June 12: The North And The Rest of Us
Governor of Enugu State
Second Edition of the Bola
Ige Birthday Lecture, Premier Hotel, Ibadan
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
The voters in promotion of democracy in Nigeria
opinion that corn-dealers are starvers
of the poor ought to be unmolested when simply
circulated through the press, but may justly
incur punishment when delivered orally to an
excited mob assembled before the
house of a corn-dealer
For a very long time, I had yearned for the opportunities to come to appreciate first hand the trends of political thought in Ibadan, what with the blossoming of great minds either associated with the premier University of Ibadan or the strong traditional political families which formed the texture of both political and social life in the ancient city.
Of course, Ibadan cannot escape us; being destined the second largest African city, second, then, only to Cairo, Egypt. In a way, Ibadan is a curious reminder of the promises of the polyglot agenda conceived at the evolution of Nigeria, riding the crest of the promises of multi-cultural fermentation and blossoming of varieties of views. Indeed, Ibadan held out the torchlight, perhaps for us all, just as Kaduna and Enugu, in approximation or aggregation of varied values, pointed in the way for the development of multi-cultural societies.
With that as the case, it
did not come strangely to us that deep in the bowels of this great city, though
encumbered by its blown chances as Nigeria, but laden with the hope of the
promises of the creative future, there was the progenitor of the idea of today
which as in bringing in a kid from Agbani, to talk about matters so viewed with
trepidation and consternation, extends the promises of a nation amid high sea
voyage. In a way, the agenda setters of today have made a point, that little as
we can be, and remote as we have perceived the larger world, the challenge is
thrown to he who is bold and daring and can confront the forces of argument on
such heady issues that were endearing to our own Uncle Bola.
I had, indeed, watched with deep respect much of the life of the Kaduna boy whose birthday we are now confronted with. I could not have missed out on how he dealt, as it was, this segment - June 12 - which marked the major point of departure in Nigeria's political history.
The Kaduna boy, Bola Ige, of now blessed; memory, represented the vantage personality craved for in the commencement of the fuller elements of national coalescence and integrity. Speaking Hausa and Igbo fluently in the like succession before speaking Yoruba, and understanding motivations of the various groupings as in underlining the national question, he only posited, in character and leadership, the order of fulfillment and an example of proper focus and direction.
To that effect, it could not have been a threat to us that the promises of the Nigerian nation got its vent even in the heady confrontation of the ferocious military armada by the likes of Ige who dared, proclaimed and propelled the alternative viewpoint in the dark days preceding the current order. And as in strongly promoting such bold groups as the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), G. 34 and the others which came bold in repudiating immediate promises of the ranging order, but fostered that which would last, that which would not just pass. Indeed, most human creations are foible and shall come to pass. He personally rode the tide of future and upheld the promises of time yet unborn.
confess to you that I was overwhelmed by the decision of Dr. Yemi Farounbi to
come to Enugu himself to extend the invitation to me to do this talk. I was not
only unsettled by this boldness, having himself a retinue of staff who could do
the running around but I soon discovered that in him, there was just another
middle-of-the-road Enugu boy on a come- home trip. It was quite rewarding to
staff and myself to listen to that part of the story of Farounbi, which further
revealed the disruptive tragedy of the 1966 - 1970 crisis.
So, Farounbi would have been an Enugu boy, through and through, if the crisis and eventual war did not interrupt his study of geology at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. We listened, almost in tears, how a student career and process in integration was rooted and indeed frustrated, in the prime of the promising child, who now had to study geography at the then University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
In a way, we started seeing Farounbi as another signpost of what was, what is, and what would have been.
On this, we established that the likelihood of the relationships of the various minds in pursuit of the Bola Ige Birthday enterprise being cast in one cosmopolitan and formative polyglot upbringing equally formed the basis of building national characters around the emerging figures.
But even as I was reassured in the ,frame of the composition of the Bola Ige team as I could make out, I was filled with trepidation by the mere suggestion of tackling matters on June 12, such that I could not make out the immediate need to drag me into considering it from the perspective of those who felt that its failure or death on arrival was a well-rehearsed hegemonic Northern programme.
