Text of Speech Delivered by the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, at the 2018 edition of the commemoration of the annual June 12, 1993 annulled election, held on Tuesday, 12th June, 2018, at The Excellence Hotel, Ogba, Lagos.
Last Wednesday, there was a twist to the usual story of June 12, 1993 annulled election.
President Muhammadu Buhari did the unthinkable by honouring the martyr of democracy, the late Basorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (M.K.O.) Abiola, with the most prestigious national honour in the country the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
The president also pronounced that June 12 be declared as Democracy Day, replacing May 29 which the military decreed in 1999 to usher in this Republic.
The following day, the story, like a surging bird, fled with both wings across all major media platforms.
Though, not unexpected, the pronouncements triggered various arguments,and reactions from eminent Nigerians, both within and outside the government circle.
While some people see President Buhari’s posthumous honours to the late Abiola and human rights activist, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), as a Greek gift to the Yoruba ahead of the 2019elections, a few others said it was long overdue, describing it as the best gift ever for the memories of the late Abiola and several other heroes and heroines that eventually died and paid the supreme price for democracy to stand.
Families of the late Abiola and Fawehinmi had accepted the posthumous honours in good faith, thanking the president for deeming it fit to honour their patriarchs, even in death.
Whether the Federal Government’ s decision was more political than legal, as argued by some people, for me, it is crystal clear that the journey to make June 12 our Democracy Day started several years back.
It was a journey that was morphed into series of struggle and activities.
We started the journey together. Even when I was detained in 2006, the annual commemoration of the June 12 annulled election was held in my absence at this venue.
Thanks to the courage and steadfastness of the leadership of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) for sustaining the ideals of the June 12 struggle for the past 25 years.
Today, having made the sacrifices, I feel relieved to witness this day being recognised as our Democracy Day.
The glory of this day is not for me alone, it is the glory of all members of OPC, and a few other civil society groups that share the same ideology with us. It is the triumph of victory over defeat.
Today, we have defeated the evil voices that killed the dream of the late MKO Abiola.
Today, we have silenced the voices of the evil doers.
Also, we have made history as the only group in the country that echoes the sanctity of this day to the people.
The voice of the people, they say, is the voice of God.
Celebrating today annually as our Democracy Day for the past two decades come with a lot of sacrifices, but we thank God that the reward came in due time.
On this note, I will also like to express my appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari for taking the bold initiative of honouring the late Abiola, and the late Gani Fawehinmi.
I am sure posterity will always be kind to him for putting Nigeria’s democratic history in the right perspective.
The truth is, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
These are people that have, in the last two decades, distinguished themselves by honouring us with their presence annually on this programme.
They give lectures and have remained vocal to the June 12 struggle. They deserve nothing less for keeping faith with us till this present moment.
I think it is also important to look back a bit to the event of the June 12 annulled election.
The gory story of June 12 could best be told by those of us that have the grace to be alive today.
And for the younger generations, the June 12 episode was one event that actually shaped the destiny of this nation. But today, it is a new beginning.
On June 23, 1993, that historic election was annulled by the then Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, in conjunction with some enemies of our great nation.
Before the June 12,1993election, hopes were high that Nigerians would heave a sigh of relief, after long years of misrule by the military.
We were tired of the maradona machinations and gimmicks.
We went to the polls and we elected our leader.
From all indications, the late Basorun M.K.O. Abiola, a philanthropist and business mogul, won the election with a landslide victory.
That was the situation of our hope until the ‘evil genius’ struck and the widely celebrated election was annulled. Our hopes were dashed and Nigerians took to the streets to protest the dastardly act.
In the course of the struggle, lives were lost. Businesses collapsed.
Both adults and children were killed in their prime.
Some notable Yoruba leaders and pro-democracy activists were killed and jailed over the June 12 crisis.
They include the late Basorun M.K.O. Abiola and wife, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane, Vice-AdmiralMuftau Adegoke Babatunde Elegbede,Dr. Sola Omatsola and Alhaja Suliat Adedeji. The list is endless.
