There is no doubt that June 12, 1993 is a watershed in the chequered history of Nigeria. On that bright Saturday morning, millions of Nigerians went out to vote in an election that was adjudged the freest and fairest in the history of elections in Nigeria. Not only was it free and fair, perhaps June 12 broke the religious and ethnic barrier for the first time in Nigeria’s political history by voting a joint Muslim/Muslim ticket.
But the joy of that election was cut short when the then Military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida annulled the election and all the processes that led to it.
It would appear for 25 years that the annulment had become part of Nigeria’s best forgotten darkest history and had been consigned to the dustbin of infamy, considering the inability of various governments in Nigeria to answer the calls of various interest groups to revalidate the results of that election. Not even Abiola’s kinsman, President Olusegun Obasanjo, could do “his brother” that honour.
However, just when the nation thought that the ghost of that election had been buried forever, President Muhammadu Buhari, on June 10, resurrected it, but this time not for further ignominy.
On that historic day, President Buhari announced to the appreciation of whole world and lovers of democracy and justice that he was not only recognising the fact that an injustice was actually done, he validated the election and bestowed the highest honour in the land, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) reserved for presidents, on Chief MKO Abiola. He also declared that day as Democracy Day to replace May 29.
This noble gesture from Mr. President has jolted the nationalistic fervour in other ethnic groups, who feel that they have not been fairly treated by the Nigerian state and need to be assuaged.
In the South East, the Igbo question in the wake of Buhari’s recognition of June 12 is now the talk in town. Among other notional malaise, it has become a recurring decimal in the political history of Nigeria.
Analysts in the region strongly believe that just like June 12 election, the declaration of civil war on May 30 1967, was also a watershed in the history of Nigeria.
According to them, the way many Nigerians died in the struggle to actualise June 12, many more died during the civil war and it is the contention of Ndigbo who suffered the brunt of the war that to complete the process of healing festering national wounds, what Ndigbo suffered must also be recognised.
While applauding the president’s gesture in actualising June 12, traditional rulers and stakeholders in the South East geopolitical zone, are nonetheless urging President Buhari to take a step further by recognising the fact that Ndigbo also suffered in the task and quest to keep Nigeria united.
A few days ago, traditional rulers in the South East echoed this sentiment when they not only commended the president for what they described as “a master stroke in healing the wounds of the past,” but urged that the process must be taken a step further.
At their recent meeting in Okigwe, the Imo State the Council of Ndieze in the South East echoed this sentiment. Their spokesperson, Eze Dr. Oliver C. Ohanwe, the Eze Gburugburu 1 of Ihim Kingdom in Imo State and Vice Chairman, Southern Region Association of Christian Traditional Rulers, said that since the president has heeded the clamour for the validation of the June 12 election, which had been largely seen as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria, justice should be done to Ndigbo to complete the process of Gowon’s Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (3Rs) policy, which was meant to heal the wounds of the civil war.
In his words: “Since the June 12 saga and the clamour for the revalidation of that election, no president in Nigeria had had the gut to do the needful, but with the recent declaration of June 12 as a national holiday and the conferment of GCFR on the man that symbolised that era, a new chapter of national rebirth, unity, transformation, national integration and cohesion has been opened.”
While reaffirming the council’s unflinching support for President Buhari’s second term bid in 2019, Eze Ohanwe said, “If you remember, we were the first traditional rulers in Nigeria to endorse President Buhari for re-election in 2019. Like Nostradamus, it appeared that we saw tomorrow that this is the man that will make Nigerians to forget those aspects of our past history that have been haunting us.
“What remains now is for the president to come out with same joker that would assuage Ndigbo and lay the ghost of the civil war to rest forever,” he said.
Eze Ohanwe, who did not hide his admiration for the president’s action, said, “June 12 remains a watershed in the history of Nigeria and is the basis of our current democratic journey. It is therefore appropriate to declare it as the authentic democracy day while May 29 remains the transition date.”
The same sentiment was expressed by another traditional ruler from Anambra State, Igwe Agunwa, who stated that “if the Federal Government today recognises the setbacks we Igbos suffered as a people after the war, you will see that there will be no MASSOB, IPOB or any other form of agitation.”
According to him, “The ghost of 1970 will be buried just as we have now buried the ghost of June 12 by the honour done to MKO Abiola and the other dramatis personae of that election saga.”
The traditional rulers expressed confidence that since the president has embarked on the commendable course of healing, national rebirth and genuine reconciliation by recognising the importance of the June 12 election which completely shredded our ethnic and religious inhibitions and fostered national unity, his victory at the polls in 2019 is assured.
They thanked several groups from every state of the South East that have resolved to join and support the president for reelection since their April declaration and urged all persons of voting age to procure their PVCs so that President Buhari would have a resounding victory in the South East.
They expressed confidence that completion of his second tenure remains the surest pathway to a president of Igbo extraction in 2023.
Encapsulating the view of these traditional ruler, the Coordinator, League of South East Professors, Prof. Protus Uzoma, agreed that Buhari scored a master stroke in the actualisation of June 12. He, however, said the president should, apart from going further to recognising the injustice done to Ndigbo, begin the process of restructuring the country, saying that would be the starting point to true national healing and rebirth.