President Buhari has taken a giant step towards national reconciliation. A giant step does not mean the whole stretch of the journey has been covered. Whether this is borne out of a contrite spirit time will tell. It is one thing to experience some contrition, it is another to summon the courage to give physical expression to the inner stirring and elect what is good and ennobling. On this score Buhari took the right step towards healing of national wounds. In his words, "Our action today is to bury the negative side of June 12, the side of ill-feelings, hate, frustrations and agony. What we are doing is celebrating the positive side of June 12. The June 12 which restates democracy and freedom. The June 12 that produced unity and national cohesion. This is the June 12 we are celebrating today and we will nurture it to our next generation."
If the volition for reconciliation is genuine, and I have no reason to doubt the sincerity, that is when the nation can expect to draw blessings from the step taken. Going by the mien, body language of the President, and content of his speech at the conferment of posthumous honours on Tuesday, I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the President's surprise package. Said he: "On behalf of the Federal Government, I tender the nation's apology to the family of MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes and to those who lost their loved ones in the course of June 12 struggle." This may well be the beginning of a new era from a President that is known to be unbending and taciturn. A new channel of communication may have opened for he said reassuringly: "The country will no longer tolerate such perversion of justice." He went on: "The decision ... is not an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong. Nigerians of their own free will voted for the late Chief MKO Abiola and Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe, the presidential flag bearer and running mate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the 1993 elections.
"The government of the day inexplicably cancelled the election when it was clear who were going to be the winners. We cannot rewind the past but we can at least assuage our feelings; recognize that a wrong has been committed and resolve to stand firm now and in the future for the sanctity of free elections.
"This retrospective and posthumous recognition is only a symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done to the peace and unity of our country. Our decision to recognize and honour June 12 and its actors is in the national interest. It is aimed at setting national healing process and reconciliation of the 25-year festering wound caused by the annulment of the June 12th election. I earnestly invite all Nigerians across our entire national divide to accept it in good faith."
This is a good moving speech that touches our humanity, indeed, raising hope. Is it not said, "Blessed are the peacemakers"? There are, of course, serious and legitimate misgivings. Was the objective highly altruistic? Chief Olu Falae, for example, looked at the guest list and observed that many of the names on the list were All Progressive Congress members. He said to Vanguard: "If you look at those they have been honouring as the heroes the real heroes are not there." I will return to this presently.
It is the volition that undergirds the decision to bury the ghost of June 12 that is being addressed first. The recognition of wrong is ennobling. How one goes about redressing the wrong and the timing is another matter. It could not have been put any better than the way Professor Wole Soyinka put it: "No matter, today, the plunge is being taken. Belated, yes. With an eye on electoral fortunes, undoubtedly. And somewhat diminished by a number of unsatisfactory details, some trivial, some significant, some debatable, others simply understandable--what matters is that a long evaded step towards the summit of closure has been taken."
That Soyinka was at the occasion did lend a lot of credibility to the event and raised its tone. He is at the forefront of the very few left that we can call the conscience of the nation-- consistent, incorruptible and fearless. He has been speaking to power all his life, many a time with utmost severity. He is never daunted by the heavy price he has paid for his outspokenness and activism. He was a frontline principal June 12 warrior himself, bringing his stature as a citizen of the universe to bear on the pursuit of truth and justice.
The unsatisfactory details he refers to could be inferred from the pertinent question Chief Falae raised. Where are the genuine heroes of the struggle? How can we talk about the heroes of the June 12 struggle without mentioning Alfred Rewane, Anthony Enahoro, Michael Ajasin, Abraham Adesanya, Bola Ige, Kudirat Abiola, Tai Solarin, Shehu Yar'Adua, Solanke Onasanya, Alex Ibru, Lam Adesina to name just few among the dead. Chief Rewane was murdered, Kudirat Abiola was assassinated on the street, and Senator Adesanya was shot in his car. He escaped by the whiskers. Alex Ibru was shot in the head and taken for dead. Onagoruwa's son was shot dead, an experience from which he never recovered until he passed away last year. Can we leave out Sir Olaniwun Ajayi? Certainly not. We already know about Kaltho and Chris Ubani.
Among the living: General Alani Akinrinade whose house was burnt; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, the irrepressible fighter who was kept in jail with his leader, Adesanya; Dr. Amos Akingba whose house was used as the newsroom for underground press war to fight the annulment of the June 12 election and whose mother-in-law was arrested in his absence; Beko Ransome Kuti; Dan Suleiman; Professor Bolaji Akinyemi; John Oyegun; Olabiyi Durojaiye and Jide Osuntokun kept in a dungeon where they could not see sun light; Chief Olu Falae was incarcerated for 20 months; the Awujale of Ijebu Ode, Oba Sikiru Adetona; Ndubuisi Kanu now leader of NADECO; Ayo Opadokun, NADECO/Afenifere secretary; Dangiwa Umar who lost his commission; Balarabe Musa the weighty Northern voice, Eno Bassey; Yinka Odumakin and his wife Joe; Olisa Agbakoba; Dapo Olorunyomi; Kayode Fayemi; Bayo Onanuga and his team of Femi Ojudu and co. Ayo Obe and the CLO vanguard, Ambassador Carrington and many members of activist groups, young and old .
How can anyone talk about the June 12 struggle without bringing out newspapers for special mention? The Guardian was shut for one year and The Punch was for a little longer. Chairman Ajibola Ogunshola and MD Demola Osinubi stood firm. So did Prof. Olatunji Dare and Sully Abu of The Guardian.
What I am driving at is that such a worthy occasion for national wound healing ought to have been better planned. June 12 is a recurring month in the year; it just didn't descend on the nation. If I can read the mind of the government correctly, I suspect others might be honoured in October or November, the usual season for the award of National Honours. This is more so that the Secretary to the Government, Boss Mustapha, has given hints that many more would be given their due. Of course those who fought did so not in search of national acknowledgement, but out of convictions. Yet, if such heroes are to be recognized and honoured on an occasion such as last Tuesday's, their names should have been read out since admittedly not all who could be considered deserving could have been accommodated on Tuesday for their medals. The government would then have said it would communicate with them later. The appropriateness of an occasion is as important as the materialization of a noble volition. It is not the same thing when the novelty and aplomb have been taken out of the occasion.
Soothing and salutary as the apology by President Buhari to the nation and victims was, there was a major missing link. President Buhari was not part in the decision to annul the June 12 election. He is evidently touched by the injustice the land and most especially the heroes and heroines of the acts suffered. There are no invisible threads called ethereal threads connecting him to the act. As far as the apology is concerned he is a third party. Thus the guilt owed the departed who are in the Beyond may not have been discharged if there is no nexus. Many went to the beyond unexpectedly. It is most likely that there would be among them those carrying bitterness in their souls up till today and could be looking for an opportunity to avenge their bitter experiences in consequence of the annulment. A person is not necessarily different from the quality of his inner being simply because he has discarded his earthly body. The victims are the ones to whom threads are directly connected waiting for when they too would cross over. Those who bear knowledge of where they are and are spiritually mature amongst them would prefer to move on. It is not propitious that an apology is tendered by a third party. One would have wished that any of those responsible for the annulment were around to tender personal apologies, particularly the head of that government who has publicly accepted responsibility, to pluck the courage to be at the Tuesday event to publicly tender apology both to the nation and as well as to the dead and the living who still bear the scars of the annulment. His apology would have gone a long way to sever the ties with all who may have felt aggrieved.
The Laws of Creation that may also be called the Laws of Nature, particularly in this instance the Law of Reciprocal Action, hold each person responsible for his acts. They do not permit of third parties. A father is solely responsible for his acts. So is the son. In the higher knowledge available for all mankind today, we learn that the entire Creation is one, and there is no separation between this world and the Beyond. It is the consistency that differs, the earth being heavier and ponderous and the Beyond lighter, and gets lighter still towards the Spiritual Realm more generally called Paradise. What is done on earth rebounds and takes on its ethereal form. The more sordid the act is, the heavier it sinks in the Beyond and depending on the density, gets perpetrator drawn to the utterly Dark Region when he takes his exit from this earth. All that is good, however, uplifts and draws upwards. It is not for nothing that we are told to lay our treasure in Heaven where rot cannot reach. Many are trapped in the beyond, detained by their own weavings. A great many are earth bound held by propensities seeking avenues of gratification. A glutton rummages the kitchen, an evil man stirs up violence or fight at ceremonies once they can link up with agreeable radiations of anyone still in the flesh. They are still around but not in the flesh. They are the disincarnate souls. Forgiveness of sins lies, according to higher laws, in personally apologizing to the aggrieved or victim.
Tundun Abiola, a daughter of Moshood Abiola did say that Babangida has apologized to the family, reporting IBB as saying so, but that he stopped short of apologizing in public, afraid for his life!
The air was filled with the spirit of forgiveness. It was a moving occasion. Hafsat Abiola asked that the family, too, be forgiven for whatever harm the family itself might have done to President Buhari. It must be a day to remember, after all said and done. "It was symbolic token of redress and recompense for the grievous injury done." We are free when we forgive ourselves. It was a somber occasion and we should see it beyond opportunism for 2019 elections which may have been embedded by the strategists of the government, but an opportunity to awaken humanity in each of us to live in harmony for a decent and an ennobled society.
How much effect the gesture will have on 2019 is a different matter. As in all normal elections, review of performance will largely be the deciding factor.