Saturday comment2

In spite of efforts to suppress it, June 12 has become a watershed, writes Tayo Ogunbiyi

When he wrote in Julius Caesar that the evil that men do lives after them, legendary writer, Williams Shakespeare was alluding to the fact that evil deeds in history are often more easily remembered than the good ones. In Julius Caesar, one of the purposes of Mark Antony’s speech is to mitigate any evils that Caesar may have committed while highlighting the good that he did.

It is often said that history is written by the victors. In the immediate aftermath of Caesar’s assassination it is the conspirators who are the victors. And as such they are keen to rewrite the history of Caesar’s rule to their advantage. Mark Antony’s speech is a subtle attempt to stop them from doing this. Not only is he determined to ensure that Caesar’s good name will live on, he is also going to do whatever he can to make sure that the evil of the conspirators, their bloody act of treachery, will not only be punished, but never forgotten.

In the annals of our country’s political history, June 12 remains a watershed. That is the truth that some do not want to hear. But then, truth does not become truth because it is validated by man. No matter the depth of denials, truth remains what it is: truth.

The truth is that, no matter how hard its antagonists try, for many reasons, June 12 will continue to be a defining moment in the annals of our nation’s political history. It was the day that Nigerians expressed a strong resolve to chart a new course for their beloved country. It was the day that Nigerians redefined and reshaped the nation’s political scenery. Prior to that time, our politics sharply reflected our palpable religious and ethnic divides.  But on June 12, all that changed. Chief MKO Abiola, who was the presidential candidate of the defunct SDP, had more votes in the northern part of the country than Alhaji Bashir Tofa, his northern challenger from the defunct NRC.

One other remarkable feature of the June 12 election is the electorate disposition to religious sentiments and concerns. In 1993, the defunct SDP was bold and daring in its conviction that fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket (Abiola and Kingibe) would not jeopardise its electoral success. The party went ahead with its conviction and recorded a resounding success at the poll. But for the annulment of the poll’s result, such audacity could have effectively checkmated religious contemplations in our political scene.

Several calls for the immortalization of Chief MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12 election, were continually rebuffed. Same goes for the calls to recognize June 12 as the nation’s Democracy Day. Certain individuals who should have stood by the truth and be counted as defenders of the right of the people simply decided to look the other way. Some of them, for personal reason and out of sheer ego, embarked on a futile mission to ‘kill’ the truth and advance the course of falsehood.

But like it is often said, truth is constant. Though it can be suppressed for quite a while, it cannot be obliterated. Truth has a way of coming back.  Over the ages, ruthless men have variously tried to repress the truth. Some murdered those they thought hold the key to the truth. Others proscribed media they believed could help in preserving the truth while others did everything they could to silence the voices of truth. But then, historically, conspiracies against the truth have always failed woefully.

Autocrats, tyrants and despots in various parts of the world, and over diverse ages, have tried very hard to silence the promoters of the truth. In some cases, scores of individuals who were unrepentant custodians of truth have been killed, maimed, jailed and dehumanized by despots whose main goal was to stifle the truth and uphold deception. Such abounds in quantum in Africa, Asia and, to a large extent, some nations in Eastern Europe, especially during the cold war era.

But then, no matter how long falsehood has been in circulation, it cannot really take the place of truth. Truth has a way of always rebounding. It is, therefore, exciting to note that June 12 has today become a rallying point for democracy in the country and Chief MKO Abiola has finally been immortalized. Just a few days ago, the country witnessed the very first national celebration of June 12 as the official Democracy Day.

For us as a people, the renaissance of June 12 has become a metaphor for the constant nature of truth. It is, therefore, imperative for political elite across the country to always stand by the truth and eschew all forms of deceit, especially in the way they manage the affairs of the country.

Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja