May 30 and June 12 are two important historical dates in the life of Nigeria. They however habour two aborted dreams.
On May 30, 1967, some irreconcilible differences between the people of former Eastern Region and other parts of the country forced the first Military Governor of the region, Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, to pull the area out of the Nigerian federation and declare it the Republic of Biafra. This led to the Nigerian civil war which began on July 6, 1967.
For thirty odd months, the war raged, which took heavy tolls on men and resources. The war ended on January 15, 1970, with the defeat of Biafra and the reintegration of Easterners into the Nigerian federation.
On June 12, 1993, in what was supposed to be the final lap up of its long winding transition to civil rule programme, the military administration at the time, through the then National Electoral Commission (NEC), conducted the Presidential election, which business mogul, Chief Moshood Abiola, was heading to win. But before the results of the election could be officially released, the military annulled the entire exercise.
This infuriated many Nigerians, which led to series of protests and demonstrations across the length and breadth of the country, with government activities almost grounded to a halt. The crisis lingered on till May 29, 1999 when the country finally returned to democratic governance.
However, while the Nigerian federal government led by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo declared May 29, the day the military finally disengaged from politics, as “Democracy Day”, which is usually marked with public holiday and other social activities every year throughout the country, some political activists in the South West zone, who felt particularly offended by the annulment of the 1993 Presidential election chose June 12 as their own Democracy Day, just as some political activists in the South East zone, picked May 30, the day Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra, as their own Democracy Day.
But whereas in the South West, June 12 is marked with fanfare, and with the active involvement of state governments in the zone by way of public lectures and symposia, in the South East, May 30 is observed with apprehension and fear as well as with complete lock down of social and economic activities in the area. There is no definite programme of action, only that people should keep themselves indoors.
State governments as well as the intellientsia in the zone are not involved in their activities. Because of threats and fears instilled on the people, security agencies are mobilized to forestall any break down of law and order. Sometimes, some hoodlums will hijack the occasion to cause mayhem in society and some precious lives lost and valuable property destroyed.
But must we continue to observe May 30 that way? I do not think that would be ideal. Majority of those who today celebrate May 30 do not know the import of that day or what it entailed, only that they had been told to observe May 30 and to sit down at home to mourn those who were killed during the war.
But those who died during the war were not specifically killed on May 30. Infact, the first killing of the Igbo in the North was on May 29, 1966. This was followed by the July 29, 1966 massacre when Ironsi and other senior Igbo officers in the military were killed, and then, the September 29, 1966 killings, etc.
So were we to mourn those killed during the war, it should be on any of these days, which was why Ohanaeze Ndigbo had chosen September 29.
If we must celebrate May 30, we should be able to appreciate the circumstances that led to that day and reflect on what we must do to actualize the dream, if we so much desire it.