Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has lambasted individuals who have limited the impact of the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election mandate by describing it as a Yoruba project.
Soyinka expressed his disapproval of such claims in a statement entitled: “Democracy Day Primer (1)”, issued on Tuesday ahead of the first commemoration of June 12 as Democracy Day.
According to the professor of Literature, some Nigerians had even before the official declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day tried to degrade the significance of the day.
He noted that some had even decided to annul history by failing to “universally acknowledged as the fairest, the most orderly and peaceful election ever conducted in Nigerian history; a chastening contrast to the 2019 general elections.”
The statement read: “Next, I found it equally lamentable that anyone should attempt to reduce the June 12 struggle to that of an ethnic project. It is a depressing travesty of the realities, a denial of the existence of a nation’s collective sense of justice and its tenacity in pursuit of that objective.
“No one denies that the immediate family of a victim of robbery feels the pangs of dispossession more keenly than others. The truth, however, remains that the entirety of the compound itself was violated, arrogantly and contemptuously dispossessed.
“In this case, its very aspiration to a unified identity was simply ground underfoot, compelling a return to the starting block, and even several milestones behind! Disenfranchisement is the ultimate stigma for any free people. Again, despite official hostility, corporate blackmail and even victimisation of some adherents of that date…”
The Nobel Laureate, however, disclosed that he would not participate in this year’s commemoration of June 12 as a deliberate choice.
But he remarked that the declaration of the symbolic day as Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2018 is worth celebrating because it has “for some of us, represented closure – at least substantially.”
The statement read: “A resolution that I first half seriously injected into encounters over five years ago. That absence applies, not to the official celebration alone – of which I have never been a part anyway – but to the annual ritual by civic groups, a ritual of both tributes and defiance that has been unflaggingly observed till now.
“However, regarding the earlier Abuja ceremony that signalled the state’s reversion to June 12 as the most truthful expression of a people’s democratic will, I did attend, even at the cost of breaking a journey on the way to Brazil. That event, for some of us, represented closure – at least substantially.
“It was a reunion of sorts, a cauterisation of many internal, invisible, and yet suppurating wounds, and private thanksgiving – for some of us – that the only route that appeared left for the recovery of a people’s dignity was abruptly, and ‘providentially’ closed by the timely demise of a singular human perversion. The nation was saved the anguish of the unknown. That sense of relief, on its own, is worth celebrating.”
Soyinka stated that persons who were involved in the struggle to actualise the mandate of the June 12 presidential election, no matter how ‘tangentially’, they could feel a sense of elation as the date has now been officially recognised by the Nigerian government.
He, however, lamented that the ethnic slur which some have associated the event with would continue to escalate.
The statement read: “However, there is even more matter for discouragement, so we should not be surprised at the ethnic caviling. After the annulment, I recall that when we tried to mobilise opposition to that sadistic impostor, fanatic voices of ethnic irredentism informed us bluntly, verbally and in print, that the Yoruba should go and solve their problems themselves, since we had let them down in the lead-up to the Biafran war of secession, and should seek no collaboration from that side of the Niger.
“One recognises, in today’s renewed voices of ethnic denigration, the same chant of a hate chorus, the fanning of divisive embers. It is gratifying therefore – and here we come to some cheering news – that this tendency has become a source of concern to many of the leaders of that former secessionist state. It led to recent counter efforts under themes such as Hands Across The Niger, later followed by Hands Across The Nation, encounters that have taken place both within the nation and outside her borders.
“It is crucial that those laudable initiatives continue in the same spirit of civic responsibility and nationally craved closure. We must, however, sound warning: these high-minded efforts are increasingly vitiated by the fanatic and obnoxious voices of an irrepressible handful. No, we are not speaking here of organised protests and demonstrations to keep Biafra alive – for those of my school of thought, these are both legitimate expressions of the democratic will, and cannot be suppressed. We refer specifically however to abrasive, irrational, and irreverent diatribes of purveyors of unrelenting discord.”
The late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, popularly known as MKO Abiola, was adjudged to have won the presidential election conducted on this day in 1993.
However, the military regime of Ibrahim Babangida prevented Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, Chairman of the then National Electoral Commission (NEC), from announcing the official result.