It was in the year 1993 that Nigeria would have a taste of a general election that is unique in many ways. One, for the first time in the turbulent political history of this great entity, multi-tribalism was not a barrier as all divides came out with one voice to support the Western Region.
Two, before the time, the Northerners have never agreed with the other regions on serious political issues that affect the generality of the country. Especially the events and aftermath of the clamour for self Independence on the floor of the House, a motion moved by Late Chief Anthony Enahoro, who was later countered by the Northern Legislator, who almost bungled our early chance at independence with a counter-motion. This would metamorphose into the popular Kano Riot.
While the rest may be history, I bet to emphasise that they (Northerners) supported the candidacy of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola of the Social Democratic Party with all their hearts. Although, up against a Northern candidate in the mould of Bashir Tofa, he had a considerably fair share of sympathy from there.
So here goes the initial face-off that culminated in a serious want for democratic governance. The only difference between military and democratic systems of government is in the configuration of the relationship between the governed and the government. It is more like a direct opposite of what seems inalienable under democracy is what is obtainable under the military.
So, six years after our independence there was a whirlwind from the Federal Military Government spearheaded by Maj. Gen. Agunyi Ironsi. He would not survive beyond six months alongside his strategy – not to pave way for a democratic take-over after the country had grappled with a lot of restiveness, public protests, vandalism, kidnappings, treasonous violence and strapping sanity naked before the 1966 military junta- for Yakubu Gowon, a military Whiz Kid was waiting in line to run the rule.
Gen. Muritala Muhammed and Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo were the last two sets of Military rulers before a civilian interregnum, which was made possible by an unusually liberal decree dressed to bring back civilian rule. The stability of civilian rule people had hoped for would also not be actualised until the year 1999. As much as one would like to dip hands into history, there are other areas worth paying attention to.
If you read history well enough, you would understand that the so-called great leaders are directly complicit in the ruination of Nigeria’s destiny.
Abiola’s mandate was not to be because the military ruler and dictator General Ibrahim Babaginda, annulled the elections. People were tired of military dictatorship and even though you might not have lived under a dictatorship, you must have come across copious notes on it from Cuba, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Congo and Uganda.
One would have thought that Nigeria’s democracy was handed to us freely with the way the government of the day and our leaders in time past practised the system of government, which is so revered by many nationalists, patriots, activists and social and political philosophers around the globe. Well, the global trend does not suggest that it is Nigeria alone that does not know how to handle democracy.
However, Nigeria would have been an excellent example for other nations in the African democratic leadership but questions now straddle on the occipital and forehead of our leaders who have chosen to practise or perhaps define our democracy differently from the postulate, of Abraham Lincoln.
Many a critic, who is displeased with the manner this astonishingly beautiful princess called democracy has been desecrated like the way the Trojan women in the women of Owu lost the shrine of obatala; a god of divinity in recent times have opined that “we need to consider the blood stains on the clothes of our deflowered democratic princess calling for attention and vengeance.
A list of some of the issues on the lips of agitators include, a reduction in the bogus salaries of some politicians, paying workers a living wage, open the borders for more food items, justice for END SARS victims, abolish the 1999 constitution, end insecurity and insurgency that is fast spreading to the South, reverse the obnoxious electricity tariffs, revert to a regulated fuel price and stop further increment, among many others.
Should we begin to say that democratic elements set apart protest as a demand for good government and a way to make the government check its policies and activities?
Protesters daily are arrested and detained by the Armed Forces of the government, they are sometimes beaten and brutalised for demanding good governance and staging peaceful protests. Do we say, the government of the day doesn’t allow any protesters to rightfully make their demands in the public or perhaps peaceful protests are not allowed to display their dismay about the government of the day?
Tellingly, one will begin to wonder; is this the type of democracy that we desire for our nation or is this the type of democracy that our heroes past fought for with all their power and strengths? For the record, most of our leaders today have one time enjoyed the gains of the collective inputs of our nationalists who fought militantly and gave their lives for what we call democracy. Of course, this might go without raising eyebrows in some quarters but the perceived abuse of the system boils down to the people, who take advantage of their array of freedom to cause distractions for the government by availing themselves to be used by unscrupulous elements.
Today, where freedom of expression is under threat, freedom of the press, freedom of the judiciary and freedom of association and even religion in a democracy, we are quick to say that it is authoritarian, and fascist, to an extent of being fair, pseudo-democratic.
But while you try to lionise Abiola, look at his dealings with the military governments, with Babaginda and Abacha in particular. Look at what led to Shonekan’s removal. Look at his complicity, too. Nigeria’s education should teach real history.