Though, the award of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR) posthumously bestowed on Chief M K O Abiola is correct, but the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria is not only incorrect but ‘procedurally’ faulty under the provisions of democracy. Will these errors continue?
Need not be told anew is the epoch of colonialism in Nigeria and other happenings such as the change in the form of government and democratic structures up till the early hours of May 29, 1999.
While it may seem puzzling to any knowledge seeking citizen on why even the nations tagged “Super powers” have not marked out a date since their independence to be tagged as their own democracy day, it must be noted that the non ascription of a date to such celebration is due to the complexities and intricacies attached with the adoption of the fittest day to be tagged as such.
Taking a historical and conceptual thought on democracy, juxtaposing it with the happenings of June 12, 1993 which was the day for the presidential election of the third aborted republic, any individual with a deep understanding of democracy will be confident to objectively proclaim how unfit June 12 is to be tagged as what we can hold onto as a democracy day.
Analyzing such will lead me to succinctly defining democracy while concisely historicizing the happenings of June 12, 1993 General Election.
In this connection, according to the 16th president of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, Democracy is “the government of the people by the people and for the people”.
This mean for all that the central idea of democracy revolves around the majority rule principle.
That is, at any point in time when the wishes of the majority as expressed through popularly accepted means prevails, that is democracy.
However, this was not the case with the events of June 12 as the decision of the majority was overruled by the parochial and autocratic decision of just one man, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) and the retaliatory struggle for the realization of the mandate by the majority was still overridden by this same man who only stepped aside.
Hence, the majority’s decision to have an M K O as their president was never actualized. Thus, democracy could not be rightly said to have had its way as it therefore means that since the people wanted Chief M K O and he never ruled as president therefore, power did not belong to the people.
A minority “carried” the vote of over millions of electorate.
That is the opposite of what democracy explicitly stands for.
But if it was the case that the struggle towards the actualization of the mandate yielded and M K O ruled as president, then it will simply mean that, “the majority decided (Voted M K O), just one man through a proclamation stampeded their decision, hence, the majority disregarded the displeasing proclamation, organized themselves and stood for their mandate till they had their way, thus, majority later had their way, meaning power belonged to the people.”
This never happened till another republic started on May 29, 1999 stamping the final decimation of the republic that was never manifest.
More of the reasons it shall be referred to as an “aborted” third republic for life.
Although like a democrat, I also join other Nigerians in condemning the annulment of the election which was adjudged the freest and fairest election ever.
Yet, it does not suffice to say that it fits to be tagged a democracy day in Nigeria.
Unless, the FGN alone has decided to compensate the late Chief M K O Abiola with tagging this day as such, if not, this day is better fit as “Democracy Struggle Day or Scramble for Democracy” or some other coinages as semantically the concept of “democracy” and what happened that time are directly opposite.
The majority only struggled for it. Or if democracy which provides “majority rule” at all times was upheld and their decision stood, why would people before now have protested or clamoured for the actualization of whatever mandate?
In fact, it is the obvious case that democracy was raped on that day.
A daylight unarmed robbery of the democratic rights of the majority it was.
One man through a proclamation forever raped the desire of millions of heads.
Is that democracy? Meanwhile, the seemingly genuine argument most sympathizers of June 12 have always put forward is that “June 12 is unique as it was the first time in history Nigerians from East, West and North came out to vote a candidate not minding their own ethnic extractions or allowing religious affiliations becloud their choice of voting.”
To this end will I explicitly avow that election of leaders and voting is not the core of democracy.
In fact, elections also hold under other systems and not necessarily under democracy alone.
The core of democracy which is political liberty upholds that at every point in time, the will of the majority must be upheld.
This is why election is a tool to decide the wish of the majority and it is not democracy unless the majority wish comes to reality through such elections.
And if we are to talk of the popularity of the election, may I shockingly point out the fact that the latter happenings of the annulment eleven days after the election held and the struggle that followed led to the real popularity of the election as according to the facts provided, I can assert that like every other General Elections in Nigeria, there was mass apathy displayed during the electioneering process of that June 12, 1993.
