- Category: Politics
- Published on Wednesday, 25 August 2010 00:00
- Written by The Nation
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FORMER Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ribadu Tuesday reflected on the historic June 12, 1993 presidential election. He dismissed the insinuation that its annulment by former Military President Ibrahim Babangida had the blessing of the North as a ruse.
He said it was a lie that the North rejected the winner of the poll, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, whom he described as a hero of democracy whose struggles heralded the freedoms enjoyed by Nigerians today.
Ribadu spoke at the public presentation of a book, "Diary of a Debacle: Tracking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition", written by respected journalism teacher and renowned columnist, Dr Olatunji Dare. The book, Dare, the author said, is dedicated to "Abiola and the spirit of June 12."
The ceremony, which was chaired by the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain, Real Admiral Ndubusi Kanu (rtd), was witnessed by a large crowd of pro-democracy crusaders, statesmen, politicians, journalists and youths who invaded the venue with their campaign for "one man one vote".
The 122-page book was reviewed by Odia Ofeimun, a poet. A professor of International History and Politics, North Western University, Illinois University, United States, Richard Joseph, wrote the forward.
The presentation coincided with the 73rd post-humors birthday of the symbol of the ‘June 12’ struggle, Abiola. At the request of Kanu, a minute of silence was observed in Abiola’s honour by the audience.
Eminent Nigerians, including Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN), his predecessor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker Adeyemi Ikuforiji, Action Congress of Nigeria (A C N) chieftains; Rauf Aregbesola, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Senator Abu Ibrahim, Dr Doyin Abiola, and Mr Ayodele Adewale, chairman of Amuwo Odofin local council were locked in reminiscences on the annulment and the crisis it unleashed on the polity.
Apart from frowning at the refusal of the Federal Government to immortalise Abiola, they also lamented the drift to bad governance which permeates all tiers of government.
While Tinubu regretted that those who presided over the annulment were scheming to occupy the same exalted office they denied Abiola who won an election, Ribadu berated those who annulled the election for selfishness.
Hailing Dare, a consummate author and analyst, for his intellectual effort, Ribadu described the book as a factual representation of history which captured ‘June 12’ as the most significant event in post-civil war Nigeria.
Rejecting the insinuation that the North endorsed the annulment, Ribadu said: "It is a bloody lie that the North rejected Abiola and June 12", stressing that the annulment was the handiwork of a few people who had disdain for democracy.
He maintained that these "unpatriotic Nigerians" exploited the ethnic divide for selfish reasons through their corrupt activities which robbed 14 million voters the dividends of democracy.
"We almost lost Nigeria in 1993. I was part of those that put it together then when I was in the Police. Abiola remained an eternal hero whose activities led to the freedom we enjoy today," Ribadu added.
The former EFCC boss, who recalled his first contact with the late politician in London in 1979, described him as an excellent Nigerian.
"I was passing through the streets of London with my Hausa dress. He stopped his car and beckoned on me. He asked for my name and where I came from. I told him I am Ribadu and that I am from Adamawa. He asked after all the people in Yola, he asked after the Lamido and other people. That was how I connected with him. He had wealth. He used his wealth generously. He gave Zakat up to Ribadu Village. Our rich people there could not do that.
"He deserves to be immortalised. I want you to join me in requesting that the Federal Government should recognise Abiola. There are heroes and pretenders. Abiola gave us hope and it was clear. Nigeria is in dire need of hope. A new Nigeria is very possible; a Nigeria we will be proud of, a Nigeria of justice and fairness."
Asiwaju Tinubu, a key actor in the revalidation of the annulled election who presented the book with N5million, praised Abiola, describing him as "a fallen hero and icon of democracy who died so that we may all be free from the sins and strains of military dictatorship".
He said Dare’s book has woken Nigerians from their slumber, adding that they cannot afford to forget their history.
"The book presents Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s steps, actions and statements that showed that he was not willing to quit office which led to the June 12 crisis. It will refresh the memory of many and illuminate on the roles played by gladiators of that era that later robbed Nigerians the opportunity of having entrenched democracy as far back as 1993.
"The book will surely make a loud scream about the satanic roles played regarding that epoch by those in power or still hanging around the corridors of power. Finally, Dare has come out with the skeletons that some anti-June 12 have hidden for 17 years. Certainly, they are bound to be uncomfortable", he added.
