By Oladipupo Jimoh, International Liaison Personnel of the Revolutionary Socialist Vanguard (RSV), Nigerian Section of the RCIT, 11th June, 2022, https://revolutionarysocialistvanguard.wordpress.com
June 12 is dubbed Democracy Day in Nigeria. The meaning of democracy and its nexus with the events that led to the designation of June 12 as Democracy Day goes deeper than just the “smooth” functioning of a parliamentary system of government. It cuts deeper than just the annulment of the results of some free and fair elections. That is why things have gone full circle since June 12 1993 and that history is about to repeat itself.
The masses know it and they seem to approach the situation outside the confines of mainstream depictions of democracy. To wit, this year’s Democracy Day will be greeted with mass demonstrations by Yoruba self-determination groups, home and abroad, calling for secession from Nigeria and for the actualisation of Oodua Nation for the Yoruba people. Drawing motivation from the D-Day for protests in the South-West, other national liberation movements from the South-East majorly the IPOB supporters in Diaspora have also slated demonstrations for June 13&14. Why broad sections of the southern masses have doubled down on utilising the symbolic occasion of Democracy Day as a rally point in the quest for national liberation lies in the events surrounding June 12 1993.
The Legacy of June 12
June 12 1993 is reportedly the day the most free and fair elections in the history of Nigeria took place. Following promises of General Ibrahim Babangida, the then military Head of State of a transition to civilian rule or “democracy”, the elections took place. Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the most popular candidate in the race beat Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in a landside. The Head of State, however, despite the resounding victory annulled the elections on June 24; resigned due to mass pressure and installed a puppet Interim National Government in August of that same year.
M.K.O. Abiola, a Yoruba man and the winner of the 1993 elections was no doubt in bed with the utterly corrupt and moribund ruling class which pilfered Nigeria’s resources and subjected it to neo-liberal austerity packages such as the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) from the World Bank and IMF. The great Afrobeat musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, whose lyrical radicalism and government criticism was unequalled, once called M.K.O Abiola “International Thief Thief” (“ITT”). Abiola had a hand in and funded almost every coup since the ouster that drove Yakubu Gowon out of office, so the military junta were his buddies. In short, he was one of the legs in the tripod of Nigerian (and African) arch-reaction.
Yet the people saw in him a way out of the cul-de-sac of the military-austerity complex. A vote for Abiola meant freedom from the iron-grip of Hausa-Fulani statehood. Freedom from Hausa-Fulani statehood in turn symbolised better standards of living; more civic rights and an end to systemic corruption. However, the Fulani hegemony could not concede power on the basis of Abiola’s political influence home and abroad and his financial strength as the leading bourgeois figure from the South-West. Thus the annulment. The people had received a powerful confirmation that their economic and social advancement was more intricately interwoven into the fabric of their national self-determination and autonomy. Democracy now meant more than just civil rights and a parliamentary system of government, it now involved the right to political self-determination of the southern ethnic nationalities.
Some opinions still downplay the strength of the national question in the events of 1993 and its influence in the mass movement borne as an aftermath of the annulment. To this people we think it is clear enough to point to the appointment of Ernest Shonekan another southerner of Yoruba extraction by the IBB junta as the head of the Interim National Government to quell the unrest that continued through 1995. Even after the death of General Sanni Abacha in 1998 wherein Gen. Abdulsalami took over and began a fresh transition to civilian rule after the demise of MKO Abiola, it was still Olusegun Obasanjo whom the Fulani hegemon transfered power to.
Others discredit the existence of a powerful Fulani hegemony by pointing to the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State in 1975 and president in 1999. They forget that his emergence in 1975 was only due to the coup that claimed Gen Murtala’s life. Obasanjo maybe Yoruba by birth and ancestry but is no south westerner by interest and influence. That is why the overwhelming majority in the south supported Olu Falae as president in 1999 but the owners of Nigeria up north favoured Obasanjo. The struggle following the annulment of the June 12 elections is the miniature equivalent of the Biafran civil war for the Yoruba people of the South West. The legacy of June 12 is that national oppression is an impediment to mature democracy.
The Struggle For Democracy Continues …
Again things have come full circle and the history of 1993 is about to recur, this time with more chaotic consequences. The settler colonialist Fulani empire finds itself shod on every side and with greater hostility by the ruling class of the two most populous ethnic nationalities south of Nigeria. Its position as the gendarme of imperialism in Nigeria is ever more threatened.
On the one hand is Bola Tinubu, flag bearer of APC, who like Abiola is the most powerful politician and leader of the ruling class in the South-West. On the other, is Peter Obi from the East a weaker player in Nigerian bourgeois politics (as he is from the South-East) but with tremendous popularity amidst broad sections of the middle class and labour aristocracy who is the presidential candidate of the Labour Party. Both men are half-avatars of MKO, where the one is imbued with his financial and political strength, the other has his popularity.
An interesting fact, however, about Peter Obi is that his popularity is the product of a revolutionary consciousness that admits, even though with serious limitations, the marginalisation of nationalities of the south and mixes it with economic and social demands. Thus he rides on the wave of radical mood from the EndSARS protests which is deeply rooted in one of the worst crises in the history of capitalism. This is reflected in the explosive support he enjoys amongst the youth. In short, he is the admixture of bourgeois nationalism and petty bourgeois economic and social demands.
Hence the rise of Peter Obi as the most popular candidate is such a decisive factor in the future instability of things on scales grander than the aftermath of the annulment of the July 12 1993 elections, since unlike MKO Abiola he hails from the Igbo nation which has suffered more marginalisation than even the Yoruba since the end of the Civil War in 1970. Even if Peter Obi refuses to contest the results of the election in case he is rigged out, it does not diminish the revolutionary consequence of the period for two reasons. First, such a loss would again reinforce the impossibility of a popular southern president and will finally shatter whatever hope is left of an Igbo president in the South-East. Secondly, it will prove to broad sections of the masses that he is part and parcel of the ruling class and would not have offered any better alternative had he emerged, thus expanding the distrust to other less influential bourgeois politicians like him.
In any case, the current indications show that the Fulani settler colonialist forces are accelerating their military campaign to subjugate the south and their official body, the Nigerian government, would not mind handing them the reins of power as they feel their grip on the south steadily slipping. After the attacks in Ondo where the number of casualties has now reached 80. ISWAP terrorists have killed 32 villagers in a rather audacious gun-ship (helicopter) attack.
For us, democracy is incomplete without the right of self-determination including secession for oppressed nations. We see this as the most crucial lesson of June 12 1993. Even so, we are not party to appeals to imperialist organisations like the UN, EU or imperialist governments of the UK and US because we are convinced that the major threat to our national liberation is not only imperialist proxies at home but all imperialist governments in the East and West. We maintain that the only objectively revolutionary groups are the national movements who call for the boycott of elections starting next week, since this is only an expression of the will address weightier issues that bourgeois elections can only scratch on the surface.
We join the Yoruba people in demanding self-determination cum secession and denounce any influence of APC and PDP members in the movements for national liberation in the south. To allow the southern governments into the leadership of the movements for self-determination means to preserve the fetters of Russian, Chinese, European and American imperialism on the new sovereign states and as such reviving afresh new forms of oppression and marginalisation.
No Democracy Without Self-Determination for Marginalised Peoples!
No Self-Determination Without a Government of Workers and the Poor!
No Workers’ and Poor People’s Government Without A Revolutionary International Workers’ Party!
This Is What We Fight For in the RCIT, Join Us!