The total number of votes cast for the adjudged winner was not even up to 9million and of which 9million is even too microscopic few based on the population of Nigerians as at then.
And if we are to determine what day becomes our democracy day based on the massiveness of votes, then our democracy day should be April 21, 2007 as the votes secured by the winner of that General Election is the most massive ever in the history of Nigeria.
Even though, it has its own irregularities. And if it is the mere fact of annulment that has made June 12 qualify as the democracy day in Nigeria then, August 6, 1983 should also be fit as there was an indirect annulment of the 2nd General Election of the 2nd republic.
Or are we to say that without an annulment of the election outcome, June 12 would still have been tagged democracy day in Nigeria?
And if it that people lost their lives defending June 12 mandate, then, Jan 15, 1970 should also be fit as abundance were the Nigerians who untimely lost their lives in the cause of defending the unity and oneness of Nigeria against secession.
So, on every 1st of October, we celebrate independence for Nigeria gained independence on this day.
On October 1, 1963, we as a nation became a republic and its celebration will be well understood by posterity.
But what genuine and democratically outstanding thing do we tell posterity we gained on June 12 that makes us deify this Election Day as democracy day of all historical days?
That people lost their lives or what?
Why May 29, 1999? Yes! I must assert that of all dates, May 29 stands out as the fittest.
Like other constitutions with a unique and outstanding provision, the provision in the Chapter 1, Part I Section 1(2) of the 1999 constitution of our dear country, Nigeria portrays this.
It reads thus:
“The federal republic of Nigeria shall not be governed nor shall any persons or group of persons take control of the government of Nigeria or any part thereof, except in accordance with the provision of this constitution.”
Like the 1989 which is notable for the provision of recall among others, the section quoted supra is the most unique provision introduced into the constitutional and democratic history of Nigeria as no other constitution totally outlawed the seizure of power by whatever illegitimate means except the 1995 proposed constitution which even proposed a punishment for coup plotters but which only remained a draft due to its non enactment.
Therefore, according to the principle of constitutionalism, the provision explicitly outlaws the seizure of the government of Nigeria through military coups.
At the beginning of the fourth republic the provision therefore meant that at last! Democracy and democratic system has come to stay.
Though, in practice, it may not be so assuring to posit that this single factor has been the reason for the constant democratic and civilian administration we have been enjoying since 1999 till now but that intending power usurpers unlike before, now know such act is a grievous offence thus, keeping them in check.
Notwithstanding, some people have also claimed over the years that the sacrifices of June 12 is what has led to the emergence of May 29, 1999.
Well, in this life, something assuredly necessitates the other.
And initial promise of Babangida for a transition to civilian rule as at the time of his emergence as the Nigeria head of state led to the transition plan of the regime which concomitantly gave rise to the General election of June12, 1993.
And if at all the sacrifices led to the emergence of May 29, 1999 transition to civilian rule, that invariably means that since the time of the annulment of June 12, power finally belonged to the people of Nigeria on May 29, 1999.
Moreover, if we as a nation desire to discard May 29 as the democracy day, the other fittest day should be October 1 (1963) when Nigeria gained a republican status. Not even June 12.
Colonialism is in itself a threat to democracy.
Like the 1960 Independence constitution made Nigeria a sovereign state, the 1strepublic and the constitutional enactment that backed it up finally washed away the last vestiges of colonialism in the country.
It is therefore fit to avow that the footprint of anything so to be called democracy started in Nigeria in 1963.
Even though a lot of elections have held in Nigeria before 1963, like I earlier expressed, election is not synonymous to democracy.
Anything called republic goes spontaneously in tandem with the concept of democracy.
This accounts for reasons a country automatically loses its republican status immediately a putsch sets in.
In his essay “Iron law of oligarchy” Robert Michels explicitly expressed his dissents on the representative type of democracy arguing that, “most representative democracy and systems deteriorate towards an oligarchy or particracy.”
And this is exactly the case with the government of Nigeria since independence as it has made it appear that General election, gubernatorial etc are the only means through which the majority can exercise their popular sovereignty.
Representative democracy does not automatically mean oligarchy (government of the few) as the decisions of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary alone do not mean democracy.
