They tried so hard to hide the truth. But truth never really goes away. It is like smoke. It eventually finds its way out. So June 12 is our Democracy Day? Well, some who talk about it may see it as some distant political thing that happened under the military, in the age of impunity. But I remember it differently. I remember it intimately because I nearly paid the ultimate price for it, with my life. When you are beaten by armed policemen on the streets of Lagos, and survive two assassination attempts on account of a matter, you cannot but remember the reason as a matter of distant history. I lived and still live June 12. It is part of the reasons I am pained at bad governance, an elite that fails to understand that leadership is about sacrificial giving of self for the advance of the good of others; and that the rule of law and justice matter.
Yes, I remember June 12, 1993 because I queued up to vote at the polling station near the Exxon Mobil Head Office on Victoria Island. Then, eulogised my old teacher, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, who organised the elections as Chairman of the national electoral body, in response to questions from reporters. I even recalled my first day in the Public Administration class he taught at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka on return from the US in October of 1973 and how he and Prof. Eme Awah from the same department had made us proud on the electoral commission assignment. Had I the foresight he would be even a much more monumental historical figure, I could have said more.
I do remember June 12. I remember that in the middle of the struggle, I had to go for a business trip to war ravaged Yugoslavia. Had to drive nearly 10 hours by road from a neighbouring country into sanctions-hit Belgrade with power to the Intercontinental Hotel I stayed at restricted to only few floors. As I journeyed, I wondered if Nigeria could be reduced to that if the military tipped us into another Civil War if the troubles from the annulment persisted. On the way out, I arrived Frankfurt to news that Chief MKO Abiola, winner of the election adjudged the freest and fairest in our history, had to leave the country. I called his home in London and left a message. At 2am, I woke up to ringing phones in my hotel room. He brought me up to speed on why he left town and I told him I was returning to up the ante on the struggle.
I remember June 12 because it showed that the best of us care. Tunde Akinleye, Ayo Ighodaro, Oby Ezekwesili, Morin Babalola (now Desalu), Tola Mobolurin, Bisola Okumu, Tony Rapu and so many more sat up, burnt the midnight oil writing advertorials, planning Town Hall meetings to focus the heads and hearts of the people on the injustice and how our country suffers from poor governance and not following the rule of law. Even after we were beaten up on the steps of Western House as we tried to demonstrate, they still returned. We were beaten again by policemen especially moved to Lagos to confront us, as we chose to gather on a church premises at St Peter’s on Ajele Street, off Broad Street.That day, my glasses took leave of my face as the newspapers reported the next day in a scintillating titillation of the affairs of the day before.
Oh yes, I remember June 12 as the day that taught me that real men must be ready to lay down their lives so their children may have a better tomorrow. I also remember June 12 because it taught many that injustice does not speak a language or worship a particular God and that though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. I remember how we would park our cars in Ikoyi somewhere and make two or three stops to shake off tails and arrive the office OsitaWigwe made available for our meetings but Dr. Beko Ramsome-Kuti would drive himself in his Golf car and arrive directly at the venue oh how I remember.
Yes, I remember June 12 because it drained me to know that if God is on your side, you have nothing to fear. The death squads made several attempts to shoot me, as they did KudiratAbiola, Abraham Adesanya, and Alex Ibru. But God provided a shield until I left on sabbatical, the day they got the order that if I was not extinguished, the killers would be in big trouble.
I do remember June 12. My hope is that President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to be the statesman will teach us that deferred gratification matters. We must trust that all things work together unto good for those who love.
Memories are forever and memories of June 12 had the potential of turning us away from our previous ways towards nation-building for good of all. The blood of the martyr of the revolution, Chief MKO Abiola, GCFR, can be part of the strong foundations of the new order he intended his presidency to usher in.
Prof Utomi, founder, Centre for Values and Leadership, and Visioner of The Concerned ProfessionalsNo tags for this post.