June 12 and the taming of MKO Abiola By Adeolu Ademoyo

The June 12 conundrum continues to dog the sense of limits of successive political groups that had unfortunately ruled us since the historic challenge of 1993. This is because, as constrained as liberal democracy is, elections remain the one tool available to the voter and the taxpayer for the ritual of sending off ANY failing public office holder and of validating a fresh mandate to promises of hope and delivery.  

The periodic reminder, therefore, that June 12 is the totem designed to construct our own version of a PROGRESSIVE STREET AND PUBLIC POLITICAL ETHOS in the context of Nigerian democracy make the date a veritable trigger for seismic impact in the conscience of a derelict political group.

Fortunately, the political group I am referring to cuts across all ethnic and religious divides in Nigeria. They are from the southern creeks to the northern savannah, from the eastern forests to the western forests. They carry the Koran; they are armed with the Bible.  We are having a conversation here. So please do your own part of the reflection and check your diaries to see those who have been in Aso Rock from June 12 1993 –June 12 2012-the time we are writing this.

Members of this political group are joined by a common project-use ethnicity and religion to disable, dis-empower and deaden the working people in order to turn Nigerian public treasury to safe eternal looting haven for themselves, families and children. So? We have moved from the looting spree under Mr. Ibrahim Babangida (Muslim-North) and Mr. Abacha (Muslim-North) to Mr. Obasanjo (Christian-West), to Mr. Jonathan (Christian-South-South): From Halliburton Oil Scandal to Malibu oil 155 billion naira  scandal- all scandals and thefts uniting Nigeria’s ruling group against Nigerian working people and cutting across ethnic and religious divides in common looting of  our heritage and estate.

Naturally in making these claims, I welcome reasoned rebuttals based on simple logical reasoning and not the usual silly ethnic and religious unprintables

This group is mortally afraid of June 12 because that was one historical moment Nigerians put aside divides to send a muslim/muslim ticket (yes bourgeois and therefore can be limited) as a governing tool to re-inaugurate, rekindle and re-ignite   contemporary Nigerian democracy that creates legal conditions and social frameworks (short of a violent class revolution) that will insist on OPEN AND PAINSTAKING PUBLIC SCRUTINY of office holder as it is done in western democracies where these evil and morally deficient characters store the looted and stolen Nigerian public wealth  and where they send their children to for their education.

This group has always used two ways to tame June 12. The first way is to ignore and officially deaden it. Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo is the chief strategist of this kind of assault. As a former soldier and platoon commander he understands the strategy of a quiet and subtle scorched earth tactics-pummel privately inside out and ignore publicly.  Always a pugilist of all sorts, Mr. Obasanjo deployed this strategy adroitly against history and June 12. But it failed.

Given that unofficial history is quiet but stolid and solid, June 12 the soul of contemporary Nigerian democracy lay quietly mocking official history, staid and always waiting to be told. June 12 is the soul of contemporary Nigerian democracy not because an individual made it, but because it is the mass unfolding of the lives of the people, their street conditions and, as apprehended, articulated and supported by individuals of progressive hues. 

The story of June 12 is about the trenches, of support in the trenches; of 70 something year old Papa Alfred Rewane who could no longer run physically given his  age for nature had come calling as it would call on everyone, but  whose quiet but staid and steady support for June 12 no one often mentions and who received death as an evil and murderous gift from Nigerian military dictatorship for his support when the Nigerian military dictatorship came calling; of escapes through the borders to fight again; of ditches, of treachery, of  state spies, of betrayal in the trenches and streets; of amnesia, of deaths of loved ones who will never resurrect again; of readiness to take the bullets in the name of honor; of Radio Kudirat the Nigerian underground radio station of the progressive voice; of the progressive underground press; of progressive and open minded members of the middle class and the intelligentsia who will NEVER lay claim to any victory-for it is NOT their history or victory, but who  stood stern-faced, unmoved with ordinary working people only with their pens, papers, brains and minds as the working people enacted their own  history by themselves.

Even when June 12 predates the recent Arab spring, as usual because of the self hating and self contemptuous underdog race status we have given ourselves as Africans such that we NEVER think of CENTERING ourselves as   teachers of the world,(as in everything we as Africans are ever contented to be at the margins of history and discourse) June 12 has to be tamed, regionalized and localized by Nigeria’s ruling group, and consigned to Moshood Kashimawo Olalekan Abiola’s  family and compound, while the Arab spring is said to be  “international”! It is a race inferiority complex. But pray tell me the qualitative difference between the mass energy and political democratic morals and credentials of June 12 and the Arab spring or occupy street movements., and which preceded the other temporally.

So June 12 was never and will never be my story nor will it ever be your story. It was and will always be the story of my mother, your mother, my father, your father, your siblings, my siblings, those Nigerian working people who do not care a hoot which religion or ethnicity you belong, and who have to jump into those smelly, stinking, rickety buses that make their clothes cry and tear as they jump into the buses everyday of their lives on their way to work and who do not have access to this internet platform through which you read this.

This is why June 12 always lay quiet mockingly at its official purchase and horse-trading. Given its eternity, no one can catch and tame the wind in his palm. June 12 is that which sits  eternally and mockingly on the neck of the Nigerian political class and their fraudulent games against Nigerian working people.

