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Nigeria Remembers When Democracy Lost to a Coup

Lagos — Pro-democracy activists mark the 22nd anniversary of the June 12, 1993, election today.

The election, won by late Chief Moshood Abiola, is adjudged to be the freest and the fairest in Nigeria’s democratic history.

Unfortunately, its annulment by the military junta, led by Ibrahim Babangida, threw the country into chaos for many years until the return of democracy in 1999.

Ever since the era of tumultuous agitation for the actualization of that election, June 12 has become significant in Nigeria as a milestone in the development of democracy.

In most states of the South-West where the APC runs the government, the date is usually observed as Public Holiday.

This is probably because the forebear of the APC, Alliance for Democracy (AD), was an offspring of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which, in those days, was the co-ordinating body of the pro-June 12 struggle.

Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, argues that Nigeria has not taken better advantage of the opportunity provided by June 12, in that government has not given it the appropriate recognition and commendation it deserves.

He said it could have been much better if the government had recognised it, and or create a national monument for it, like making it the real democracy day in the country.

“In fact, there are many things the government could have done to give better recognition, and make Nigerians know that that was the day that Chief MKO Abiola sacrificed to ensure democracy in our country.

“One only hopes that President Muhammadu Buhari would now express Nigeria’s special relationship with June 12. So in summary, June 12 has not been properly identified with by the government.”

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On the benefit of June 12, a federal legislator, Abiodun Faleke, agreed that Nigeria has benefited from the struggle in that it has helped the country’s democracy to grow.

He said: “That sacrifice made by Chief MKO Abiola is what most of us are enjoying today, so it states clearly that June 12 will continue to be relevant in our democracy.”

On what he feels are the lessons from June 12 struggle that have contributed to the recent political events in the country, he said the lessons from June 12 are very clear, citing the reforms in the voting pattern which has been started by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which ensure free and fair election and announcing of results accordingly.

Also to be noted, he said, is the fact that results of elections are now announced at polling units.

“So, I must say that we can always improve as everybody learns by the day.

“I am sure Nigerians will realise that without the June 12 struggle we won’t be where we are today.

“Maybe the military would still have been there; now the military finds it difficult to take over government, which is no longer acceptable in this part of the world.”

On his part, the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, said that democracy which Nigeria achieved on account of the June 12 struggle, has grown and it will continue to grow.

According to him, “We all saw what happened at the National Assembly some days ago where legislators asserted their independence and elected members of their choice as their leaders.”

This, according to him, is part of democracy which Nigeria and Nigerians will continue to enjoy.

“We may not be there yet but we hope we will get there,” he said.

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