June 12: a postscript

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Done deal – 2019, and June 12 formally became Nigeria’s national Democracy Day!

But the strong ripples of just desert, clashed with the no-less-rippling currents of futile denial, in an exhilarating drama of good finally trumping evil.

First, the news hit the wires: all the former heads of state were absent at the epochal event; the apocryphal “owners of Nigeria” – Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and even Ernest Shonekan, the craven head of the pitiful Interim National Government (ING).

Even the one that should be part of them; and yet was clearly not with them on the June 12 debacle: Gen. Yakubu Gowon.  Good, old Jack was reportedly undone by old age flu!

Aside from Gowon who made his own stand very clear with an earlier statement, were the rest unpleased with June 12’s beatification; and so stayed away?  Who knows?

The anti-Buhari lobby, with a penchant to play politics with everything, could convert to warmth that cold comfort, in these excruciating wintry times, for a totally lost cause: the so-called “owners of Nigeria” were displeased!

Still, that stay-out could be a quiet but powerful rite of passage.  Can you be present at your own burial?

The old order fadeth — and its religious minders fall quiet!

Little surprise: on June 12’s rehabilitation, mum has it been; from the once rambunctious polemics chamber of Father Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto.

The bishop’s was one of the most luminous minds, all through military rule; and through the Obasanjo-led old order of the 4th Republic (1999-2015).  It appears the holy priest is getting progressively mute – and muted.

Changing seasons, changing voices!

Still, among the fading order, you just must think of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.  On the June 12 debacle, his is a mixed bag.

MKO Abiola died under his watch, after Sani Abacha’s sudden expiry, in what many have alleged was calculated killing to clear the deck.  But then that honourable, if painful, death earned MKO the martyrdom that hauled him right back to glorious life today.

Also under Abdulsalami’s watch, Obasanjo got sprung from gaol; and raced, after a pardon, to a two-term elected presidency, in what the inimitable Fela would have dismissed as Army Arrangement (AA).  Yet, the same Obasanjo endures life; but hardly enjoys seeing all he erected get trashed!

It is a powerful paradox that must tame the mighty, excite the witty, and buoy the weakling!  Yet, Abdulsalami may yet earn the soft side of history.

His post-power grace-cum-carriage is a model in comportment; for many less endowed but far louder.  Then, the military would perhaps have wished an Abdusalami, not an IBB, or an Abacha.

His short-and-sharp transition could have left a military-fleeing-from-power with some institutional grace; but hardly curbed it of its tragic messianic delusion.  Again, it’s Abdulsalami sweet and sour!

But all sour – no sweetness? – was Gen. Obasanjo, mourner-in-chief, as Carnival June 12 hit town.  Yet, the old fox pointed towards another direction: the brewing political crisis in neighbouring Benin must be nipped in the bud.

That is no bad call, for tiny Benin taught mighty Nigeria the democratic ethos.  Its sovereign national conference (SNC) still fires here, many a federalist romantic; while delivering, in Benin, a seamless democratic transition, in which government and opposition alternate power.

Yet, latest beneficiary, Patrice Talon, after trumping the ruling party’s Lionel Zinsou in a run-off, just sunk an anti-democratic talon – an amendment to the electoral law that all but banned the opposition from bidding for parliament.

To boot, a protesting former President, Thomas Boni Yayi, is clamped under house arrest!

For once, a good call from Obasanjo, even if Talon appears a Benin manifestation of Obasanjo’s own grave anti-democratic flaws — witness his “do-or-die” general elections of 2007.

Ghana’s John Kuffour, his advertised partner in this new Benin campaign, is a study to Obasanjo himself, in how a former president must comport himself – calm, graceful, dignified and non-meddlesome.

Boni Yayi’s restriction might just be a crafty Obasanjo projection, of what he fears just might be his lot, should his reckless meddling continue, even as his political world crashes in a cascade!  But the Nigerian government must not take the bait.  In this business, nothing is as satisfying as self-burial!

But away from the fading order, to lobbies that cannot even claim their glory, no thanks to bad politics and politicking.

Enter the Afenifere, who as a vibrant part of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), were much as anyone, brave, battle-tested and well-decorated June 12 veterans.  Yet, victory came, and all they could muster was a moan, not a whoop.

But God, in His infinite mercies, gave them Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, to vent their spleen – Kingibe, the co-owner of the MKO mandate that abandoned the battle midstream, yet shared in June 12’s full glory!

A leading voice of that lobby, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, pummelled Kingibe without let – and fairly so; for reaping where he did not sow.

Yet, better to admit the unworthy than entirely deny honour that is due.  Didn’t the Bible say it was better to let go a relay of the guilty, than punish a single innocent soul?

Still, a strain of Yoruba ultra-nationalism tried to find its voice, at the peak of the June 12 carnival, staging what it called the “O to ge” rally.

It was the voice of the natives against kidnapping, banditry and allied violent crimes, which had spiked in Yorubaland, as it had in the rest of the country.

Yet, that rally, as legitimate as it was, would have mocked the June 12 principle.  June 12 earned its golden stripes precisely because some evil forces tried to ethnicize – and therefore bury – the Yoruba protest against a flawless presidential mandate handed MKO.

Now, 26 years after June 12, some Yoruba lobbies tried to ethnicize a national plague: painting kidnapping as a sole Yoruba menace, deliberately inflicted by the Fulani.

Just as well it all turned a damp squib; for it was a big negation of the June 12 spirit.

After the June 12 experience, that is no way to go.  Justice – as crime – has no ethnic flavour.  It is a blessing – just as crime is plague – to all!

Besides, the kidnapping story, hitherto a fanatical anti-Fulani tale, has mutated in twists and turns: Yoruba pastor-turned self-kidnapper for ransom; Fulani herdsmen-turned rescuers of Yoruba captives from home-brewed kidnappers!

Kidnapping, nationwide, has turned an all-comer, equal-opportunity criminal racket, which the local authorities, must partner with the federal authorities to crack.

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