For different reasons, the current Nigerian president, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan ably supported by some advisers and a few members of the Abiola family and compound, represent the second line of assault against June 12. The method? Restrict June 12 to Abiola’s compound turning Abiola to a mere lovely husband of his wives and a loving and kind  father of his children! Either by act of omission or commission, the members of Abiola family who put their names on  that letter to President Jonathan  are complicit in this historical deceit and re-writing of history.

Nothing in that letter talks about the toiling, and roles of the masses of Nigerian working people in their defense of their votes. Nothing in that  letter  talks about the massive and ultimate price ordinary people paid  on the streets in defense of June 12. Nothing in that letter speaks to  the current situation of mass looting  in Nigeria, which is a complete subversion of the public ethos of June 12, and its democratic aspirations. Nothing in the letter asks if Mr. President adhered to any laws  in the re-naming. Nothing asks if there was consultation in the re-naming –one of the very foundations of June 12. 

And talk about education, nothing in the letter asks serious questions about the situation the country is in today where members of Nigerian middle class are sending their children to Ghana and other neighboring  and less endowed west African countries  for  their children’s high school education, and where out of 1.5 million students (including those in the so-called private schools) who did the last JAMB examination ONLY THREE got a score above 300 under the watch of a President who is re-naming a university.

That is what the few members of Abiola family who signed and put their names on  that doting letter written to President Jonathan have in conjunction with Mr. Jonathan  attempted to turn June 12 and Abiola to.

The tool? De-historicize June 12.  Politicize, commercialize and trade it off for personal social and political fortunes. Empty it of any historical significance but pay lip service to it for the 2015 votes.

 So with an eye on 2015 general elections, a 155 billion naira morally shocking Malibu Oil scandal, a stream, slip and trip of consciousness (on a simple and harmless prayer call against corruption by Reverend Akinola to mark paradoxically democracy day) by a president that betrays a non-committal fight against corruption; and with the remnants of June 12 critical populace that insists on PUBLIC AND MORAL SCRUTINY OF OFFICE HOLDERS, a president with lean achievement after three years in the saddle of power may have few options than to play games with a peoples history-June 12. Mr. Jonathan did just that by simply repeating the dubious history of this same Nigerian political group.

What to do? Run around hanky panky for the greatest diversion from the weeks’ scandals and gaffes. Consult some advisers who had climbed on this same June 12 through their writings and actions, but  whose history and antecedents are of leech, debauchery and treachery; who have sold and mortgaged their youthful souls and consciences to the stench and oily liquor of power. And what did they come with thoughtlessly and some say cluelessly? Rename University of Lagos as Abiola University and head towards 2015 elections.

After failing to perfect it for you do not perfect an evil act, because it is incurably evil, send a bill as an after thought, and after the fact  to the caged Nigerian senate whose president Mr. Mark,  is no different morally  from Mr. Jonathan himself. After that, deploy newly recruited younger political contractors and merchants of political commerce of the tweeter and social media age to kick-start a dubious comparison between the renaming of Unilag and Harvard University.  

If that fails sell a dummy and confusion by putting it out there “innocently” and “wonder” if the resistance to the dubious renaming “is not as a result of the fact that some fictional elders of the south west have never desired that Abiola should be honored”. So June 12 and Abiola are ‘south-west’ ethnic histories to be “honored” ethnically? So June 12 (given that it is an African thing)was never a “spring” that teaches the world how ordinary Nigerian working people enact their lives with honor against military dictatorship, looting and corruption! It has to be an “ethnic” thing!

Can someone see the self-inflicted inferiority race complex? Other people in other parts of the world can do it, exercise their agency and freedom, and teach the world how to… but we cannot because we are Africans. We have to learn and not teach the world. If we did it, it is by accident, by default, not in us. It is worse and morally painful coming from fellow Africans, fellow Nigerians.

 But scrutinize these seemingly “innocent” comments in the media and scrutinize those coming from Mr. Jonathan’s presidency to see the similarity in language, structure and content.

But as always June 12 laid quietly stolid, staid, deep, reflective, unobtrusive, always waiting to be told. A gift to the world from the united strength of the Nigerian working people, before it the dubious tremble. After it, the history of the working people is told.  And in it the world is taught.

This is in memory of Pa Alfred Rewane the Ogidigbo of Nigerian public sphere, the highly cultured, civil, gentle soul of liberal and progressive voice and financier of Nigerian progressive movement who quietly but heroically like the Spartan took the bullet from the Nigerian military without blinking an eye in his bedroom just before breakfast on that fateful day . He received the evil gift for his quiet and unwavering staid support for June 12. He was cut down bodily but he remains eternally blessed. This is to the bodily dead but eternally living, the immortal –friends and loved ones, those who put their lives, children, families, professions, studies on the line and at risk for the soul of contemporary Nigerian democracy and our unborn children. This is so that Nigerian working people shall not be constrained. This is so that June 12 the soul of contemporary Nigerian democracy shall not be dehistoricized. This history shall and will be told.

Adeolu Ademoyo aaa54@cornell.edu, Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.


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