Secession agitations: Nigerians should not think of war –Tobun

June 12 is now recognised as Democracy Day in Nigeria and also a day of reflection on the democratic journey of the country. In this interview with OLADIPUPO AWOJOBI, the lawmaker representing Epe Constituency 1 in the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Abiodun Tobun, speaks on what transpired on June 12, 1993, lessons to be learnt by the political class.

Nigeria is celebrating June 12, what do you think has been the effect of it on our democracy and also what lessons have we learnt?

One could say June 12 was the foundation of the current democratic dispensation and we have learnt a lot of lessons because the will of the people will prevail and if subverted, it will continue to haunt us for a very long period of time. So, June 12 has become a hallmark in the political history of this country and that was when Nigerians regardless of tribe, religion and background came out enmasse to vote for Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election. Abiola won Alhaji Ibrahim Tofa of the NRC (National Republican Convention) in his own town at that time.

But the military junta dashed the hope of the common man and that sparked nationwide protests in the country Unfortunately, the winner of the presidential election died in the struggle. However, June 12 has come and will stay forever in our minds and memories. The history of Nigeria is incomplete without mentioning June 12 election and those who died in the struggle like Abiola, Pa Alfred Rewane, Kudirat Abiola and many others.

The military knows that with June 12 and the struggle that followed, they will not be able to come back again to power. So, June 12 has entrenched the democracy we are witnessing today and Abiola must be immortalised because he was the man who laid down his life for the enthronement of the democracy that we are witnessing. June 12 has come to stay. Even when May 29 was seen as Democracy Day, everyone knew that June 12 will continue to haunt us for a long period of time. Some people even postulated that Abiola should be declared winner and swornin as posthumous president. It shows the extent we are committed to the June 12 struggle

Looking at secession agitations in the South and the political behaviour of the political class in relations to 2023 general elections, can you say with the experience of June 12, the politicians have really learnt any lesson?

When looking at the political class angle to what is happening, we are all involved. The political class, the elite, technocrats and the businessmen we are all involved, even the military is also involved. We all know that democracy will not strive if we do not cooperate, we have to work in tandem. We have to work in line with the rule of law and we all know that the rule of law makes democracy tick.

So, if the military is not ready to abide by the provisions of the constitution, that means the military is involved. if the businessmen fail to abide by the provisions of the constitution, it means they are involved. The political elite have learnt their lessons but don’t forget that some businessmen stay somewhere and sponsor military coups. Chief MKO Abiola was a strong businessman and politician who knew what happened; that there were s o m e people behind the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. Some are in the military, some are in royal palaces and some are in the business world and some are politicians.

So it was not as if politicians were the only ones who annulled the election. Some people were behind it and that was what General Ibrahim Babangida (retd.) said. It did not happen in the military circle alone, we knew when Al-Mustapha was arrested and he said they were compelled to do it. So, the political class has learnt its lessons and I hope other sectors too have done so to enable our nascent democracy to thrive for a long period of time because if you vote for somebody and he does not perform to your expectations you use your vote to send the person packing rather than coming through military coups to hijack government.

Recently in the United States of America, when former president Donald Trump was elected and people assumed he was rigged into power with the belief that some countries supported him to win election through the back-door, America did not use the military to topple him. They waited till his tenure ended and he was shown the way out through the ballot box. In Nigeria we should learn to do so too. At least if Abiola was allowed to govern this country, he would have spent his terms and gone by now. So, the record would have been there either he did well or otherwise but instead those who felt they didn’t like his face ganged up with the military to annulthe election. So, all of us must learn our lessons, that is the truth because if heaven will fall, it will fall on all of us not only the politicians.

Regarding insecurity, this was part of what we witnessed in the military and the political circle. Most of these thugs were given dangerous weapons during elections. Even there are some among the police, military who have weapons with them and did not release them to the armoury and are using such weapons to terrorise this nation.

There are also those who went to neighbouring countries to import people into the country to support them with arms during election campaigns. Till now, they have a free day to operate and coerce people with their weapons. The cultists and thugs who were given ammunition during elections are those we are seeing terrorising and operating in this country today. Except a decisive decision is taken by the government, it won’t end.

Those engaging in kidnapping are also benefiting heavily and it has become their stock in trade. We need to work together to ensure that this country does not suffer undue losses and should not allow war to occur at all because if war occurs, everybody will be consumed. We only had two political parties in the race during the June 12, 1993 presidential election and so people had to choose between the two. But in this democratic dispensation, we have multi-party system in place and the electioneering process continues to be tense.




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