, ‘Federalism: Antidote to National Insecurity,’ presupposes that we all agree that we should break Nigeria. It is not that I don’t like or love Nigeria. I’m one of those irredentist Nigerians. Even during the Civil War though I was out of the country but we gave it full support that Nigeria is good for all of us and we should invest in it.
“As I have explained over the years, as one begins to grow into the knowledge and understanding of the history of the Nigerian contraction, one would begin to understand that our values, attitude and the things we want to have are different. We can live in the same world but not in the same house. The people who say they want to dominate us were the last to enter the Nigerian geographical space. They have never relented from wanting to dominate us. “During the Abacha debacle years when they truncated Abiola mandate, most of the people who did it are the ones now in charge.
They have come through the backdoor. The rest of us in the south and Middle-Belt are anxious to build Nigeria and create a good country for all of us but they don’t want it. Less than five or six per cent of people in Nigeria don’t want that.
Somebody who doesn’t love himself cannot love you. If you see want they do with the Almijara, their own children? For somebody to trade their biological children the way they do, when you go to the north and see them you will begin to say, am I in the same country with these people?” According to Akingba, Nigeria is already at war because of the killings going on in the country on a daily basis. He said thousands of Nigerians that shouldn’t have died die either deliberately or by mismanagement.
“Bad roads and killings by bandits, terrorists, Boko Haram is happening every day. We are at war. We lose human lives every day more than when we were originally in a war. “I think we should begin to design our activities to how we can ask everybody to go home. Some of the most prosperous and happy countries in the world by United Nations scientific index are small countries in Europe like Sweden, Holland, even Norway that their Prime Minister goes to work by bicycle. They are not hungry. They don’t have the nuclear bomb but they are living happily.
There is no tribe and ethnic group that cannot survive if they secede from the country. Let us begin to change the narrative because we are in a war,” he said. A university don, Prof. Sylvester Odion-Akhaine of the Lagos State University (LASU), who supported Akingba’s position that the Nigerian state is not a permanent entity, said states undergo changes and that is why today people refer to the Soviet Union. He noted the Soviet Union then had 15 republics and those republics are now different countries. “Another contemporary example is Yugoslavia.
We have almost seven countries out of that country. Now Czechoslovakia, another example we have two countries out of it. So when people talk about Nigeria’s unity as non-negotiable, Nigeria’s unity is indivisible, I think they are probably talking about slavery because the Nigerian state is not right.
So when a state is not right you cannot talk about democracy,” he said. Clearly, the recurring call for true federalism and restructuring has become the feasible solution at addressing the myriads of problems in the country, but how soon it will be considered by the country’s leadership is left to be seen.