Personally, I was never given to considering the problems militating against Nigeria as exclusive and unheard of in other lands such that I would impute the entire blames on any particular ethnic group or even a section of the intelligentsia.
But if you put the apprehension aside, you can never just kick aside the ferocity of the Ibadan literary stamina, which has ridden the tenacity of a media culture that its baffling survival, even at the doorsteps of some wishes for terminal accidents, leaves only an assurance of unstoppable future strides.
Deep down in me, I have always argued that the greater national debate, or the more marketable poise for national conscientisation resides somewhere between Ibadan and Lagos. But in saying this, I am not pretending that the literary culture, the buoyancy of the media and the boldness of social mobilization are the exclusive preserves of the sons and daughters of Oduduwa. I am not even saying that the sons and daughters of Oduduwa, alone, drive these; much as I cannot even pretend to ignore the reality of the admissibility of the culture of the native people and the very accommodating and healthy cosmopolitan tradition of most host communities in the old West of Nigeria.
No doubt, I
agree that the very difficulties imposed on the Nigerian political society by
the inadequacies of programmes of political transition, amidst the inter-
ethnic, inter-institutional and inter-belief conflicts leave a gaping hole in
the challenges of cohesion and eventual integration of a multi-ethnic nation in
hunger for unity, purpose and direction.
But the particular challenge of June 12, vis-à-vis the inconsolable tendencies, sometimes verging on extremism if not chauvinism, provided the toughest task for national and regional leadership factors since the War of man and gun, 1966 -1970.
In a way, it has become difficult to table the issues of the June 12 as an event and now a recognized process of our political evolution without risking being caught in the inferno of ethnic fireworks.
Observing it all from the world's bastion of democracy, though with such keen interest, I could not help but marvel at the quantum of emotion and counter emotion emitted in the heat of the arguments that ensued and persists till date. I am not yet fully aware what definition political scientists will give June 12, both as an incident and as a political phenomenon. I am not equally aware what level of emotion would have ebbed off the assortment of eventual seasonal views, which would have formed the basis for final definition and recording in history.
I am only
certain, for now, that it is definitively premature to begin to look at or
represent that phase of our political development in history. Indeed, I have
been amply advised against writing history for the same generation, which was
factor-element in the event, whose likelihood of facto-post-mortem or future
actions explain previous roles. These, as they say, will still act in live and
fuller maturity to alter earlier conceptions and misconceptions.
My position in this regard is deeply informed by the reality of continuum, which such
political event and phenomenon develop into and which extend the frontiers of expectations, altering earlier notions and modifying principles on the basis of future revelations.
Today, 10 years after the incident of June 12, five of which were claimed, regrettably, by political tensions, ethnic distrust and social upheavals, and a near fatal collapse of the nation state, you can still notice the smarting of ill feelings and suspicion among regional power chiefdoms and other political players.
Somehow, as the fierce debate (or is it quarrel) raged on, it was either a vicious claim of ethnic dominance or sectional hegemony, which as pursued would have to be eliminated for the nation state to move forward. Indeed, no pretenses were made of the belief that if June 12 were to be a political accident, such would have come at the instances of some dark forces on duty in favour of a political hegemony elsewhere, not South of Nigeria.
And would June 12 be an
"understandable" incident revealing political craftsmanship at brewing crisis in
furtherance of hegemonic intensions, it was held that such only came with "this
familiar" brutality , and total disregard for others who constituted Nigeria.
On this, the vast community of public opinion had been worked up to appreciate the entire incident or phenomenon as a strange political action only worthy of total resistance, never any form of accommodation or rationalization. It is of course natural that the Nigerian public opinion would be worked up on this. Such could not have been unexpected if we appreciated the potency of the intervention of such direct political players as members of the political class, which included the press, human rights community, international, local and non-governmental organizations and of course ethnic activists. They all saw the whole development as the lifetime opportunity to hit at the perceived hegemony and domineering gladiators lurking somewhere in the Northern region of Nigeria.
But within this community of remarkable opinions, there were these distinguishable factors of the influential class, which proffered reasons and solutions to tackle the problem as it were.
