Ayo Opadokun, former General Secretary of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), says June 12 — rather than May 29 — should be celebrated as Democracy Day.
According to Opadokun, who is also the convener of the Coalition for Democratic Electoral Reforms, Olusegun Obasanjo, former President and number-one beneficiary of late MKO Abiola’s democracy struggles, chose the latter date “perhaps to spite” the acclaimed winner of Nigeria’s freest and fairest election.
Asked by Punch what he thought about call for June 12 to be made Democracy Day, Opadokun said: “Yes, that is my view. I significantly believe in that call.
“The June 12, 1993 presidential election was the first Pan-Nigerian mandate given by Nigerians of all creeds to one single person to rule them for a particular period of time and in that mandate were contained significant points.
“One, Nigeria buried national, devious divide of Christian/Muslim, North/South, majority/minority and the likes. That is one reason that mandate was very significant. That is a date [June 12] to be celebrated.
“Obasanjo decided to choose May 29 [as Democracy Day] perhaps to spite MKO Abiola. Even though he was the greatest beneficiary of Abiola’s martyrdom, for the eight years he was president of Nigeria, he did not make any reference or give any commendation to MKO. That is the kind of man that he is.”
He also had his say on rising agitation for self-determination by some ethnic groups, arguing that there are signs that it’s time for the renegotiation of the concept of Nigeria.
“Nigerians are agitating for resource control; people are talking about restructuring; others are calling for an independent state of Biafra; people are talking about Oodua Republic and so on. When it gets to this kind of situation anywhere in the world, sane people should appreciate that it is time to sit down to renegotiate,” he said.
“I am for restructuring and I am campaigning rigorously for it. I have been a leading advocate for national restructuring. In fact, two critical objectives of NADECO were for the convocation of a national conference so that we can restructure. The second was for the de-annulment of Abiola’s victory. If the current political operators do not see it that way, certain things, certain events, certain forces will compel them to accept the reality. They will be forced to accept the fact that the country cannot take off at all until they restore Nigeria to the federal arrangement upon which we secured the independence of Nigeria.
“Nigeria secured its independence on a federal arrangement. But, having regard to the military organogram where power flows from the top to the bottom, the federal constitution was abrogated. That is the source of our crisis and I am saying, the first thing that we must is to turn to the 1963 constitution. Then, all other things that were agreed upon in the Babangida, Abacha, Obasanjo and Jonathan conferences should be implemented based on the 1963 constitution.
“It is in that conference that they will be able to resolve two critical questions: one, do national ethnic groups want to be part of Nigeria? That question has not been asked. We have not been given the privilege of responding to that question as a people. The colonial master used force of arms to force us into co-existence in what is called Nigeria. And, just five years after they left, the politicians in military uniform took over and since then, they have kept us with the force of arms to co-exist – the co-existence is not voluntary.”