MAY 30, OUR DEMOCRACY DAY; JUNE 12, THEIR DEMOCRACY DAY
BY DONS EZE
May 30 and June 12 are two important dates in Nigerian history. The two dates represent two significant events in the life of the country: one glorious and monumental, and the other one ugly and despicable.
On 30 May, 1967, Biafra was declared as an independent nation. On June 12, 1993, a Presidential Election won by Chief MKO Abiola, was annulled. While we look at May 30 with hope and optimism, they look at June 12 with regret and disappointment.
In our place, May 30 is our own public holiday, if you like, call it “sit at home”. Everybody will be indoor to remember and mourn our brothers and sisters who were gruesomely massacred in different parts of the country, over the years, for the sins they did not commit.
We also use May 30 to celebrate the birth of Biafra, the land of the “Rising Sun.” Biafra stands for freedom and a protest against injustice, nepotism, despotism and oppressive rule.
On May 30, 1967, the fire of Biafra was lit as response to the injustices meted on a particular group of people by some conscienceless Nigerians. For 30 months, the guns boomed, rockets fired, and bombs dropped on the hapless and defences people, even in market places, to decimate them and wipe them out of the surface of the earth. The people were blockaded and starved of essential food items. Yet, they did not waver, but stood like the Rock of Gibraltar.
In January 1970, with all the odds against them, the people got tired and dropped down their guns. Ojukwu, the standard-bearer of that revolution, fled to Ivory Coast, on exile. Their enemies rejoiced and celebrated, and boasted that Biafra was dead. They said that nobody should ever mention “Biafra” again.
In 1972, General Yakubu Gowon, the then Nigerian Head of State, issued a decree, and changed the name of “Bight of Biafra”, to “Bight of Bonny”. Many people were amazed. What an infantile act?, they asked.
A newspaper columnist with an Enugu based newspaper, “The Renaissance”, Agwu Okpanku, in an article entitled: “Killing Biafra”, wrote that it would be unhistorical for Gowon to have issued that decree, because the name Biafra, existed for centuries even before what we know today as Nigeria.
He further argued that the change of name was not enough to obliterate from the hearts of the people, the memory of Biafra, if what happened in 1967, when the East was literally pushed out of Nigeria, was not properly addressed.
Gowon was annoyed. He ordered that Agwu Okpanku be arrested and thrown in prison. Yet, that did not kill the memory of Biafra. It continues to wax stronger and stronger in the hearts of the people. Ironically, it is those who were not even born in 1967, when Biafra was declared, that today have become the champion of Biafra.
The reason is very simple. It is because the injustices that led to the declaration of Biafra in 1967 are still very much with us, and have even increased and multiplied.
Biafra therefore, is simply a protest against the many injustices in Nigeria. It is a protest against nepotism, against selfishness, against oppressive rule, against man’s inhumanity to man, against religious bigotry, etc.
The Biafra spirit is undying. It is engraved in the minds of the people. It is not borne out of any decree, law, or legislation. It is not put on paper or gazette. It is not even anchored on any particular individual, dead or alive, Ojukwu, Nnamdi Kanu, or whoever may come up tomorrow.
The Biafra spirit is ideological. It is spiritual. It is historical. That is why we are celebrating it, and we will continue to celebrate it every May 30, sitting at home to ruminate over our fate, and our relationship with other Nigerians.
On the other hand, the federal government has told us to be celebrating June 12 as “Democracy Day”. This is to mark the day a Presidential Election was annulled on June 12, 1993. But it was on May 29, 1999 that democratic rule was returned to the country. We therefore do not see any link or any relationship between when a democratic election was inaugurated, and when an election was annulled.
It was not June 12 that brought May 29. May 29, 1999 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 knocking.
It was Abacha’s death that led to the appointment of General Abdulsalami Abubakar as his successor, 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 considered June 12 necessary or relevant. So, June 12 is standing on its own.
June 12, 1993 was the day democracy was aborted. It has no relevance to May 29, 1999, the day democracy was inaugurated. Each stands on its own. Those who dusted up June 12 as “Democracy Day” were only seeking for political relevance.
The flag-bearer of that election had gone the way of every mortal, and he did not leave any heir behind. What we now see are impostors, charlatans, counterfeit democrats, people who are trying to reap where they did not sow.
What therefore they are celebrating is fake democracy, democracy of god-fatherism, democracy that is in chains, where individual freedom is not guaranteed. It is a democracy where both the judiciary and the legislature are emasculated and swallowed by the executive branch. That is why we will not be celebrating with them.
Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI