They Celebrate June 12, We Celebrate May 30


June 12 and May 30 are two important dates in the history of Nigeria. The two dates represent two different events in the life of the nation, one ugly and despicable while the other one is glorious and monumental. June 12 and May 30 are attempts to recapture the past, to celebrate two historical events of the past.

June 12 and May 30 are looked at from two different perspectives. While they look at June 12 with regrets and disappointment, we look at May 30 with hope and confidence. While they mark June 12 as a public holiday, we equally mark May 30 as a public holiday, if you like, call it “sit at home”. On June 12, they celebrate democracy. On May 30, we celebrate freedom.

June 12 is the celebration of an aborted democracy, a presidential election that was held on June 12, 1993, but was annulled by the military. May 30 is the celebration of freedom from injustice, from despotic and oppressive rule, the birth of the Republic of Biafra, that was said to have been aborted.

On May 29, 1999, Nigeria returned to democratic rule. But some people were not satisfied, they were not happy. They continued to look back on June 12, 1993, the day a democratic election was held, but was annulled, with nostalgia, with regrets. They began to refer that day as “Democracy Day”, and began to celebrate it. And those with some selfish interests, joined them.

As far as we are concerned, we do not see any connection between June 12, 1993, the day a Presidential election was held but was annulled, and May 29, 1999, the day democracy was actually enthroned, the day the military handed over political power to a civilian administration. It was not June 12 that brought May 29. May 29 was on its own, made possible by the death of General Sani Abacha, who was on the verge of transmuting to a civilian President, before death came.

It was Abacha’s death that led to the appointment of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as his successor, and who in turn, handed over power to an elected civilian President in the person of Olusegun Obasanjo, on May 29, 1999.

Thus, if Abdulsalami Abubakar had considered June 12 important and necessary, he would have handed over power on that day, and Obasanjo would have proclaimed June 12 as Democracy Day. But neither Abdulsalami Abubakar, nor Olusegun Obasanjo had considered June 12 necessary or relevant. So June 12 is standing on its own. June 12 is a day dream, a chimera, a will-o the-wisp. It is a concoction by some self serving politicians, seeking for relevance.

We all know that the flag bearer of June 12 has gone the way of other mortals. He is no more around. And he has no genuine heirs, no true democrats. All we see are impostors, charlatans, counterfeit democrats, those with dubious aims and selfish interests, who parade and market themselves as democrats.

What therefore they are celebrating as Democracy Day, as far as we are concerned, is a fake democracy. It is the democracy of the godfathers, the democracy of the bullion vans, the democracy of imposition of candidates. It is democracy that is in chains, the democracy where the two other arms of government, the judiciary and the legislature, are emasculated and swallowed up by the executive branch.

What they are celebrating is the democracy where the individual freedom is denied, and where freedom of speech can no longer be guaranteed. That is what they are celebrating on June 12 as their Democracy Day.

On May 30, 1967, the fire of Biafra was reignited, as response to the many injustices meted out on some particular group of people by some conscienceless Nigerians. For thirty months, the guns boomed, the rockets flew, the bombs exploded and the people were blockaded and starved of food and other essentials of life, etc. Yet, the will of the people were not broken. It stood firm, like the Rock of Gibraltar, and refused to die.

In January 1970, they claimed to have defeated Biafra, and the fire of Biafra extinguished. Ojukwu, the standard bearer of the Biafra revolution, went on exile to Ivory Coast. They celebrated it, and boasted that that was the end of Biafra, that Biafra was no more.

In 1972, General Yakubu Gowon, the then Nigerian Head of State, sought to distort history, or to kill history, when he issued a proclamation changing the name of “Bight of Biafra” to “Bight of Bonny”. His aim was to make sure that nobody mentioned the word “Biafra” any more, to completely erase the name “Biafra” to remove it from people’s mind, and to completely obliterate it.

In his reaction, a columnist with the Enugu based Renaissance Newspaper, Agwu Okpanku, wrote an article entitled: “Killing Biafra”, where he argued that the change of name was not enough to erase the memory of Biafra if the circumstances that led to the declaration of Biafran Republic in 1967 remained the same, or was not properly addressed.

Because of that “irresponsible” article, General Yakubu Gowon sent his Gestapo men, who promptly arrested Agwu Okpanku and put in prison. Yet, Biafra did not die. It continues to wax stronger and stronger. Ironically, it was those whose parents were not even born in 1967 when Biafra was declared, that are now the champion, the standard bearer the Biafra cause.

Today, Ojukwu who declared Biafra 57 years ago, in 1967, is no more around, yet the Biafra spirit has not died. Even when he went on exile and stayed in Ivory Coast for thirteen and half years, people continued to talk about Biafra.

In other words, the Biafra spirit is an undying spirit. It is an indefatigable spirit, a never-say-die spirit. It is an indestructible spirit, which neither gun, nor pen had succeeded in destroying.

The Biafra spirit is not borne out of any legislation, law or decree. It is not put on paper or on a gazette. It is engraved on people’s mind. The Biafra spirit is spiritual. It is ideological. It is historical. It is enduring. It is not founded nor built on any human individual. Ojukwu. Uwazurike. Nnamdi Kanu, etc.

The Biafra spirit is the spirit of freedom, which is the inalienable right of man. It is the spirit against injustice and oppression. It is the spirit against man’s inhumanity to man. It is the spirit against nepotism, against religious bigotry and religious fanaticism. It is the spirit against selfishness, which are hallmarks of today’s Nigeria.

That is what we celebrate on May 30, and will continue to celebrate.

About Dons Eze

DONS EZE, PhD, Political Philosopher and Journalist of over four decades standing, worked in several newspaper houses across the country, and rose to the positions of Editor and General Manager. A UNESCO Fellow in Journalism, Dr. Dons Eze, a prolific writer and author of many books, attended several courses on Journalism and Communication in both Nigeria and overseas, including a Postgraduate Course on Journalism at Warsaw, Poland; Strategic Communication and Practical Communication Approach at RIPA International, London, the United Kingdom, among others.

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