Describing the author as a fearless defender of truth and justice, Tinubu noted that he chose to use his prodigious intellect to advantage, in spite of the risks to his life, job and home.
He said in the face of numerous intimidations and harassment by the military, Dare voluntarily resigned his Editorial Board chairmanship of The Guardian to avoid inconveniencing his employers, adding that, in the process, he lost his official residence and refused to take up any job before opting to go on exile.
In exile, the scholar was unrelenting in his agitation for the revalidation of June 12, 1993 election as he was always sending his famous commentaries to those newspapers he felt had not succumbed to the jackboots of annullers. He eventually returned to the classroom due to intense pressures put on him by universities in the United States to come and join their great faculties. Thus, he became a reluctant brain drain to our nation as a result of militaristic enthroned mediocrity’, Tinubu said.
The former Lagos StateGovernor said Dare is not like the men of yesteryears who many years after will come to eat their vomit’, adding: ‘Those who stood for a truly national party in which anyone from anywhere can aspire to any position, but who would change their position to become zoning advocates because of personal ambition. The patriots and nationalists of yesteryears unfortunately are ethnic champions of today. It is this lack of consistency that makes our national ship to run into stormy weather at all times’.
‘Politics without principle, as Mahatma Ghandi once reminded us, can only bring catastrophe,’ he stressed.
Aligning with Ribadu, the Third Republic Senator said ‘until Nigeria recognises Abiola as the first democratically elected President of this country, justice is not done’.
Tinubu lamented that, instead of honouring patriotic Nigerians, the annual national honours are bestowed on notorious elements who have contributed to the economic and political adversity of the country.
‘Today, rather than the celebration of highly principled first class intellectuals by the nation, we prefer to give national awards to the enemies of democracy; those who truncated our lofty dreams, setting Nigeria back by several years through collaboration and active involvement in one of the worst electoral heist in human history.
‘There are many of them who now preside over several democratic institutions, including amending constitution for us as well as devising tailor-made Electoral Act with the intention of achieving a pre-determined objective, while the grandmasters of the despicable cult of annulment are preparing to come back and reap from where they did not sow.
‘We must resist them. We must take the control of our future. We must go back to reason,’ he added.
Turning to Ribadu, Tinubu praised him for rejecting some of the entreaties to him to turn the EFCC into an institution for harassing the progressive opposition in the country.
He said: ‘Manipulators wanted to use you against us. You did not create falsely a crime and charge people. Some would have created phony charges. Even if the court would allow you to go’.
The former Lagos State governor asked Nigerians to reject the attempt to seize the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), adding that they must also collectively reject any attempt to dictate the order of elections for INEC because election time table is an administrative matter within the exclusive competence of INEC and not a legislative matter.
Governor Fashola, who saluted Dare for launching his book on the occasion of the birthday of the symbol of the struggle, described himself as a beneficiary of the titanic struggle.
Paying tribute to Abiola, he said the politician embraced the hard choice of fighting to the end, instead of going back to his flourishing business in peace.
Urging Nigerians to brace for the 2011 polls, Fashola repeated his call for open debates among aspirants to elective offices.
He said the public debate would showcase the candidates and their manifestos, thereby assisting the people to make the right choice.
"As we prepare for the fight for the political soul of Nigeria in 2011, what is important is a public debate for those people we entrust the business of governance," Fashola said.
His Edo State counterpart, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, who launched the book with N 1.5 million, said Abiola died for democracy.
The governor who led the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) during the June 12 struggle also hailed Dare for his consistent defence of democracy.
Ekiti State A C N governorship candidate who represented the governor praise him for his interest in the political situation in the Fountain of Knowledge.
Feyemi who presented the book with N250,000 said: ‘Dare is a consistent defender of my struggle and the struggle of Ekiti people’, adding that the pen is mightier than sword.
Third Republic Senator Abu Ibrahim, a chieftain of the banned National Republican Convention (NRC), who nevertheless supported the ‘June 12’ struggle lamented the annulment, saying that it was a colossal injustice.
Kanu, former Lagos and Imo States governor, said ‘not many people had the resolve to make the sacrifice which Abiola made for the nation’.