Indeed, June 12, when it started, first as a single, though remarkable date for the presidential election of 1993 was just another day. It was a day of hopes and dreams, not just for those on the side of the business mogul, Chief MKO Abiola, making forays in politics, but also for those on the side of Bashir Uthman Tofa, another business man who published the volatile, irredentist tabloid, The Pen, in Kano City.
But mind you, these were all of one and same ideological clan and definitive players in the accumulative oligarchy. That is if you permit me to use that word. Tofa dealt rightist and exhibited supreme acquisition tendencies; Abiola consumed right flank and elbowed in on future appropriation of wealth. Tofa breathed right and Abiola exuded right, though the latter - Chief Abiola - homing in with such efficiency in disarming magnanimity and philanthropy.
Above all, that day - June 12 - was also a peculiar day for some generations of Nigerians who though were going to witness democracy for the first time had not such causes to be completely droned in their perception of the politics of their land. They were not deflated or swept by the severe bifurcations of the social environment and preachment for total rejection of the friendliness or comradeship of fellow compatriots.
There were also those who, though had taken a principled position not to be enthusiastic participants anywhere in our seemingly ceaseless search for effective; transition efforts. They had, therefore, adopted a siddon look approach, prayerful though, that this day would, at least, mark a new beginning and herald a new dawn.
Besides, such economic
players whose enterprises were hampered by the absence of such international
players, who, together with associates avoided activities in regions under
military governments, hoped that a new dawn and new hope were hovering
uninterruptedly at the door-steps of what we elected, in local parlance, to
describe as "pariah state status."
Needless to say that the inconclusive nature of the enterprise of that day, of all days, and the attendant passions associated with actions of more vocal political players altered many old views of Nigeria and in fact, institutions of general national expression. However, the eventual attitude and suggestions for an end to the confusion that ensued, provoked a certain kind of political behaviour which foreclosed reasoned consideration of the matters therein.
One of these was for the views of leadership to tend to physical solution and semblance of ethno-structural shape of Nigeria as ways of finding sufficient ground for cohabitation and cohesion of the State. Another was for some classes of leadership to reduce the entire incident to
levels of socio-economic and political development attendant upon state allocation of values and factors of formal as well as informal rings of the national life.
Although most of the issues immediate on the June 12 phenomenon never really got tackled without emotions, the few moments of sober reflections depicted actions in condescension, which the various groupings adopted and which failed to deliver immediate solutions for the forward movement of the nation state. To this effect, it was identified that much as the strong points on the divides believed that they pursued causes for the upliftment of Nigeria, they also posed great problems in the frightening reduction of the incident and its aftermaths, to matters of the street.
Indeed, prior to the very incident of June 12, there were already remarkable items on the national front burner. Some of these included the agitation for resource control, decentralization of the military, evolution of the state police, revenue sharing and devolution of powers; in summary, the national question! But one, which became too urgent and indeed threateningly demanded, was power shift, both as a concept of palliation and as actions for reassurance of the other ethnic groups that they were still part of the national project, Nigeria.
Indeed, it was the perceived prevalence of power in the hands of one section of the country that the power shift issue became dominant and threatening. But the whole idea of power residing too long in the North of Nigeria did not just arise that day but suddenly became an affront to those Southerners who preferred to regard power shift as the panacea for national development and cohesion.
No doubt, the other strong
points of national discord, both prior to June 12 and soon after became
subordinated for the clamour for power shift, not just as portending equal
access to power but as the launch base for the erection of government favourable
to the development interests of those who felt that the nation had been so
savagely circumscribed in the journey to nationhood.
Of course, we can easily pardon the reduction of the entire debate on national reformation to power shift as was the case, but we may have soon realised that we had posed more threats to the reality of Nigeria by the tendency of sectional perception of the post-June 12 phenomenon, for or against. I repeat post-June 12 because June 12 itself, was not sectionally midwifed and was not in like manner expressed.
Two points are germane here. There was the elaboration or amplification of the debate on power shift bordering on the incidences of June 12. This was soon followed by a seeming sectional angst and derision of the issue in contention. Placed side by side, there were strong efforts made to pursue one or the other as sectional positions if only to remain visible and relevant on the front of the raging debates.
