Comrade Mashood Erubami is the President of Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS) and Executive Director of Centre for Human Rights and Ethics in Development (CHRED). In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, among other issues
June 12 is now Democracy Day. How do you feel that the annulment of the 1993 presidential election, which you and many activists fought for its actualization, is now Nigeria’s Democracy Day?
We all feel elated individually and collectively, seeing our struggle for the annulment of June 12 becoming a reality in our lifetime. Though many have died; the principal, Basorun MKO Abiola lost his mandate, his wife and his life. Hundreds also died before President Muhammadu Buhari came on board to right the wrongs and shade away the antics of military leaders and their apologists to run down June 12 and kill it permanently. Year in and out, since 1993, compatriots believed in June 12 and not the mischievous and inappropriate designation of May 29 as Democracy Day by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The activists saw June 12 as a watershed, which cannot easily be wished away and have continued to remember the day annually without retreat, without surrender.
Considering the present civilian administration, which came up as a result of the June 12 struggled. Do you think the struggle is worth celebrating?
No doubt, the day is remarkable as a watershed in our history. It is a day that set the progressive template for the progress and development of the country’s electoral, social and political development. Significantly, it rebounded to displace May 29 from being Democracy Day, a good indication that we are gradually on our way to transit to a democratic order, all other things being equal. Notwithstanding the state of the nation presently, the imperatives for its celebration continue to reside in other democratic principles that came along with in 1993 given the fact that notwithstanding all the antics of former leaders to dump the celebration of the day as being significant, the day continues to rebound because for the first time in the electoral history of the country, the electorate spoke in unison about who they wanted as their leader. Only on June 12, 1993 did Nigeria jettison the choice and pairing of a president and his vice on the basis of religion; it was the first time that Nigerians voted for a Muslim/Muslim ticket, both Basorun MKO Abiola and Amb. Babagana Kingibe being Muslims.
Indeed, the historic day of June 12 marked a watershed when ethnicity became less important in choosing a candidate because Bashorun Abiola, a Yoruba, became the toast of most Nigerians from across the country in an election in which he defeated his opponent, Bashir Tofa, even in his village in Kano State; a day that marked a new history of power transition from military regime to civilian administration and from the Northern oligarchy to the South, a feat that political infidels did not allow to be seen through regrettably.
Another significant imperative for June 12 as Democracy Day resides in the fact that Bashorun Abiola made the highest sacrifice to make democracy be in Nigeria, he lost his wife, paid the supreme price, lost his businesses and failed to climb to the seat of power that he won. Sadly, politicians like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who benefitted and other selfish political leaders are the least found celebrating the man of courage today as most of them who have occupied and still in political offices seldom remember the day, even those who were front liners of the struggle, talk less of assisting those who became victims of the aftermath of the annulment.
The winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, late MKO Abiola was bestowed with the highest national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). Are you satisfied with that recognition by President Buhari?
Very pleased! It is the 27th anniversary of the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election and second year of its rename and official governmental recognition by the noble President of Nigeria, Muhanmadu Buhari, in a remarkable way indicative of the arrival of a new dawn for democratic turnarounds for Nigeria’s transformation. It was a people’s day of triumph of light over the darkness of their oppressors and political tormentors. Pitiably, this year’s Democracy Day was lowly celebrated unlike as it was done in 2019 though in a more significant manner by stakeholders of June 12 within the limited scope permitted by the coronavirus pandemic, respecting all its preventive and precautionary protocols set for people’s observation to stay safe.
Buhari by this gesture has become, the God send man of honour and quintessential leader, who courageously jettisoned vindictiveness to bring out the appropriate honours and bestowed it on Chief MKO Abiola. Nobody would have expected the turnaround of June 12 to be Democracy Day under President Buhari, who as a military president in 1985, was toppled through a sponsored coup d’etat fully financed by the principal of June 12, Chief MKO Abiola. He nonetheless exhibited leadership magnanimity and significantly achieved where his predecessor Dr. Goodluck Jonathan demonstrated ignobly, very weak leadership, failing to back his declaration of the posthumous naming of the University of Lagos after Abiola by law.
President Buhari’s fiat of recognising June 12 as Democracy Day, represents a courageous reversal of the years of injustices in not recognising MKO Abiola as the winner of the election and not recognising the inherent principles in June 12. Indeed, immortalising and awarding him the highest national honour and declaring the day as Democracy Day portrays him as a man of courage, of great character, truly remarkable and the first ever president Nigeria will have.
What is your take on 21 years of uninterrupted civilian administration in Nigeria, considering that one of the demands of June 12 was enthronement of democracy in Nigeria?
My take on 21 years of uninterrupted civil rule, not democracy is that we still need another strong leader who is imbued with character of integrity like President Buhari in the next dispensation to reset the judiciary and reshape the country’s politics towards creating renewed conditions for a good economy and incorruptible personalities to manage it. Unfortunately, Nigeria is yet to be in a democracy. We are yet to start enjoying equality of rights and opportunities, the Federal Character Principle is not operated in accordance with the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy, not bringing the appointment of people to conform with the laid down principles unfortunately.
The fact that successive leaders have not being able to turn the civil government that the military gave to us since 1999 to democracy by not making the law to rule and guarantee human rights of every citizens in Nigeria is very shameful. I will propose that the present government in its next level governance should rise to be true representatives of the people, make Nigerians its safeguards against corruption fight backs to ensure that Nigerians own and drive the next level politics and bring out an administration in which labour, professionals, women groups, the youths and civil society groups join hands with progressive politicians to run a truly federal a government.
As Nigerians celebrate June 12, 2020 as Democracy Day, in a new legal way, governments all over Nigeria must introduce new political measures to strengthen the electorate to imbibe new spirit of participation in choosing their prefer leaders based on the above highlighted principles to eschew religious bigotry, exhibit the spirit of unity, to always register and vote without being monetised, monitor the election management board (Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC), to check its claims of independence, ensure it publish the registered voting units throughout the country including names of its officials in its website, the newspapers and the electronics for ease of accessibility.
Do you think Nigeria has learned from the June 12 struggle?
Nothing has been learnt by Nigeria. Notwithstanding the accolades poured on the June 12, 1993 election, the lessons inherent in it are yet to be learnt to bring out constructive change in the way the country is being selfishly controlled and monopolised. After the 1993 election that brought June 12, the next fair election was the 2011 election which brought the Umaru Yar’Adua/Goodluck Jonathan administration, unfortunately Jonathan allowed the country to be run by clueless and directionless people, who made the country ungovernable till 2015, leaving very corrupt legacies of insecurity, insurgency, kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and other home-made crimes of different strands, which destroyed the economy.