By Bola A. Akinterinwa
June 12 is simply a date, so is June 12, 1993. As a date, it varies in importance from country to country. In Nigeria, it started as an election date and day. It was a day of mixed inspirations, a day of sweetness and bitterness. On June 12,1993 the best ever presidential election in Nigeria took place. It was the very first presidential election during which the toga of both political chicanery, religious bigotry, and ethnic chauvinism was set aside in favour of a united and vibrant Nigeria.
The electoral procedure, Option A4, was devoid of visible electoral malpractice. The elected presidential candidate, Chief M.K.O. Abiola and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe, were both Muslims and yet, Nigerians voted them in. The election was adjudged nationally and internationally the fairest and the freest. Without doubt, the electoral process reflected a creative and an originality of thinking. However, Nigeria’s military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, for reasons that are yet to be made crystal clear up till now, annulled the election for various selfish interests.
The immediate implication was that a very wrong impression was given to the effect that either there was no election or no election results, or that the election results were fraught with inadequate collation, or that the election results were not officially declared, and therefore, there would not have been any good basis for Chief MKO Abiola to claim the status of a president-elect. Whatever reasons the Babangida regime might have considered and prioritised in annulling an election result that was normally non-annullable, most Nigerians strongly believed that Chief MKO Abiola was duly elected, and therefore he was a President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that Nigerians never had. This is why June 12 has always remained a critical issue in the political governance of Nigeria.
June 12 is no more simply a date of election or a date of annulment. June 12 has become a movement, whose cardinal objective is to ‘promote and further advance the popular trend of mass action and popular struggles of Nigerians, which ousted the Nigerian military from power.’ The June 12 Democracy Movement, founded by Veteran Olawale Okunniyi, is also seeking the entrenchment of constitutional democracy and remembrance of historical sacrifices of the Martyrs, Heroes, and Heroines of Nigeria’s current democratic aspiration. It was within the quest for the attainment of these objectives that the theme of the 2017 National Breakfast Prayers and Tributes Session in Honour of MKO Abiola focused on ‘June 12 Movement and the Hope of Equitable Restructuring for Nigeria. The session was hosted by Abdul Mumuni Abiola at the Ikeja residence of MKO Abiola.
But, perhaps more interestingly, June 12 has also become a new basis for political struggle and ideology in Nigeria. While every June 12 always reminds of 1993 and serves as a source of strength for increasing militants, June 12 cannot but also be a major source of bitterness for General Ibrahim Babangida as June 12 provides a periodical opportunity to lambast him, as well as insult the Nigerian military for tainting the political will of Nigerians. This is most unfortunate.
And to a great extent, the bitterness with which politics in Nigeria has had to be associated since 1993, is largely responsible for the deepening insecurity in Nigeria. It is also largely responsible for the quest for self-determination, and the increasing threats to national unity and development. In fact, the most critical challenge with which Nigeria is currently faced is the mounting pressure for the restructuring of Nigeria, especially in light of the militancy of the MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta), MASSOB (Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra), IPOB (Indigenous People of Biafra), OPC (Oodua People’s Congress), as well as the Boko Haram insurgency.
Put differently, June 12 has, indeed, become another dynamic in the struggle for restructuring of Nigeria or the quest for true federalism in Nigeria. For instance, at the session of tributes, several recommendations were made. They included the establishment of an MKO Abiola Institute for Democracy; declaration of June 12 as a National Day, if not a democracy day; declaration of MKO Abiola as President of Nigeria post-humously; payment of all his entitlements to his family; naming of the Eagle Square in Abuja after him; and perhaps most importantly, the urgent need to restructure Nigeria into manageable and sustainable zones or regions.
The importance of the call for restructuring of Nigeria is to the extent that it is now very politicised and the future of Nigeria is also made contingent on it. Some observers posit that restructuring has the potential to disintegrate the country on a permanent basis. Some others argue that the only panacea to the myriad of problems, especially in terms of national insecurity, is to restructure and that restructuring is not about disintegrating the country. There are also the proponents of no compromise with the unity of Nigeria. They argue that, regardless of whatever problems may be confronting Nigeria, national unity must be maintained. As they explained it, national unity is not â€˜negotiableâ€™
What is noteworthy here is that the argument of non-negotiability of national unity is, at least, a wishful thinking. There is nothing on earth that cannot be negotiated or re-negotiated. Negotiation can be by express consent. It can also be prompted by situations of force majeure. As there are wars you prepare for, so are the many wars that are not prepared for but imposed. Put differently, when peaceful dialogue and negotiations are made difficult, one option often made available is military dialogue and negotiation. Military negotiation is firstly and generally held on the battle fields. It does not allow for consultations on the field. It is essentially about killing the enemy first or the enemy kills you first.