To this end, do I express that historical dates are sacrosanct and for there to be a change in any date, it has to be a collective decision of both the representatives (Executive, legislature and Judiciary) and the ruled.
Unless we operate a pseudo democracy in Nigeria, if not, nowhere in any democratic states of the world does any government wake up and publicly declare a change of date.
Hence, for a change in democracy day from May 29 to June 12 to be procedurally correct in a democratic setting, it requires an overwhelming consent of majority (the ruled) which can be best expressed through the conduct of a referendum or plebiscite.
It is only rather unfortunate that the government of Nigeria has only made the concepts of referendum and plebiscites appear utopian.
Most democratic states of the world like the US, Ghana, Eire et al have always backed up their constitution drafting and enactment process with a referendum.
A case study is the draft of the Ghana 1960 Republican Constitution which was first submitted to a referendum of the people for approval.
It is rather so appalling that Nigeria has never had a referendum on any matter since independence.
The preamble of the Nigeria constitution reads as “We, the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Having firmly and solemnly resolved, to live in unity and harmony…”
The long time inability of the government of Nigeria to subject the constitution drafting process to a referendum since independence has always been making the pronoun “We” in the preamble of all Nigerian constitutions ever questionable.
Government is not run with sympathy.
So, even if some people had wanted a change of date before now, even like the elementary government textbooks provide, a referendum is a “Yes or No vote…” a referendum should have been conducted to ascertain the consent of the citizens and which will be upheld and documented for the sake of history.
So, when posterity hears of a change in date on June 6, 2018 under the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, they will as well be able to know why such happened and how it was the popular sovereignty of the people exercised through a referendum upheld that.
Unless the federal government under the leadership of president Muhammadu Buhari is saying to Nigerians and the international community that the democracy day in Nigeria is whatever date any incumbent administration chooses between May 29 and June 12.
Otherwise, the sudden announcement of a change of date of the democracy day is too big a decision to be taken by the president and the National assembly alone.
First, the GCFR award bestowed posthumously on Chief MKO Abiola is partially correct.
And for it to be more procedurally correct, the horse must be put before the cart.
No one can be conferred GCFR without being first declared as the winner of a General Election.
GCFR comes automatically on assuming office as President of Nigeria.
Thus, the facts and figure of the June 12, 1993 General Election is still available and so, the Federal Government of Nigeria through INEC should collate the facts and like is done for every other General Elections, announce the result of the election through the INEC chairman officially declaring the late philanthropist as winner.
This process should have preceded the ceremonial conferment of May, 2018.
Second, the Federal Government should revisit the non-procedural and undemocratically made declaration of changing democracy day from May 29 to June 12 thereby conducting a referendum which can only be the best means of providing us with fact and statistical documentation of what the majority decides on the issue.
And in a case where this appears impossible, already the Federal Government has trampled on the popular and political sovereignty of the people therefore, without any modicum of pride the Federal Government should publicly tender an unreserved public apology to Nigerians for making such “oligarchic” decision.
Nigeria shall remain a democratic state and not a pseudo democratic one of barbarians.
Third, like Chief Anthony Enahoro agitated for a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) before his indelible demise, according to the clamour of Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAM, SAN, GCON, eight years after the 21st century began, there is a need for an SNC (Supreme National Conference) in Nigeria.
Finally, many people have always lampooned General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 General Election.
Yes! It is a right thing as forever must we continue to castigate him for such fraudulent and sinister act.
However, to avoid hypocrisy let it also be told to General Muhammadu Buhari that he is in no way different from IBB in that regard of disrupting democracy.
Both (IBB and Gen. Buhari) were offenders who raped democracy on June 12, 1993 and December 31, 1983 respectively.
In fact, Gen. Buhari forcefully disrupted, robbed democracy and our republican status as a nation at the close of the year; a time where festivity and merriment filled the air for citizens.
Therefore, the incumbent occupant of the Office of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Presidency must publicly tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians.
God bless Nigeria!
Oyebanjo Oluwaseun Abiola
From Ikenne Local Government, Ogun State