In a way again, it all looked like the issue of June 12 was built on power shift, and Northern cession of power to the South was the target of all targets. That way also, Nigerians who were not ordinarily conscious of some elements of their differences were fiercely confronted by the possibilities of the collapse of their country.
One curious impression created in the various debates associated with the whole June 12 incident was that the North had firmly, though unfairly laid its bare grip on power and would not let go. In other words, born to rule. Consequently, one definite thrust of argument and indeed action of the promoters of the northern dominance theory was that power must shift to the south for others to partake of dispensing of national resource. Equitable sharing of resources, equitable sharing of power.
Frankly, I had earlier
accused both pro-north and pro-south combatants of reducing Nigeria national
debates so much and imposing a one sided view of the problems barely with any
reasonable solution offered. While I did this, I had been upset by what then
looked like hostile attitude of Southern Nigerians, which was unfortunately
reciprocated with baffling enforcement of one sided show of power by the
promoters of Northern dominance.
By way of analysis, I had sought to determine the deeper motivation for narrowing the June 12 incident to power shift and the attendant marginalisation of the big picture -democracy.
One of what I discovered was that whereas most of Northern power players were deeply interested in democracy and as typical politicians, would work their ways into the arena of power, be it with southern or northern president, the whole idea of dubbing the June 12 incident a collective northern programme did force many a player into aligning with "his own people." Similarly, the fact of President Ibrahim Babangida being a military officer, earlier consigned in the realm of coupists and a Northerner, who was strangely viewed as extending the frontiers of a raging hegemony, he then had to be thoroughly pilloried for annulling the June 12 elections.
In the case of the Southern political players, including the entire political class, the assumption of the whole incident as a slap against the southern sections left room for such simple analysis which caused the hardening of positions as in viewing it as a matter of "we" and "them ". It then became imperative to appreciate the total environment, which fuelled these positions.
One simple analysis, not mine, had been that it was a mere political development, which was irresponsibly blown out of proportion by the political class. Another was the claim of renewed interest in negotiation of more meaningful inclusion in the national programme; while yet one other had been the claim of revelation of hidden intentions of the Northern political elite against the South and in this case, Yoruba. An extension of this argument posted a scenario tending to grasp the dilemma of June 12 incident on an elaborately drawn programme of subordination of the entire South, whose Igbo section had been subdued in the war years of 1966 -197O, hence going another leg of the tripod.
Indeed, these merited some glances capable of causing a peep into the development, not just against the backdrop of the quest for power shift but also such sideline issues of seemingly innocuous utterances, which in many cases looked like the collective viewpoints of sections of the country.
For instance, the Southern uproar against this incident did not just reveal shock and awe at the temerity of the military government to alter what was perceived as the will of the people. They believed that it was a hint of shift of power without a fight, but riding the crest of democracy. Put differently, it seemed to the Southern intelligentsia, rightly or wrongly, that this had naturally addressed that strand of the national question.
But if we say that this uproar was an over-reaction, if that is what we can reduce it all to, the stalwart backing of the actions leading to and indeed amplifying the incident of June 12 was to draw rage into the uproarious situation. That was exactly what some Northern strikers and strategists tried to do without even realizing that such preference of argument on ethnic lines only hardened the position of the Southern intelligentsia.
Of course, much as I believed that the emergence of Chief Abiola would have assuaged a handful of the contents of such package fueling the agitation to solve the national question as it were, that in itself would not have done it all. One definitive statement of the June 12, if we go on with our strength of position on the outcome of the election was that it would have gracefully taken care of the power shift question.
Indeed, it took good care of such other factors as leaders emerging tops only in their ethnic sections while making up with passable presence in other areas of the country. But in that case, indications were that the good showing in the North West was replicated in the South East, South West, South-South, North Central, North East and North West. In a way, the masses of the people who voted, from North to South, East to West and the Centre appeared motivated into pursuing a certain objective response to elections without as much as a glance to such elite fancy as ethnic chauvinism. It would not have mattered whether or not this translated into popular empowerment or eventual overthrow of the envisaged authoritarian order, which had fed fat on the festering ethnic/regional chauvinism, religious bigotry and other social disequilibria.
For the observer from afar, as I was then, the entire actions revealed emotions capable of, and which indeed, altered the scene, not just of the debate but also of the relations, which ordinarily stabilized the nation in times of need.
I may be right, but I may also be wrong, in this feeling that you have not invited me to review June 12, just as the incident and political phenomenon as it was. Necessarily, we are to find an angle of it as it revealed the interplay of forces depicting domination of the terrain by the North. In that regard, the dismissal of sudden history forecloses my going into a review of the events and attempts at interpreting positions held or opinions formed.
And conscious of the development which reasonably careered June 12 to power shift, it then becomes unavoidable that matters relating to this would be investigated and analysed.
Against this backdrop, I have now assumed that I am obliged to pursue the topic under review in full in the direction of the various dimensions of this power shift. Being in itself a necessary elaboration by the political class, it revealed intent at power sharing and resource allocation. And since the fuller meaning of the June 12 challenge revolved around diffuse political participation it is imperative to acknowledge that such points in power shift must incline to democracy and nothing else.
Recently, the political class had been described as any or all of the factors in active politics and which contribute to the political actions of groups, interest groups, political parties,
labour organizations and even student bodies and the press without including individual students, individual journalists and individual workers, who are represented in the student bodies, the press and labour.
Indeed, these formed the striking players, which built and strengthened the political environment and for which shift of views vis-à-vis shift of power became potent forces. Considered from the plank of Karl Popper in the work, Open Society and its enemies, the tendency to urge power shift in a military government is akin to a rebellion, which is legitmised by tyranny and foolhardiness of the government in power. But in the case of a democracy, unbridled corruption, negation of established patterns of changing government and disregard for the rights of the people, leave not much for negotiation but total rejection of authorities.
I do not know whether we can assess this scenario from that point of view bearing in mind that much as the clamour for power shift was an evidence of dissatisfaction and rejection, it never portrayed a totally heady development capable of upturning the social order or political leadership. Moreover, such earlier claim of exclusive grip of power and leverages of State for too long, may after all be debatable, that is if we acknowledge the fact of a national power group whose elements - spread over the country - remain together in power. It comes as federal character, zoning and due representation.
Of course, this is a known power situation, which is not completely strange in Nigeria. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) claimed to have practised it in the second republic 1979 -1983. It also goes to reveal that such demand for power shift or arrangement to accommodate factors and elements could not have originated in the June 12 incident. But we cannot deny that it soon took an upswing popularity or currency and almost deviated the thrust of the incident or process.
It was possible that whereas the other elements of the political class sought to situate the arguments for power shift, the typical politician whose hunger for power ordinarily overrides any other interest, appeared to have approached it primarily from the June 12 perspective, which assures him a niche in the minds of the ordinary folk who rightfully felt shortchanged.
It was not too unexpected that the political class would negate the principle, both of June 12 and the power-shift argument. It was also not too unexpected that the recipients of the attack, which sought to reverse or at least prevent a recurrence of the June 12 incident, would take it for granted as the politician who championed it. Perhaps, to fully acquaint us with the inadequacies of the politician vis-à-vis his leading a struggle for change, we may begin to take a closer look at the epic view of Prof. Ben Nwabueze. "The politicians love for public office is only matched by his fears of losing it or being kept out of it, both the love and fear are of inordinate and unbridled proportions (as) ...the grandeur and prestige of public office predominate over principls and honourable behaviour and over every other consideration."
This, of course, may not be the all season definition of the politician but it gives an inkling of the idea of the prime motivation of the politician who may ordinarily apply the full valve for the realization of a project only to hit the reverse gear if such later behaviour would assure of brighter political clout in the near future.
To, therefore, evaluate the June 12 incident; appealing to the offspring or adoptive child called power shift, it would be gainful to consider the context in which it was stridently pushed.
Actually, at the dawn of
the debate, it got so elaborated that while it was typically viewed as a drive
to cause the position of the president of the federation to be occupied by a
Southern Nigerian, counter motions squaring up with the push had demanded an
expansion of such areas which power must shift, to represent a fair distribution
of the leverages of the State.
Some elements of the North identified literary power, bureaucratic power, distributive power, administrative power and eventually the leadership (headship) of the State as fundamental areas of national life that must also be split and shifted as political power shifted.
I am aware that this looked like a reduction of the entire exercise, but in reality, the surge of the claims revealed a hardening of positions reminiscent of anti imperialism struggles. But even as one could give some credit for identifying these as distributable powers, it was difficult to ascertain the motivation when, as we know of open societies as Nigeria, most of the economic powers would arise of private sector entrepreneurship and not in allocation of state resources.
In fact, viewed closely, the northern promoters of redistribution of economic, literary and bureaucratic powers appeared to have given away their inadequacies in building on an opportunity of holding power for so long and with such evident clout. This may have had nothing to do with statecraft or the lack of it but a failure of intervening factors, which ought to explain issues of contention without igniting the rage of the other sections.
Indeed, power shift, in the sense it was pursued fell into Albies Marcuse argument of vocal language and categorical declaration. Though usually arising from effusion of viewpoints, which bring about the fillip such that arrived with the succeeding pillars of the June 12 argument, it gathered its steam from the furtherance of awareness, particularly on its effect on the daily lives of the people.
In other words; the fury against the incident of June 12, notwithstanding the account of government which took the action, ignited a flurry of northern responses, which, not well handled, extended the awareness and caused further interest in the issues tabled. The more this argument was extended, the more the smart politician careered it to matters touching on the daily bread of the common man. That way, its relevance is assured and indeed amplified. That is to say that June 12 as an incident became a declaration, which alarmed the South whose outrage on its own turned another declaration, which unsettled the North.
Such steam, which though appeared to be a creation of a conscious political class, suggested a capacity for mobilization and sustenance of struggles. It could not have been such that would be responded to with rage and further incitement.
Usually, such pursuit of the elite riding the crest of mass appeal can always last as long as the hope of political or economic eldorado is sustained. Of course, I am not saying that the June 12 incident and the elaborate and bold actions in resistance only came on hopes of eldorado more than it was spurred by feeling of injury, attention to national pride and tending questions in right and wrong in a society aspiring for openness, equality and composite development.
Now, as it turned out that as strong moves were to be made to diversify the concept and context of power shift, the most attractive was still the shift of the presidency to the South and recognition of the rights of others to aspire to the highest office in the land.
One major ideological point in this was in the belief of the values of federalism as Nigeria's chosen system of socio-political and economic organization. To that effect, it was not surprising that the Southern elite pursued the liberalization of the polity to reflect what we now call true federalism against the military-induced unitary political culture.
In a way, we were definitely bound for inescapable arguments about what indeed should be the pattern of political organization of Nigeria. Strangely, much of our claims for socio-political organization was federalism but the pattern of positioning political and economic institutions left one wondering if what we have all that while was not such that stifled segments of the federation against what was considered a free association of equal nations in a political union.
Perhaps, seeing federalism from the prism of Eme Awa, Nigerians have never hesitated in considering their union as building in recognisable varieties, using primordial as well as prevailing institutions to exert coordinate authority for balanced development of all units. Such perception of Nigerians, not really injurious to global view of federalism informed the clamour, not only for transfer of pattern of administration from unitary to "true" federalism but also to a complete restructuring of the polity along the political decision track as in power shift.
It is neither here nor
there to contend the viability of democracy either along the Australian
principles or American pattern. What appears the true problem fueling the
contention is definitive attitude of Nigerians, either to the principle as
contained in the books or to the practice as it has worked out so far, albeit
with a measure of success in other lands. But whereas there seems to be an
agreement on the principles of distribution of powers, the country-by-country
variation has always been missed. This must have informed the position of Carl
Friedrich that we are only confronting a process not definite and directed, as
its application must take cognizance of the local variations.