Consequently, the argument of non-negotiability of Nigeriaâ€™s unity is not only manu-militari but also unnecessarily ignores the current trends in contemporary international relations. Increasing emphasis is placed on human and humanitarian rights. The right to self-determination is under scored. A government can always enforce national unity but its acceptance largely depends on the whims and caprices of the people. Policy makers should not quickly forget that that it is quite easier to begin a war but not always easy to put an end to it. A war can be short in period, like the 6-day Israelo-Arab War. It can also be long, like the 100-year or the 30-year old war that culminated in the 1648 Westphalia Treaty. The myopic view that force will be applied to compel a change in the attitude of those asking for restructuring of Nigeria can also serve as a catalyst in the realisation of opponent to a united Nigeria.
If truth be told, there is no disputing the fact that Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Acting President of Nigeria, is a pacifist by nature, objective by legal training, meek and humble by Christian faith and nationalist by political choice. However, he preaches precisely what Nigeriaâ€™s political system does not accept. He once talked about the need for a more hard-work rather than fasting and prayers alone. Last week he again condemned hate speeches, arguing that they militate against national unity and development. But hate speech are really not the problem. The real problem is: why a hate speech? A hate speech is a resultant from a mind of hatred. In other words, one can hate without necessarily expressing it in the open in a speech, written or otherwise, What is really responsible for a state of mind that hates?
As we have noted several times, there is no way anti-Nigeria sentiments will not thrive because the Federal Government promoted them by acquiescence. For instance, let us re-ask for the umpteenth time: how do we explain a situation in which the Federal Government collected money from the public in 1994 for purposes of allocation of houses and as at 2017, there has not been any allocation of houses or refund? How do we explain a situation in which a national conference was organised in 2014 to address Nigeriaâ€™s problems and the elected President of Nigeria, General Muhammadu Buhari, told the Nigerian public that he had not even given any priority to the report of the Conference not to talk of reading it? What prevents the President from looking at the report to determine the merits and demerits of the report?
On several occasions in this column, we raised the question of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA). The General Ike Nwachukwu-led Governing Council covered up various acts of serious misconducts during his tenure. The Government kept quiet about it but acted on the basis of non-investigated allegations. Why is the Government preaching the sermon of anti-corruption with one hand in the open space, but condoning, if not quietly promoting corruption and indiscipline at the NIIA with the other hand?
More specifically, why is my severance package not paid at the end of my tenure as Director General? My Insurance entitlement was paid by the IGI to the NIIA. Why has it not been paid to me since 2015? The Institute owes me over four million Naira. The Director of Administration, Miss Agatha Elochi Ude, who not only falsified results, removed all queries in her confidential records but protected by General Ike Nwachukwu, attached all the relevant documents required for payment. The Ike Nwachukwu Council was much aware about it. Am I, as a law-abiding Nigerian not entitled to a good living? Is law abiding a criminal offence in Nigeria?
The foregoing is to draw attention to the dynamics of hatred and hate speeches, In any situation in which unfairness or injustice reigns, hostility, hatred, anti-Nigeria sentiments cannot but exist. It is within this context that Government should carefully handle the quit order given by the Northern Youths group to the Igbos living in the North of Nigeria. As the whole world is watching current developments in Nigeria, there is also the need to articulate the foreign policy implications.
Foreign Policy Implications
The whole world is now much concerned about the future of a united Nigeria: is Nigeria already on the path of disintegration? The Libyan strongman, Muammar Gaddafi, advised Nigerians before he was killed to seek peace and political stability by restructuring Nigeria into two, Muslim North and Christian South. Thereafter, the Boko Haram came up with the idea of total Islamisation of Nigeria. The struggle to undermine Nigeriaâ€™s 1997 Constitution as amended, has destabilised the whole country, as well as entrenched terrorism-driven governance in Nigeria, is yet to abate.
In the same vein, some American observers predicted in 2014 that Nigeria might disintegrate in 2015. One possible rationale for the prediction might be the fact of the 1914 Amalgamation Agreement which was done for 99 years and which expired on January 1, 2014. In the thinking of some American speculators, the political unrest in Nigeria, and particularly the factor of MASSOB, etc. are pointers to possible disintegration. The pressure for restructuring is mounting while the elite is playing politics with it. There is the great need for caution.
