Growing up, I learnt from the penny Catechism of the Catholic Church that “Hope is a supernatural gift of God, by which we firmly trust that God will give us eternal life and all means necessary to obtain it, if we do what He requires of us” (“What is Hope?” Penny Catechism, Qs 136).
So, putting the penny catechism meaning of hope side by side MKO’s presidential HOPE slogan, I saw MKO’s dashed hope as THE gift (though not supernatural, but natural) by which Nigerians believed that they will be led to the promised land, by doing what was required of them (exercise of their franchise) through the best adjudged presidential election ever conducted in Nigeria’s democratic history.
But Erohubie an older brother and a friend of mine, drew my attention to some mind boggling issues concerning my celebrated hero, whom I knew only little about at the time. Consequently, I was moved to further my research on the late business mogul, philanthropist, and presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of June 12th, 1993, election.
In my research, I discovered that the late Chief MKO Abiola was at some point accused of aiding and abetting coup and counter coup for his self-interests.
Nonetheless, it is important to know that prior to his political ambition, the hostility between the two main religions in Nigeria, Islam and Christianity at the time was in its boiling point, following Nigeria’s full membership of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), in 1986, barely a year after the then military head of state, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, overthrew General Muhamadu Buhari.
We recall that Christians repeatedly accused the government of the day, of nursing an Islamisation agenda.
Those accusations at the time later metamorphosed into interreligious/tribal clashes in Kafanchan, Kano, Zaria, Illorin, and other parts of the North, which led to the loss of many lives.
But in the midst of the growing animosity and hostility between Christians and Muslims, which was equally visible in Babangida’s political appointments, where all the service chiefs of the time were Muslims (which sadly is evident and even worse in today’s supposed democratic system), it would have been expected that to calm the already created hostilities, each political party would choose candidates from across ethnic/religious lines. But that was not the case with SDP, which produced two Muslim candidates, with MKO the presidential candidate from the Southwest, and Babagana Kingibe from the Northeast as vice presidential candidate.
Who would have believed that with the growing animosity and hostility, such political combination would eventually emerge victorious, and the election seen as the best ever conducted in Nigeria’s history?
But this was obviously the fact. Nigerians put aside their tribal and religious sentiments and voted based on their consciences. They voted based on campaign promises that hinged on ideologies, which they saw as hope for a better Nigeria, irrespective of tribe or religious background.
MKO defeated his opponent, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Party (NRC), in the latter’s own state of Kano, winning 9 states out of the 16 states in the North. And even gained 49.45% of votes in the East that had Dr Sylvester Ugoh as the vice presidential candidate of NRC (cf. “CHIEF MKO ABIOLA’s HOPE 93 A SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC TEMPLATE FOR THE NIGERIAN POLITY!” by Youthful President for Nigeria, June 12th, 2019).
Sadly, after June 12, Nigeria has been more divided than ever. If June 12 taught me anything, it is that the problem with Nigeria is not so much about WHERE the President comes but WHO becomes President.
Thus, in my opinion, the real problem of Nigeria is the political elites, a miniature of the country’s population that continue to cash-in-on our rich socio-cultural and religious diversity to divide us, rather than unite us, all for their selfish reasons.
For 21 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria (since 1999), how has Nigerian leaders shown Nigerians that there is beauty in diversity? Is it by seeing Hausa politicians wearing Igbo attires for political campaigns or Igbo politicians wearing Yoruba attires for political campaigns?
Is it not obvious that those fashion parades are nothing but mere deception and hypocrisy, aimed at cheap popularity? If my opinion is false, why have those fashion parades during campaigns not translated into good governance?
Under the current administration, I make bold to say that Nigeria is more divided today than ever. The reason is not farfetched; it is clearly seen in the lopsided appointments by this administration.
Many public office holders have retired without promotions, because those who occupied the positions that they would have reached, refused to retire in order for them to move up the ladder. The case of service chiefs dominated by those from the North, who have overstayed their appointments with little or no success in the fight against Boko Haram, banditry, kidnapping, etc., is only an instance.
While I was on mission in Abuja Archdiocese, I was opportuned to visit many of the public offices/ministries. I found to my disappointment, that in all the offices/ministries that I visited on several occasions, nearly everyone who occupied key positions was from the North (including gatemen, and cleaners).
Is this the Nigeria of our dream? Is today’s Nigeria the HOPE presidential campaign slogan of MKO’s June 12, 1993?
The Nigeria of our dream and MKO’s HOPE campaign slogan of June 12, 1993 can only be actualized, when our political elites stop thinking of “I think, therefore I am,” and begin to think, “I am because we are.”
Our political elites must begin to think, feel and act in ways that show that Nigeria is one united entity that consists of three major tribes, with over 300 ethnics groups. Anything short of this will continue to divide, and take us far away from the Nigeria of our dream.
May the labours of our heroes and heroines past never be in vain. Amen.
© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP, (June 12, 2020, on the first Anniversary of June 12 as Democracy Day)
Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.