Twenty years ago, Nigerians trooped out in their millions, to vote in accordance with their conscience, at an election meant to serve as the culmination of General Ibrahim Babangida’s democratic transition program.
Today, as we reflect on that epoch making event, let us recall the collective sacrifices Nigerians made to change our destiny. Many often speak about MKO Abiola as the symbol of June 12, and I shall come back to speak about the man and his vision shortly. But first let us recall that June 12 was a people's movement, born out of the collective frustration and anger of Nigerian people at the direction our country was going. It was a movement that was given its first breath of life by students across Nigeria, who engaged in protests against the lack of jobs in the economy. It was sustained by our activists, our market women, our unions, our journalists, and our progressive politicians.
Perhaps, then it would seem self-evident, altogether natural and fitting, that MKO would emerge as the symbol of this dynamic, grassroots movement. His decisive victory during the June 12 elections and the military's unjust annulment made him the clear symbol and rallying point for the pro-democracy movement. Although he was a successful businessman who walked in the corridors of power in Nigeria and around the world, he was ultimately a man of the people, remaining steadfast in defense of the democratic mandate given to him by the Nigerian people in the face of deceit, betrayal, and treachery from his so-called friends; and intimidation, attacks of his businesses and his arrest by the military. Finally, the struggle claimed his life and that of his principal wife, Kudirat.
But today is not a day for sorrow. No, not even when the main beneficiaries of his sacrifice fail to honor the ideals for which these true democrats laid down their lives; not even when the national leadership since 1999 has sought to wipe MKO's name out of our living memory; no, not even when poverty eats more deeply into the minds and bodies of Nigerians than it did in 1993. For sorrow has no place when enough of us remain committed to MKO's vision of a Nigeria free of poverty.
Instead, let today be a day for true democrats to rise up again, and dust off our shoes and begin the march for true democracy once again. For 20 years later, we have come full circle. As the progressives across the land come together in a coalition party, our political landscape will soon be set for another election between two main parties; a contest that will force people to move beyond primordial sentiments towards performance as the means for deciding to whom they will give their support.
We will soon be set for an election not unlike the June 12 election. However, unlike the 1993 election, this time, the progressives may find that their daring, their determination, their courage and commitment will be rewarded with victory. So on this day, let us say thank you to those that blazed the trail, at the same time that we acknowledge that the journey continues. May 2015 see the blossoming of democracy in Nigeria.