Of course, whereas we cannot ignore the counter claim that federalism is more of a design because it carries the teeth offered by the legal framework, we cannot ignore, in the case of Nigeria, the reality of the demand for openness in making the legal framework and fashioning the entire environment for the effectiveness of what we craved.
It is not yet too clear why the political elite, which elected to drive the struggle for variations and openness of the political environment, decided to narrow the whole enterprise to scheming such liberal political culture attendant upon age old democracies. What appeared viable in their struggle was that a particular condiment of the laundry list of the agitations - power shift -coming on the strides of June 12, deserved attention, if only that would promote openness and variety.
I cannot fault the frustration of the political class which promoted an overthrow of such political arrangement which in turn foreclosed their roles, sometimes, subjectively and without explanation, even before they went into the field or after the battle is fought and won. I cannot
about the response of the downtrodden who are made to accept the agitation as
ways, of achieving a round trip to the dining table. In a way, we can say that
the elite, in dire need of registering their interests needed to mobilize the
"people" who must do one thing to have the day moving.
If then it came of mutual benefit to pursue power shift, "true" federalism and restructuring, each pointing in the direction presumably headed by the June 12, it was well tailored to bring about a shift, somehow. What this represented in the realm of the subject under discussion is that whereas June 12 was a radical, even though sophisticated resolution of the power shift question, its after day negotiations narrowed the scope along physical and decipherable lines. This conduct presupposed that the people of Nigeria, viewing contest for power as engaged in by the elite had to assume the divisive and ethnic shenanigans of the political class.
Of course, I do not belong to the clan of commentators who assumed that June 12 was solely truncated as in the decisive but unpopular action of a military government. I hardly ever subscribe to the claim that because Chief MKO Abiola did not become Nigerian president, via the election of June 12, the entire essence of the political actions of Nigerians, prior to the annulment was defeated.
Indeed, far from it. June 12, as it revealed the cohesion of Nigeria, both in the social realm and political awareness, actually deflected the pretensions of the elite who had to come to terms with the brilliance of the down-trodden, who, ordinarily were assumed to be headless and unreasonable.
It is indeed strange to me that viewing the voting pattern as we did, the promoters of the power shift argument accepted to make their viable pillar such points of national departure bordering socio-physical division of the country.
Conversely, it was embarrassing for the antagonists to power shift, which we must always accept as a blossoming child of June 12, to insist that the eventual political equation attendant upon that day, of all days, had any such geo-structura1 definition.
In now dealing with the roles of the real combatants, not the pen pushers, in the course of the explosive phenomenon - I mean the alayes, the talakawas, the akpu-obis and the likes in the West, North and the East. It ought to be seen as a major political shift, which we must seek to appreciate to grasp what really informed the various actions and reactions as they occurred.
As hinted above, the actions of the elite, much as it had strings of altruism, came largely of the fear or crave not to be kept out of power, the grandeur, pomp and panoply of power. As for the down trodden, the creative prestige belonged to that class who, against the full weight of elite rumbling chose to vote the way they felt would have altered social relations in the country. This had nothing to do with where Mr. President would have come from. It was not on issue whether the balance of national varieties was pursued but it was in pursuit of a genre of social re-distribution and cohesion, not coercion.
Of course, I am currently constrained by time to go into the full details of the struggle for power shift or a multiplication of demands for alteration of the laundry list of distributable areas of national values. I may be propelled to consider more closely the emergence of a democratically elected president of Southern extraction but evidently national recognition.
As already pursued above, the entire clamour for June 12 had its greater translation in power shift, perhaps before restructuring, to achieve "true" federalism. But at the demise of the General Sani Abacha, the promises of national resurgence and creative strides showed in the execution of the transition to democracy programme, perhaps afterwards.
The promises of that transition and indeed that of Nigeria were not limited to gains of smooth election and eventual transition but the very objective approach to recreate what could be termed a glorious Nigeria's era.
Indeed, prior to the actions which further revealed the sophistication of the masses -talakawas - who are unfortunately represented in the more active almajiris, alayes and akpu-obis - as voters, the direction of the nation as in seeking a rebirth had called for a stabilizing personage, not just a representation of the national popularity and international clout of Abiola, but a reference point to national cohesion and co-habitation.