Secondly, there is the challenge of Nigerians as personae non grata allegedly in many countries of the world. The perception of Nigerians in South Africa is not only relevant but ought to be a special food for thought for all Nigerians. As reported by Isaac Dachen in Pulse.ng, ‘Nigerians must get out of South Africa. These criminals are hated and unwanted here and that will never change. Nigerians are the seed of Satan. There is not going to be of any kind of friendship between Nigerians and South Africans. Will Nigerians ever put it the tiny skulls that South Africans hate them? Anyway, which nation in the world like Nigerians? Nigerians are hated all over the world. In China, they slit their throats and in brazil, they cut their stomachs and leave them for dead. We don’t need Africans, Middle Easterners and Asians.’
Is it true that Nigerians are persons unwanted in the international community? Is it true that the Chinese do slit the throats of Nigerians and that the Brazilians cut their stomachs? If the people of South Africa do not want Africans, Asians and Middle Easterners in their country, to what extent is this position reflective of the position of the South African Government? What is the place of reciprocity? In fact, what is the government position in this case?
When the perception of Nigerians by the people of South Africa is weighed against the non-acceptability of hate speeches by Nigeria’s Professor Osinbajo, the foregoing quotations by South Africans are nothing more than hate speeches. But why such hate speeches? It is the reason or reasons behind the hate speeches that must first be addressed. Nigerians are being accused of various crimes, true or false. What is the position of Government on such accusations? The June 12 Movement has alleged that the entitlements of MKO Abiola are yet to be paid to his family. Why is this so? There is no way any movement, June 12 or any other, will not hate anyone in the face of perceived injustice.
Thirdly, there is the direct threat to Nigeria’s intellectual growth and development. Many countries consciously or otherwise undermine educational development in Nigeria. For instance, some institutions in the United States award honorary doctoral titles to Nigerians on payment of about US$ 300= purportedly for contributions made to knowledge by them. The recipients of such honorary titles use the title and are most unhappy when they are not so called. Award of National Honours reportedly has been bastardised. In fact, traditional chieftaincy titles are no longer given on merit but on financial weighted principles as they obtain in the UN financial institutions when voting.
Perhaps more disturbing is the number of holders of doctorate titles produced by colleges of theology. One can have Ordinary Level papers and go for just nine months training programme and graduate with a special doctorate degree. It has become difficult to know who is PhD Degree holder or a holder of MBBS degree. Again, gradually, but sooner than later, professorship will be bastardised as the NIIA now plays host to political professors or Governing Council-assisted professors. It is never heard of in academic history where a Governing Council, even with seasoned scholars as members, would dictate the contents of letters to be sent to assessors of professorial candidates to the Chief Executive, and also for that matter, for a Council Member to be calling an assessor. This is bastardisation of academic values in a manu militari fashion. But what does this mean for Government? What does it imply in terms of foreign policy?
The import of the foregoing is that our leaders consciously create problems and at the same time are seeking to put the blame on the honest and patriotic people of Nigeria. In the eyes of the world, Nigeria cannot have a good future. This is why some movements, like the June 12 Movement, are demonstrating and asking for alternative approaches to Nigeria’s problems. Some Nigerians are taking up arms. The international community is monitoring. How will Nigeria’s Foreign Service Officers defend Nigeria? Can they tell any lie? Northern youths asked the Ibos to leave the North. The Niger Deltans have responded by asking all Northerners in their region to also leave before October 1, 2017. This is where the mistake of June 12, 1993 has carried national unity and solidarity to.
In other words, can any election that took place be annulled? Can an election result already made known to the general public be annulled? If, by declaration, it is annulled, can it be annulled in the minds of those people who already have the information on it? There was the time the Nigeria government asked a French consortium of 19 companies, Inter-Infra, to build a Lagos Metroline (LML) at a cost of N689 million. N75 million was paid as feasibility charges. For various untenable reasons, the Government of Nigeria which stood guarantor for the Lagos State Government, breached the contract agreement. The basis of the breach was that the cost of the LML was too expensive after work had started. The French referred the breach to a court of arbitration in Europe. Nigeria was found guilty and was required to pay double the amount as damages.
With special begging, the amount required to put in place the LML, N689 million, was actually what Nigeria eventually paid in settlement of the dispute, but most unfortunately for no provision of the LML. This is one reason people are asking for restructuring. But can we also talk about equitable restructuring? Equitable restructuring requires the same territorial size, same population size, shared development philosophies, equal access to allocated resources, equal access to opportunities, etc.
Most unfortunately, however, the mania of political governance is a major source of hatred in Nigeria. The application of Federal Character principle breeds animosity. Expression of patriotism and hard work is sanctioned, to the extent that reports on allegations against anyone in the public service does not mean much. Public officials operate on the basis of esprit de corps, ethnic chauvinism, and mundane considerations. Nigeria cannot survive on these bases.