BEYOND THE SYMBOLISM OF JUNE 12
of the Social Democratic Party (SDP)
by Professor Tunde Adeniran,
National Chairman, Social Democratic Party (SDP)
In the annals of our nation’s political history and democratic evolution, the date, June 12, has come to symbolize the most epochal national event of contemporary Nigeria. It was a historic day when Nigeria truly existed as a nation through the unprecedented action of her disparate peoples who demonstrated, through the power of the ballot, the right sense of nationhood that transcended our bifurcating polarities. The momentous event of that day was, perhaps, one of the finest moments of our national life.
June 1 2, 1993 was the historic day that the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the first-rate Accountant and business mogul cum politician, emerged as the defining symbol of the unity in diversity of modern Nigeria. Notwithstanding his Muslim-Muslim ticket with Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as the candidates of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), they were massively voted for by the Nigerian electorate across the north and south divides of the country and across religious lines, thereby defeating Bashir Tofa Muslim-Christian ticket of the National Republican Convention (NRC). But quite sadly and inexplicably, the election was annulled, thereby aborting, yet, the bright prospects of Nigeria for greatness.
Quite interestingly, as it was demonstrated by that election, religion did not in any way matter in voters’ decision on that fateful day as Nigerians momentarily buried the twin evils of ethnic bigotry and religion.
For us in the Social Democratic Party (SDP), it is most gratifying that our party was the same platform that was used by MKO Abiola to achieve the great feat of winning the presidential election in 1993.
MKO Abiola’s quest for power as well as his grand vision and mission was essentially to engender shared-prosperity and sustainable emancipation of the masses of the poor Nigerians. It is very much in sync with the guiding ideology of today’s SDP, almost three decades after! Given the very good programs and policies contained in Abiola’s manifesto, as well as his demonstrable passion and commitment, it is widely believed across the country as well as in the outside world that Nigeria would have made real progress in critical areas of infrastructural development and welfare of Nigerians if he was allowed to lead the country as president and to implement his
In the spirit of June 12, and the ideals of human dignity, freedom from want and pervasive poverty which Abiola lived his adult life in promoting, the SDP is committed to working to lift out of the vicious cycle of poverty, the over 90 million Nigerians that are reportedly living in extreme poverty. We should all be committed to promoting the building of a nation run on the pivotal pillars of truth, justice, reconciliation, integration and national unity. We must commit ourselves to ensuring that no more shall any Nigerian be too poor to access the very basic necessities of life.
It is important that governments at all levels, as well as the political Elite in general, focus on and work towards achieving the great potentials of the country. We must consolidate the democracy that Abiola and other martyrs laboured and died for to make significant meaning in the life of the average Nigerian.
While maintaining those noble attributes that made the SDP the preferred of the electorate back then, we remain committed to those noble ideals that best represent the true interests of Nigeria and Nigerians, with an abiding commitment and progressive orientation in this era. We will continue to do everything possible to nurture and promote those ideals and ensure that democracy survives in the country and that the Nigerian Union is safeguarded and strengthened.
Quite naturally, and expectedly, the decision of the Buhari administration to declare June 12 as the nation’s new Democracy Day in honour of the role of MKO Abiola elicited excitement for true patriots and genuine democrats, especially the frontline active players and actors in the struggle against the military occasioned by the shocking annulment of that presidential election that was adjudged as freest and most credible in Nigerian history.
There is no gainsaying that the singular action of that declaration will ever remain one of President Buhari’s enduring legacies, especially bearing in mind the fact that we have had three democratically elected presidents before him, but none gave consideration to the need of revisiting the pride of place of June 12 in the democratic dispensation that brought them to power. But beyond the symbolism and tokenism of officially recognizing June 12 as a national holiday, it is important that we take practical steps and make deliberate efforts to ensure that the spirit and unfading essence of that date is well situated and engrained in our national life and democratic experience. We have a duty to comprehensively work out our democracy and federal governance in a most wholesome manner in order to build strong buffer around our democracy and the mandates that are freely given by the people.
We must strive to build a governance system that caters to the need of one and all of us. Our democracy and governance system must not allow for a situation where one Nigerian is perceived to be more Nigerian that the other. We need to build upon the gains of our democracy by entrenching and strengthening our democratic culture very strongly to safeguard people’s sovereignty. Our leaders must be made to sign on to the ever-strident clamour for a restructuring and re-working of our polity and coming, up with a focused and deliberate governance reform agenda that is aimed at meaningful growth and sustainable national development.
Going forward in our quest for development, we need to give due regards to the fine details of democratic creeds of an open society – ideals of rights and freedom, of civil liberty, of rule of law, of social justice, of equity, of peoples’ welfare and of human dignity, among others.
As we celebrate and relish the joy of democracy, we must pause and remember the heroes and heroines of the democratic struggle – our great compatriots who fell in battle and struggle that we might have this democracy that we enjoy today. We owe it a fitting tribute to their memories and to ourselves to guard our democracy jealously and not allow anti-democratic forces and tendencies to undermine it.
In conclusion, it is necessary to call on all Nigerians and our political office holders in particular, to ensure that we allow for the thriving of politics of development; one that has impact on the average Nigerians. In the spirit and dictate of democracy, we must also resist the temptation of over-militarizing our polity in such a manner that will make Nigeria to become what MKO Abiola himself once termed a land of ‘guided’ democracy. We must make the democracy that he and others died for make meaning in the life of Nigerians.
As a well-run political institution that is driven by ideology, the SDP will ever remain resolute and dedicated to the deepening of our democratic culture and the promotion of the social democratic ideals of its core values, national goals and objectives. And to deepen our democracy, we will continue to explore all available legitimate channels to further our true national interest.
This is wishing all Nigerians a happy democracy day and hitch-free celebrations.
Professor Tunde Adeniran,
National Chairman, SDP
Abuja. 12 June 2019