In a way, the entire disruptive threat to the system had come of the mistrust occasioned by the failure in approximation of the values for further cohesion of the nation state. Such, as it were, promoted on its own a certain level of apprehension and disdain for the unknown.
This provided the environment on which a return to power, now in democratic exercise,
was played out for the president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo. My personal suspicion is that Obasanjo did not just arise to take the rein of authorities from nowhere.
It could not have been missed to Nigerians that sometime in the 1978 a certain government coming on the heels of the demise of Murtala Muhammed, brought about the biggest expansion of the economy and society since independence. Nigerians were looking back to an era where we had the biggest expansion of the university system, the teaching hospitals, airports, refineries and rolling mills. They must have remembered the expansion in auto manufacturing, the railways, expressways and even a swift upswing direction of per capita income.
It could not have been that the masses, not the pen pusher-elite, failed to appreciate the contributions of the other contenders to the throne, but the reality of transition weariness, the need to re-enact expansion and achieve a link with the earlier promises of national resurgence, appeared too attractive to pander to elite inclination to divisiveness and gerrymandering.
Perhaps, it is too early to begin to ask if Obasanjo fitted the role of pre-eminently tackling the strong questions of the nations of Nigeria (national question), "true federalism and indeed power shift." It may not even be too attractive to consider Obasanjo in the realm of power shift, being not an adherent of such postulations on whose steam exclusive claim to offices are pursued. But it may be compelling to even attempt an understanding of the very juncture where the strong forces in the various divides elected, or tolerated or even got compelled, to begin to reach a meeting point in the power struggle.
Somehow, it has been held that ignoring the power float of the status quo bound train, what seemed a coalescence of statecraft with prevailing mood of both the ancien regime and the avant garde yielded a frightening determination of the people at picking leadership, not necessarily along the line of the power sharing elite but on the promises of true national rebirth.
If this is true, could it not then have been said that what we had as in the emergence of Obasanjo, not strictly on the heap of June 12, and not at the prompting of the reminder-elements of the continuum-political-class, represented a shift of political trend and a confirmation of the emerging detribalized voting pattern of the would-have-been- Abiola presidency?
I am not very sure that I am out here with a drop-of-the-hat answer to this question. What I can readily say is that there was a June 12 election, and as confirmed in time and reason, clearly won by MKO Abiola; annulled as it were, certainly not of any Northern people's agenda, as it was not a personal project of Ibrahim Babangida. In other words, he never acted alone.
What I am saying is that no such member of the elite or the so-called political class ever anticipated such sophistication of the masses of Nigeria to vote the way they did in 1993. And as the elite sit quite arrogantly, considering themselves the repository of knowledge and epitome of civilization, they negate the level of next-door-neighbour development as in Mama Amaka sharing a table with Mama Bukky at Oshodi or as in Mama Ogechi, Mama Rukaya and Iya Tope, running a joint kiosk, though of different wares, at Lugbe Ibadan, Ogbete Enugu and Kasuwanjere Kano.
It was strange to the elite that the bulky Igbo trailer driver who rummages the adjoining villages to Saminaka junction, where he breaks his trips to see friends on his way to Maidugiri, or the Hausa truck driver who knows and cultivates friendship in the inner crevices of the villages around and about Ninth Corner, Enugu, has also built a welter of contacts in Umunede, Ijebu Ode, Ozalla-Nkanu, Jebba, Lokoja, and other junction towns such that he would hardly take any arm-chair lecturing on Nigeria's level of cohesion, co-habitation and integration.
Indeed, June 12 was expected and it came true to type having manifested the limitations of the elite in properly situating the very state they are supposed to supervise its emergence, strides and confirmation.
It then on this note we can raise our horn and herald that the emergence of true heroes of national
rebirth rested in the ever
objective masses who never voted on the ethnic permutations and infallible
calculus of the elite, we will then confidently declare the hollowness and
poverty of the pontifications of the select few, whose shenanigans had delayed
our evolution and for whose tutoring in the hands of the vast community of
voters, we yell, as in Enugu State;
To God be the glory.
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