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INTERVIEW: June 12 activists were selfish, says Keyamo

LEGISREPORTS NG – Rights activist and lawyer, Festus Keyamo, believes that agitators for the actualization of the 12 June 1993 election won by late business mogul, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale, MKO, Abiola were not steadfast enough after the military were eased out of power in 1999.

 

That is why, according, to him the current democratic experience in the country is not too salutary.

 

“The June 12 was not managed at all in the post 1999 period.

 

“The people who were at the epicenter of June 12 struggle failed to seize power and abdicated their roll for funny characters who came from absolutely nowhere.

 

“That is why you can see all forms of undemocratic forces in power today, Keyamo said.

 

The lawyer said this as part of a major reflection ahead the anniversary of the annulled election popularly referred to as June 12.

 

How do you think this lost opportunity has affected us today?

 

That is what we are seeing today. You see the undemocratic forces in government. People who feel that they must win at all cost. If they are not here no other person can be. I have seen the situation where people who fought for democracy don’t have the wherewithal to contest election. But this is not the case in South Africa. If you have not been part of the movement there is no way you can come near ANC. You must have rich history of the struggle. That is the mentality in South Africa, those who fought for it must take control. If there is one bomb explosion now, 32 of the 36 governors would be at the border looking for how to escape. May be a few of the CAN governor who were part of the struggle will remain. If there is any military coup now, 32 of them will most definitely escape from this country. Our people now think that activist cannot come near government. Only corrupt politicians can do it.

 

Do you think that agitations arising from the Anulment of June 12 election was well managed by activists and civil society?

 

Well, the management of June 12 should be seen from the post democratic era and the pre democratic era. Now when you talk about the management of June 12, you are asking in essence, whether the struggle itself was properly channeled, harnessed, whether the goals were achieved at that time. That is one angle to that question. The other angle to that question is that having attained democracy in 1999, did we manage to carry over the gains of the struggle? Now as to the pre-democratic era, that is the management of the struggle itself before 1999, I would say that it was a mixed bag. It was so because there was some point in the struggle that we did not get it right. There was some part in the struggle that we got right.

 

Let us have specifics on this?

 

For example, I believe that MKO Abiola was the first person that missed a great opportunity during the struggle to actualize June 12. When Abiola fled the country after having sworn and promised to seize power on August 27 1993. If you recall that in his famous speech, he said that he has been given a free mandate, he was not prepared to relinquish the mandate and that on August 23 1993, he intended to fully assume the reins of power. He made that promise in 1993, July.  If you remember too at that period, the country waited with bated breath as to what would happen on August 27. In fact, Easterners began to flee home, if you remember. Everybody was expectant as to what would happen. All of a sudden, before the deadline, MKO left the country. Enthusiasm amongst activist was deflated as result of this action. For eight to nine months Abiola was away. That of course slowed things a lot. It allowed [Ernest] Shonekan to takeover and Allowed [Gen. Sani] Abacha to consolidate also before MKO came back in 1994. If Abiola had stayed back to take the oath office and administer it on himself, I am definitely sure that MKO would have taken over power. But what ever pieces were left was picked up 1994. That was where we started to get it right.

 

How?

 

First of all, the role NUPENG and PENGASSAN played were critical to the struggle. The human right group too also got it right. At the time, it was a coalition of civil society group asking for the mandate. Yes there was persecution but the tempo was sustained until Abacha left. Another bit of a dent to the struggle at hat time was the attempt by section of the media or those in the struggle to ‘Yorubanize’ the agitation. It isolated some part of the country at that time. Abiola won a pan Nigerian mandate, it was not a Yoruba victory. How after 1999, it was a complete disaster. The June 12 was not managed at all in the post 1999 period. The people who were at the epicenter of June 12 struggle failed to seize power and abdicated their roll for funny characters who came from absolutely nowhere. That is why you can see all forms of undemocratic forces in power today.

 

But suppose this people were muscled out.

 

Yes but take the example of the African National Congress, ANC, in South Africa, at that time. After many years of struggle, after apartheid was abolished, the ANC that led the struggle during the dar period tested their popularity at the polls. Remember that the whites at the time were saying that ANC was a sectional party and that not all blacks belonged to it. Of course there were a few blacks then supporting the whites. The whites at the time said ANC was not popular. So ANC put it to test and with what result? It was resounding victory. The victory came because ANC was the platform under which activists fought apartheid. They had just that one platform. Compared to our case in Nigeria, we had splinter groups. Everybody wanted to project his ego and himself. I was a part of the struggle so I am confident in telling you this. Our greatest problem has been the factions in the ranks of the progressives. Where you had JACON, NADECO, the G34, all kind of groups, there was no unity of purpose. The thing is that they progressives were not prepared for power. You had NCP you had Soyinka’s NELICON and so many others. This was because our leaders in the progressives had their individual agenda.  I state this because I know it as fact. I started the NCP with Gani Fawehinmi, I built it. I can show you documents where I signed the first publications of NCP in 1994. If Soyinka at that time, Beko Ransom Kuti, Gani Fawehinmi, all these major leaders, just imagine if they had formed one political party at the time and had teamed up with the Tinubus at the time, they would have swept the entire country. But they let go. That is why we are suffering.

 

But there are sayings that there were matters that were not properly resolved

Yes, issues like sovereign national conference, SNC. Gani was propagating that. But Gani refused to see at the time that it was necessary to seize power first and then resolve the issues later. At the end of the day, Gani capitulated. In 2003, he contested for power under NCP. In 1999, he urged all group to reject the transition program, remember.

 

Do you think that that missed opportunity has remained a bogey hunting us today?

 

Well that is what are seeing today. You see the undemocratic forces in government. People who feel that they must win at all cost. If they are not here no other person can be. I have seen the situation where people who fought for democracy don’t have the wherewithal to contest election. Our people now think that activist cannot come near government. Only corrupt politicians can do it. But this is not the case in South Africa. If you have not been part of the movement there is no way you can come near ANC. You must have rich history of the struggle. That is the mentality in South Africa, those who fought for it must take control. If there is one bomb explosion now, 32 of the 36 governors would be at the border looking for how to escape. May be a few of the CAN governor who were part of the struggle will remain. If there is any military coup now, 32 of them will most definitely escape from this country.

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