By Atiku Abubakar
The significance of the celebration of June 12 1993 Presidential Election is a reminder of our history to becoming a democratic country. On this day twenty-six years ago, Nigeria voted for democracy against the jackboot notion of oppressive totalitarianism.
The collective decision by Nigerians to elect democracy on that day was not to aggrandize the political elite or to replace military dictatorship with civilian autocracy. No! The choice of democracy was to restore power to the people.
Suffice it to state that the idea of June 12 is not merely to declare it as a Democracy Day – much as celebratory and commendable it might seem. The idea behind the event of June 12 1993 embodies something much more bigger than that. It was a threshold moment in our national life that demands of us as democrats to do a soul searching and ask the salient question of all time: how better off are Nigerians?
It is not enough to declare June 12 a Democracy Day when the government of the day is disrespectful of the rule of law and wantonly disregards court orders on issues that border on fundamental human rights. It is not enough to declare June 12 a work free day when the ordinary people of Nigeria still don’t have the freedom to find a better life from the suffocating grip of poverty, when Nigeria is now the global headquarters of extreme poverty. It is not enough to declare June 12 a work free day when a disproportionate number of citizens are not sure of where their next meal will come from and when the sanctity of their lives is not guaranteed. It is not enough to declare June 12 a work free day when freedom of the press, and of speech, fundamentals of democracy is being assailed.
As a compatriot who stood shoulder to shoulder with the icon of the June 12 struggle, Chief MKO Abiola of blessed memory, I know first-hand that the choice of HOPE as his campaign slogan wasn’t merely a populist tokenism. He didn’t mean to deceive Nigerians with a hope he could not deliver upon. And, today, the minimum requirement for any June 12 convert is to demand of them wherever they may be – either in government or in private lives – to deliver on the promises they made to the people.
It is therefore not acceptable that an administration which had an opportunity of four years to deliver the promise of change to Nigerians, not only reneged on that promise, but propelled the country into a near-comatose state will lay claims to being a true friend of the June 12 struggle.
To be a lover of June 12 is to believe in the common good of the people. June 12 is about the political leadership having the focus to retool the Nigerian economy. It is about having the skills to create wealth and jobs for the teeming mass of unemployed. It is not about the inclination for shared pains; it is about shared prosperity.
As we celebrate yet another episode of the June 12 struggle, the desire for hope is more preponderant today much as it was twenty-six years ago. So, for all true lovers of democracy, let us keep the HOPE alive.
Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, was Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007 and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in 2019.