This year’s recall of an uplifting day in the year 1993 comes up against a background of its most shameful disavowal: the 2019 elections – still under judicial contestation – an event that would be more accurately described as an exercise in body count rather than ballot count.
The elections however merely reflected a pattern of savagery and abandonment of human sensibilities that have eaten away the sheerest sense of community in the nation. I have already described it as the final descent into the abyss of human degradation.
The recent call – no matter how suspect the motivation — for what amounts to a national discourse on future directions was nothing new. The NIGERIA MOURNS movement, for instance, is only another expression of the same desperation. Input from someone who has exercised control over the nation’s affairs for a total of close to a dozen years, with shared responsibility for the very predicament in which the nation finds itself, reinforces the general anxieties that have become palpable in every corner of the nation — across class, political partisanship, religion and ethnicity. I wish to take the notion of a national ‘indaba’ even further and urge a non-partisan, broad-based government. The now undeniable social crisis is beyond the capacity of any government built on accustomed partisan loyalties and regimented thought processes, with their debilitating baggage of sectarian interests. I am aware that such a call is unlikely to be heeded, but let it be made anyway, and let it stand to trouble those who discard any opportunity to turn a radical page in a nation’s history. As if the crisis were not sufficient in itself, we are constantly distracted by crude attempts to distort the role of the past in a nation’s unravelling.
So, let us first address Democracy Day itself, since we know that those same nihilist voices, even before the Annunciation, were already primed to degrade it, ridicule what should be a potent signpost for future generations. Such voices even make desperate efforts to annul its very history, no different from the original act of annulling an event that was universally acknowledged as the fairest, the most orderly and peaceful elections ever conducted in Nigerian history, a chastening contrast to this recent of 2019. June 1993 recorded – just some quick reminders – an election in which the loser readily conceded defeat, having watched himself outclassed in his own state, his local government, his ward, and probably at his very polling booth.
He was however prevailed upon to change his mind, thus smoothening the path for official military annulment, with dire consequences that continue to plague the nation even till today. Several of the players – directly, and supportive — in that inglorious history remain stubbornly in denial but let no one attempt to shunt aside or obscure its potential for public re-orientation.
It is now a near quarter of a century since that watershed, and a Restoration, albeit symbolic, has been promulgated – Welcome Democracy Day! Is there any value left to it? And is its formal, official recognition doomed to be nothing more than an exercise in superfluity