The NADECO chieftain lamented that, since the cancellation of the election result, the country had witnessed series of abnormalities.
Kanu said:’ a President was foisted on Nigeria in 1999. There have been militancy, Boko Haram, kidnappings, and breakdown of infrastructure, adding that no nationality is happy about the turn of events.
‘We have a task to avoid the repeat of June 12’, he counseled.
Dare’s colleague in the literary world, Prof Niyi Osundare, whose goodwill speech was read by one of his old students, Olakunle Abimbola, a columnist with ‘The Nation’ praised him for documenting the events which exposed the evil of the military regime.
One of Abiola’s wives of Abiola, a journalist, who observed that ‘many things written about June 12 were figments of imagination of the writers said "Dare’s book is truthful".
The former Editor an one-time Chief Executive of Concord Press, published by Abiola said although her husband was a peoples’ man, some were more closer to him.
Paying tribute to him, Mrs Abiola added; "MKO was a good man. He had his challenges. He loved beautiful women, like most of you. But if I come back again, I will marry him. He never underrated women. He called his daughters super girls to encourage them’.
Quoting a phrase from a book written by a British administrator, she lamented that Nigeria was put together deliberately to fail.
‘We are working hard to make a difference in 2011. Nigeria will stand’, he said.
Another NADECO leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said:’Dare has been conducting the fight through the pen without any hope of reward. When we don’t honour people like Dare, then, we don’t appreciate those that serve the country’.
The book reviewer, Ofeinum, described the author as the conscience of the nation, a man with a sense of justice and a national asset.
ACN governorship candidate in Osun State, Chief Rauf Aregbesola, who was decked in a white agbada, said he deliberately appeared in that traditional attire out of respect for the author, whom he described as an elder and mentor. ‘May your tribe never diminish’, he prayed.
Waxing philosophical, Aregbesola said: ‘if you want to triumph, perseverance is the key’.
He also pontificated on the value of legacy, saying: ‘if you die at 12 or 112, it does not matter. It is what you have done that would be remembered’.
Aregbesola maintained that whether Abiola is immortarlised by government or not, he would remain a legend and an icon who died for freedom and liberty.
The governorship candidate who informed the audience that he had spend fortune on his protracted litigation presented the book with N100, 000.
The chairman of Amuwo Odofin local council, who Tinubu described as a promising administrator at the grassroots, drew attention to the need to urgently resolve the national questions that have assailed the country for decades.
He said Nigeria should turn to the draft of the Peoples Constitution prepared by the national conference organised by Pro-National Conference organization (PRONACO).
Adewale also asked Ribadu to join the ACN, saying that the youths were rooting for him.
The leader of A C N caucus in the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said:’ June 12 cannot be wished away’. He launched the book on behalf of his colleagues with N1m. but Tinubu rejected the amount, saying that it was small in view of the fabulous salaries earned by the members of the National Assembly.
Gbajabiamila later launched the book with N2m, after reminding Tinubu that the speculation in the media about parliamentary salaries and allowances was now a subject of litigation in the court.
Speaker Ikuforiji who praised Abiola for his heroic struggles presented the book with N2m.
The Managing Director of Vintage Press Limited, Publishers of ‘The Nation, Mr Victor Ifijeh, noted that a honour for Dare was a honour for the newspaper and journalism as a whole. To him, Dare is a role model and a humble personality.
He described the event as" a memorable gathering; a book launch with a difference’.
‘Nigeria cannot forget June 12. It is relevant to what is happening in Nigeria today. It was a watershed that was not allowed to stand. If it had been allowed to stand, it would have led the way to credible elections’, he added.
An elated Dare, who was accompanied by his siblings; Kayode, Col Abayomi (rtd) and Angela, said 17 years after the annulment, the spirit of June 12 has refused to die.
‘That was the spirit that impelled Bashorun Abiola to hold fast to his historic mandate, even when the cost of doing so was nothing less than his freedom and possibly, his life, to reject compromises that would have made a mockery of the right of the people to elect their rulers’, he stressed.
Dare said the same spirit propelled Abiola’s wife, the late Kudirat, to carry on with the struggle after her husband had been taken into captivity, and for which she paid the ultimate price.
The social commentator believed that the spirit is not only about the struggle for democracy and justice, but also about the delivery of goods and services to the people.