President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day and conferment of the highest national award, GCFR posthumously on Late Chief MKO Abiola can be regarded as his smartest political move in recent times, second only to his decision to make compromises for the APC merger to see the light of the day in 2014. It is apparent that the retired general has already scored 3 expensive political goals in addition to the bonus of going to be remembered generously when history of Nigeria’s democracy is written.
First, he has consolidated his position as a true believer and champion of democracy in modern Nigeria. In a calculated speech that moved many, Buhari even apologised to Abiola’s family for crimes committed against him and democracy while using all words possible to condemn the annulment of the election. It may be reported as the first time in history that a Nigeria’s government figure is declaring the results of June 12, 1993 presidential election, a victory that took 15 years to announce, officially. Would there have been a better declaration than conferment of the highest national award meant for heads of states and presidents?
Secondly, the swing south-western states of Nigeria, claimed by many to be the determinants of presidential elections in Nigeria are more likely to be a surer bet for the man come 2019. For almost a decade, several groups in Lagos and other southwestern states celebrate June 12 in honour of Abiola, gatherings that hardly end without calls for both the national recognition of Abiola and the date as true Nigeria’s democratic symbols. As such Buhari’s pronouncement will surely touch the most rightful place in the emotions and sentiments of many, which will translate into renewed confidence and possible bloc-vote. When southwest votes are added to those of the north, where PMB’s popularity still soar, it does not require a calculator to determine who may likely win the 2019 election.
The third goal was shot too hard to have definitely broken the net and hit at 2 retired generals that wield great influence in Nigeria’s politics. Could it have been a coincidence that none of the two was opportune to attend the ceremony? Chief Olusegun Obasanjo whose candidature was borne out of conscious efforts to appease the southwest in 1999, is the greatest beneficiary of June 12.
That he failed to recognise Abiola and June 12 and another president from a different region wonderfully did it some 11 years after he left office is a hard slap on his face. But it is harder a slap on the other general, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who gave birth to June 12 and went ahead to kill it. While the duo are not known for silence or surrender, it will surely take some time before they recover from this assault on their political influence.
How Buhari woke up and abruptly scored this political hat-trick after losing many penalties is still a mystery, but it surely indicates one thing, the old man still knows where to hit hard and by the time he decides to contest in 2019 election, he is quite ready for it.
Dr Ungogo can be reached via [email protected]