Nigeria is a nation at war. This war is being waged between the friends and enemies of Nigeria; between the true patriots who love Nigeria and its people and those who love only themselves; and between those who want a better life for Nigerians and those who only want a better life for themselves and their families.
There have been many historic battles in this long war. One of the earliest in the War of the Niger was between the forces of colonialism and independence. The next major battles were between the forces of military dictatorship and democracy – a series of battles which culminated in the Battle of June 12.
The Battle of June 12 was gallantly fought on every street of every Nigerian town, in every home, in the villages and farms, on the waterways and airways. It was fought on the streets and airways of major international capitals to which the pro-democracy warriors were driven into exile. It was fought in cyberspace at the dawn of the internet and on Naijanet long before the emergence of Facebook and Twitter. Many of today’s internet warriors are not even aware that the likes of Wole Soyinka, Kayode Fayemi, Bolaji Aluko and many others fought valiantly against Abacha’s online warriors using that legendary email listserv technology.
The Battle of June 12 was also fought in the media by newspaper editors and reporters like Dapo Olorunyomi, Bayo Onanuga and Kunle Ajibade. It was fought by a team of insurgents led by Kayode Fayemi with the guerrila Radio Kudirat which boasted a who is who of pro-democracy warriors on its roster. Journalists like Bagauda Kaltho made the ultimate sacrifice. He was killed by a bomb. The press centre at Alausa, seat of Lagos State Government was named after him by former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of those who never forgot June 12; and who has not only constantly memorialised the struggle through symbolic gestures but also by practicalising its ideals through people-oriented projects in Lagos that have been an inspiration to many other states and even the federal government.
The Battle of June 12 claimed many lives including those of Chief M.K.O Abiola, his wife Chief (Mrs.) Kudirat Abiola, Pa Alfred Rewane, Suliat Adedeji, Toyin Onagoruwa, Rear Admiral Olu Omotehinwa and many others. Many were incarcerated and serially harassed at various times like Chief Abraham Adesanya, Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, Chief Bola Ige, Chief Frank Kokori, Gani Fawehinmi, Wale Oshun, Ayo Opadokun, Alhaji Lam Adesina, Ndubuisi Kanu, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Arthur Nwankwo, John Odigie-Oyegun, Abubakar Umar Dangiwa and many others. Those driven into exile included Professor Wole Soyinka, Pa Anthony Enahoro, General Alani Akinrinade, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and many others.
The latest of the battles in the War of the Niger include that between the forces of corruption and opacity led by certain leaders of the National Assembly and the forces of transparency led by President Muhammadu Buhari. There is also another brewing between the atavistic former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who for selfish reasons is rallying disgruntled parties against the same person he sold to all Nigerians as an honest, upright Nigerian.
How did this modern day bog troll, known as Ebora Owu, manage to sneak into the pro-democracy ranks to begin with? The front lines of the War of the Niger were supposed to be clear, but as with all wars, enemies of Nigeria were able to sneak across the lines to join the pro-democracy light brigades. So, while you had great men and women who had sacrificed so much and managed to survive the military onslaught, the fate of Nigeria was ultimately thrust not into their hands but into the hands of many questionable characters who were not really friends of Nigeria but friends of themselves, their families and their pockets. In fact, many of them were involved in the annulment of the June 12 election and the efforts to prevent Chief M.K.O Abiola from retrieving his mandate.
These enemies of Nigeria were wolves in sheep’s clothing and resident mainly in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party at the federal level, led by the almighty Ebora. I say they were wolves in sheep’s clothing because for sixteen years they pretended to be lovers of Nigeria when in fact they came only to steal, kill and destroy. The list of allegations against them is long, including corruption allegations like the infamous $16 billion power projects scandal and human rights violations like the Odi Massacre. But they specialised in stealing the people’s mandate through electoral rigging, ballot box snatching and many other anti-democratic practices.
Bog trolls live inside tunnels. They love darkness. They thrive on it. And they love shiny objects like trinkets and gold. An ebora loves nothing more than filthy lucre and supplicants bearing sacrifice. They hate the light. The PDP trolls led by the Ebora Owu plunged Nigeria into darkness for sixteen long years, with occasional brief flashes of light at the end of the deep, dank, sullied tunnel. But rather than burrow a way out for us, the gold-digging trolls left us deeper in that tunnel because they spent the sixteen years mining and carting away our collective wealth. The mess they left behind is now only being cleared. That mess includes the legacy of corruption, the legacy of election rigging, ballot box snatching and anti-democratic practices. The mess includes ethnic crises, armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and police brutality.That mess includes the curse of forgetting. We forget everything in Nigeria. We forget our people, we forget our principles, we forget our culture and we forget our history. President Buhari is ushering in a new dawn now, one in which we will remember our people, their needs, their heroic deeds, and remember that failure is not an option, and that law and order and justice must always prevail.
Because the bog trolls in PDP were themselves not true heroes of democracy or lovers of Nigeria, there was no way they could ever recognise the true heroes of democracy. And because they were and remain enemies of Nigeria, there is no way they would be happy that a friend of Nigeria in person of President Muhammadu Buhari, leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), is finally recognising the greatest hero of democracy, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the winner of the 1993 elections. The bog trolls are angry about this decision and they are making noise, gnashing their teeth and weeping and wailing bitterly. This is because they know that this decision has exposed them for what they are. They are angry because with this decision, the People’s General has sent a message that he plans to entrench power firmly in the hands of the people – that he will always recognise the will of the people and that their well-being will always be his primary concern. This is the true meaning of June 12. The people of Nigeria spoke loud and clear on June 12, 1993 and some people decided to silence their voice. Those petty gods forgot that the voice of the people is the voice of God. President Buhari’s decision to recognise the people’s voice has clearly redefined the frontlines between the lovers and the enemies of Nigeria.
While the President’s decision to recognise MKO is purely symbolic, he has already recognised the legendary compassion of MKO Abiola by establishing people-oriented social investment programmes like the Homegrown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), N-Power youth empowerment programmes, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) MarketMoni interest-free loans and others.
The Buhari Administration has also achieved unprecedented infrastructural development with the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway reconstruction and imminent completion of Oyo-Ogbomoso Road, Lagos-Abeokuta Road, Ikorodu-Sagamu Road, Second Niger Bridge, Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Kano-Maiduguri Road, Lokoja-Benin Road dualisation, Kolo-Otuoke-Bayelsa-Palm Road, Kaduna Eastern Bypass, Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue, and of course the new Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway project.
Needless to say, these infrastructure and social investment projects will only further enhance the success recorded by the administration in combating terrorist groups of all stripes operating in the country. With improvement in the economy and infrastructure, the recruiting pool for terrorists will continue to shrink.
It is clear that with the burgeoning of a new era of people-oriented programmes and rapid infrastructural development, the enemies of Nigeria have failed in their effort to cross the lines and pose as friends. We see them now for what they truly are- corrupt, selfish, visionless and bereft of ideas. We will return them finally to the dustbin of history on February 16, 2019.
Just as the western world recognises May 8, 1945 as Victory in Europe Day for World War 2, the People’s General has ensured that the people of Nigeria will forever recognise June 12, 1993 as Victory on the Niger Day in the War for Democracy in Nigeria.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Muyiwa Gbadegesin, a Neuroscientist studying the political brain, writes from Ibadan.