“If Kudirat Abiola and her husband Moshood Abiola and all other martyrs to General Abachaâ€™s tyranny are not to have died in vain, then Nigerians must rededicate themselves to the cause of human rights, democracy, true federalism, and government accountable to the peopleâ€ â€“ Walter Carrington, 1999.
â€œAs we celebrate May 29, 1999, let us remember that there was June 12 1993. There would not have been May 291999 if June 12 1993 had not taken placeâ€- Walter Carrington, 1999
Theses are two strong statements of the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Walter Carrington in 1999 when we ushered in the Third Republic after a democracy struggle that lasted for 15 years. Walter Carrington was the US Ambassador to Nigeria during Nigeria â€™s worst moments from October 1993 to September 1997. While welcoming Walter Carrington to Nigeria, Timothy Writh, the State Department Counselor had this to say: â€œThese are troubled times for Nigeria and Walter Carrington is an emissary with the experience and poise to properly articulate to Nigerian people Americaâ€™s position on the basic principles and inalienable rightsâ€.
I have just recounted the above to bring to the attention of the world that what happened in Nigeria from 1984 to 1999 was no tea party. It is only after reading the book Heroes of Democracy, written by my humble self that one can easily appreciate the supreme sacrifices paid by Chief MKO Abiola, his wife Kudirat, Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, and hundreds of other martyrs to liberate Nigeria from the shackles of dictatorship. Time and space would fail me here to mention the names of great men and women that laid down their lives for the democracy some people are abusing and bastardizing today. The greatest beneficiary, in the whole struggle, was Chief Obasanjo even though he worked against the validation of June 12 1993 Presidential election results. For the 8 years he was in office as the President of Nigeria, wickedness, selfishness, crude, timid politics and petty jealousy beclouded his sense of reasoning that he failed to even mention Chief Abiolaâ€™s name anywhere.
The issue of immortalising Abiola and others has been in the front burner since 1999 and for 11 years, the timid and wicked beneficiaries of the annulment have remained adamant, reaping where they did not sow. However, on May 29, 2010 President Goodluck Jonathan took the bull by the horns to rewrite history and put things in proper perspective. I thank President Jonathan, the child of circumstance and the child of necessity for recognising that some people paid the price of what we are enjoying today. I have always said that some people will try to rewrite history to suit their own whims and caprices but in the fullness of time a king who knows Joseph will be on the throne and things will add up.
A criminal gang led by IBB, Abacha and many others conspired to use the monumental powers of the state to destroy citizen Abiola and his huge business empire simply because he won a presidential election fair and square in a country hopelessly and helplessly held down by ethnic politics and primordial sentiments. No wonder we have not been able to achieve that feat again after 17 years. No wonder free and fair elections have eluded us since 1993. We were given a hero as President in 1993 and we rejected it and went for rogues, brigands and armed robbers. It is like the Jews who rejected Jesus Christ and chose thieves instead. Today they have lost 70% of their lands to hostile neighbours. Unless Nigerian leaders come to terms with what Nigerian State did to citizen Abiola and his business empire peace will continue to elude us. Criminal gangs will continue to rule us.
President Jonathan can learn from the mistakes of other presidents before him and do what needs to be done. Run too fast in recognizing those who died between 1993 and 1998 to give us democracy, bring justice to all Nigerians, devote 90% of time, energy and resources to ensure you give Nigerians free and fair elections in 2011, and you will be an instant hero in the annals of Nigeria. Nigeria is in search of heroes, men and women who will restore the confidence of Nigerians in the project Nigeria.
I continue to insist that nothing is wrong with our soil, water, weather, air, our problem is man. Our problem is how to fish out committed men and women in a free and fair election to make the required input that will give us the required output. The greater task before President Jonathan is to initiate a process that will lead to a free and fair election in 2011, resulting in getting 99% of genuine leaders in positions of authority in Nigeria . Once he achieves this, I can assure you that Nigeria will be on the path of progress. I challenge President Jonathan to do this.
â€¢Joe Igbokwe writes from Lagos