Even Prof. Wole Soyinka, Balarabe Musa, General Alani Akinrinade, the late Gani Fawehinmi and several others were traumatised over the June 12 annulled election.
The late Abiola and others gave their lives so that Nigeria might have democracy.
Don’t forget that the late Abiola was the 14th Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland.
All his life, he demonstrated an unwavering commitment to justice and good government.
Today, as his successor to the prestigious position and the 15th Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, I, Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams, resolve to unite the Yoruba race and preach the gospel of peace to all Nigerians.
I remember during my seclusion in Oyo in the build-up to my installation as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo in January this year, my prayer was that good things would start happening in Yorubaland and Nigeria.
During the installation, the general prayer by elders was: ‘Igba yin a tu wa lara o.’
I thank Almighty God today that in less than five months of my installation, we have started seeing the hand of God in our land.
Even in the Bible, Psalms 34:19 says: ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all’.
The same Bible in Psalms 30:5 says …’weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’.
We thank God that after 25 years of struggle, the joy has finally come.
Therefore, for those of us that have been keeping the hope alive, I will like us to rise and observe a minute silence in honour of all our past heroes that paid the supreme price for today’s democracy
In times past, forums like this really helped to keep the memories of our heroes alive. It has also helped in addressing several burning issues that have been affecting our nation.
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the epoch-making event, let us look beyond the past and focus all our efforts in righting the wrongs of past leaders.
However, in Nigeria, there have been raging issues and debates on restructuring.
The way we clamour and struggle to have this day as our Democracy Day, we need to make the sacrifice, struggle and make a case for restructuring.
We need to stand firm and raise our voices in support of restructuring. If Nigeria is restructured, the federating units or states will develop equitably at their own pace.
The enormous power at the centre will be reduced and Nigeria will be better for it.
Here is my thought and that of other prominent Nigerians that have been propagating this lofty idea across the country.
Before ending this speech, I must comment on the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ law recently signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Honestly, it is a good beginning for young Nigerians to participate in governance at various levels.
It is a wonderful idea whose time has come but it is not enough. And this is where the restructuring idea I talked about earlier comes in.
Obviously, we have a vibrant youth population in the country who are ready to go places but how do they attain public offices when the environment is not conducive?
Pitiably, we operate in a polity that rewards indolence and criminalises creativity.
We have a system that encourages self-induced vices.
Money politics and godfatherism still dominate our political space.
Our democracy has been so monetised to the extent that to sane Nigerians, it defies logic. The resultant effect of this is that electoral malpractices become the order of the day.
From delegate election during party primaries to general elections, victory is for the highest bidder.
So, how do our youths survive in this shark-infested money politics environment?
If in the 21st Century, our youths are still struggling with basic things of life such as water, electricity, food, education, housing, health, security etc, how do they get the empowerment to face the gargantuan and financially-tasking electioneering process?
The following leaders – Emmanuel Macron of France (40 years), Matteo Fiorini of San Marino (40 years), Juri Ratas of Estonia (39 years), Leo Varadkar of Ireland (39 years), Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck ofBhutan (38 years) and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand (37 years) – attained leadership positions in their countries without going through the daily hardship Nigerian youths go through.
If they hail from Nigeria, I am sure some of them will still be going from one office to the other, looking for job.
Many Nigerian youths are better than these leaders but the system here has conditioned our youths to live a beggarly life.
This is where restructuring comes in.
For 25 years, Nigerians waited for justice to be done on the June 12 injustice. Today, we are happy.
I say it with all authority today that whether now or later, this country must be restructured.
Nigerian youths must insist on this for the ‘Not Too Young To Run’ law to have a good effect.
Therein lies our march towards greatness as a progressive country.
I thank you for listening.
God bless you all
Iba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams
The Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba land
National Coordinator, Oodua Peoples Congress
Chief Promoter, Olokun Festival Foundation
Chairman, Gani Adams Foundation
Convener, Oodua Progressive Union Worldwide.