As part of the activities to mark this year’s June 12 anniversary, the Committee for the Defence of Human Right recently organised a symposium to commemorate the ideals of the day, report Ugo Aliogo and Joan Madubugwu
“It is true that the presidential election was generally seen to be free, fair and peaceful. However, there was in fact a huge array of electoral malpractices virtually in all the states of the federation before the actual voting began. There were authenticated reports of the electoral malpractices against party agents, officials of the National Electoral Commission and also some members of the electorate.
“If all of these were clear violations of the electoral law, there were proofs of manipulations through offer and acceptance of money and other forms of inducement against officials of the National Electoral Commission and members of the electorate. There were also evidence of conflict in the process of authentication and clearance of credentials of the presidential candidates.”
These were the words of Gen. Ibrahim Babaniganda, after the annulment of the 12 June presidential election involving the late Chief Moshood Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC). Twenty three years after, the pains of this memory have not healed. A majority of Nigerians, who witnessed the election, still recall all that happened vividly. They remember not only the experience, but how the election would have changed the course of political history in the country.
In the political history of Nigeria, June 12 is a watershed that cannot be forgotten in a hurry. Different civil society groups commemorate the day in their own unique way. One of such groups is the Committee for the Defence of Human Right (CDHR), a leading rights group in the country. The group, as part of its activities to mark the day, organised a symposium, with theme: The Imperative of Proper Federation in Nigeria Through a Restructured Policy and also had topics on: ‘Human Rights in the Era of Change; Outstanding Issues and The Priority of Right Under Chapter 2 of 1999 Constitution.
National President of CDHR, Malachy Ugwummadu, noted that the event was an opportunity to reveal to the Nigerian masses, the essence of the June 12 struggle, adding that it was aimed at demystifying some of the wrong notions that kept the people down for a long time.
“The true Nigerian people cared less about religious diversity in the leadership recruitment process, as a result, it was easy for the people to rally around the ticket that had two Muslims, MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe,” he added.
He explained that June 12 was centered around the core questions of the objectives of any democratisation process, which is to deliver the dividends of democracy to the people, stressing that the people supported the party that promoted their welfare.
The CDHR president further stated that there was a serious disconnect between the ruling class and the people, therefore, was a need to bring back to the people the ideals of June 12 struggles. “The earlier we domesticated those ideals and inculcated them in our processes, the better for us.”
Ugwummadu stressed that CDHR has been on the forefront of pushing the struggle for a better society, adding that they are not only involved in physical struggle, but also in serious documentation of well researched literatures to ensure that the facts of history are distorted.
“What we do as an organisation is to keep track of the promises made, whether fulfilled or betrayed by the government in power through our documented literatures, so if they have deviated at any point, we remind them of it through that process.”
A legal practitioner and human rights activist, Femi Aborishade, noted that the essence of commemorating June 12, is to remember the sacrifices made by Abiola, “who insisted on claiming the 60 per cent of votes given to him by the electorate in 1993, which the military refused to declare.”
He said the refusal by the military to give up power led to the masses rising up to say that they were not slaves and their choice could not be annulled, adding that the day also marks the people’s rejection of military dictatorship and the right to insist on voting for the right person to lead them politically.
In another development, Aborishade frowned at the plans of the Oyo state Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, to privatise secondary schools, calling on rights organisations to rise up and kick against the plans. “Nigerians need to insist that the resources of the nation should be used for the common good of the masses, privatisation of secondary schools is unconstitutional.”
He urged the public not to allow a situation, where elected leaders rule the state without aligning themselves with the provisions of the constitutions, while urging the people to come together as a united front in the fight for a better society.
“We must develop a programme around which people can unite. The masses are always fighting, but we don’t have a united political organisation to push the agitations in different quarters. We will continue to fight and identify programmes towards the emancipation of our people. Kudirat Abiola remained committed to the mandate of the people while she was alive.
“The APC government has failed the expectations of Nigerians who voted for them. They were voted to bring change to the nation in a lot of ways. The challenge that faces the Nigerian people is to form a political party of the masses in line with that of MKO Abiola. Restructuring is not the primary cause of poverty that faces us as a nation, rather the challenge we face as a nation is that the resources of Nigeria are being used to satisfy the greed of the leaders instead of the needs of the ordinary people. Restructuring is a programme of the elite and the political class. Nigerians are insisting on their welfare.”
The APC government has failed the expectations of Nigerians who voted for them. They were voted to bring change to the nation in a lot of ways. The challenge that faces the Nigerian people is to form a political party of the masses in line with that of MKO Abiola. Restructuring is not the primary cause of poverty that faces us as a nation, rather the challenge we face as a nation is that the resources of Nigeria are being used to satisfy the greed of the leaders instead of the needs of the ordinary people