As a young politically conscious boy growing up in the township of Lokoja, I was faced with the stack of life’s reality under military dictatorship, which was challenged by purpose driven and selfless Nigerians.
I remember as a boy of 18, I vented my anger on paper during the Sani Abacha reigns of terror, which my late father really encouraged. I begin to wonder now that I am over 40 , what possibly could a child of 18 know about suffering and how not to rule a nation. Fact is, everybody was suffering, it was palpable.
There was sufferings roundabout the people, there were no jobs, the military had bastardized the political system, people were harassed left right and center and the economy of the country was grounded.
Let me put it this way, the economy as at the military era was no respecter of anybody. My father was a senior civil servant with IWD, NIWA. We lived like princes and princesses, but he wasn’t spared either, so we knew things were not working. Everyone came face to face with poverty.
The people were tired, they needed a change, they needed a better life, but the khaki boys won’t just bother. When the ovations of the heroes of our democracy became loudest, the military for only God knows why allowed for the 2 party system; the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and National Republican Convention (NRC)
The NRC party was organized to cater to the conservatives leanings of some Nigerians, it flourished in the core northern states and Eastern states of Abia and Enugu. However, many felt there was little difference between the party and its competitor, the Social Democratic Party, which was created with the center -left political leaning, with one of its core ideology of closing the wide gap between the poor and the rich. However, both parties were under the supervision of the military government.
This period was the peak of political consciousness and awareness amongst Nigerians, it was obvious and ominous that dictatorship has failed and only democracy would salvage the situation on ground. One wonder on how earth some Nigerians are clamoring for the return of such persons.
Nevertheless, the most important task at hand was who will rescue the country from the state of comatose and epilepsy it has been plunged into. Such must be one whose acceptability cuts across regions, religions, social stratification, one with proven track record of success. Who will this man be? like a knight in shining amour, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, popularly called MKO signified interest and the whole country was in a frenzy. My late father who was never a politician started mobilizing for MKO in Lokoja, so garnering support for MKO came natural, he was accepted by all. We mobilized, our expectations where high.
Political activities commenced in earnest, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, a likable man from the north was flying the NRC’s flag, but the running mate of MKO, Baba Gana Kingibe, who was from the north demystified Tofa’s popularity even further in the north, hence everybody settled for MKO unanimously. Nigerians have never been that united in its political history. The Hausa, Ibo and Yoruba collectively accepted MKO’s candidacy.
The media was awash with scintillating ads. It was simply electrifying and ecstaty. Popular among the SDP’s television jingles were:
“We are on the March again, looking for Mr President, SDP people’s Choice, MKO Ooooo is the man oo!”
“I tire for this life o, na so so wahala, I tire for this life o, na so so wahala! Ogini, no light….. the small money I dey get na so so transport dey chop am…..
The political atmosphere was charged, it was beautiful and interesting. Before elections, all Nigerians where already looking behind it to the swearing in ceremony.
MKO’s visit to Lokoja was electrifying , the township stadium has never recorded the mammoth crowd that came to receive him. The second time it had such crowd was when Pastor EA Adeboye came.
Nigerians went into the freest and fairest elections in her history. There were no record of violence anywhere, because even “the boys” loved MKO. The victory dance had commence all over the country, people were already popping champagne and all of a sudden, the devil struck. All loud drums stopped, all celebration halted, music stopped as a man who should go down as Nigeria’s baddest man, shamelessly truncated the people’s joy.
Ibrahim Babangida, the then Military president, a friend to the winner, annulled the election result indefinitely. What a disaster , what a tragedy.
MKO made efforts to reclaim his mandate but was hounded into prison, without the blinking of an eye, what happened next was preposterous.
MKO eventually died in prison after taking a mysterious cup of tea. This led to vehement pro democracy protest across the land groups and individuals. Foremost amongst them is Late Chief Gani Fawehimi of blessed memory, who fought relentlessly to get back the mandate.
It is therefore a very good thing, that president Muhammad Buhari is right the wrong done to all Nigerians by Ibrahim Babangida who has up until now not deemed it necessary to publicly apologize to Nigerians who he robbed of their mandate by declaring June 12 Democracy Day and a public holiday, to commemorate the truncation of the people’s will.
This move is symbolic in the history of Nigeria and a fulfillment of a part of our national anthem, that the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain. It will give the families of people who lost their loved one a sense of fulfillment. It will give Nigerians at large a sense of trust that when they put in their quota to the growth and development of the country, even if not recognized today, it would be in the future.
To many, it was a ploy by President Buhari to win the heart of South West, So what if it is? If OBJ a Yoruba man couldn’t right the wrong and an Hausa man does, I would give him accolades. If this had been only President Buhari achieved, I would still give him accolades.
We are getting it right. Happy Democracy Day to Nigerians.
– Williams Charles Oluwatoyin writes from Lokoja, Kogi State.