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‘Tinubu will succeed with June 12 ideals as foundation of new Nigeria’

One of the pro-democracy activists, Senator Shehu Sani in this interview with SAXONE AKHAINE, reminisced on the June 12 struggle and relevance of its ideals to the vision of a new Nigeria. He, however, warned that Tinubu cannot reach the target running solo.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was at the fore-front of those who fought for June 12 and democracy in the country. Can we say the ideals of the struggle are being realised by his government?
First of all, it is important for Nigerians to be reminded of what June 12 is all about. June 12 was the liberation struggle for Nigeria. It was the foundation of a struggle that liberated Nigeria from military rule and undemocratic forces. It was a time when the forces of freedom and democracy united for a common resolve to free our country from military rule.
The military had been in power since 1983 when they overthrew the Shagari administration. And all attempts made by them to restore democracy failed. The annulment of the June 12 election, which the late MKO Abiola won, was the trigger.

It is important to segment the various roles played by Nigerians in different phases in the struggle. From the civil rights perspective, there were notable elements like the late Gani Fawehinmi, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, Femi Falana (SAN), Sylvester Odion-Akhaine, present Governor of Kaduna State, Uba Sani, Joe Odumakin and several others.
From the political perspective, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was the leading pillar of those who founded NADECO for the struggle for democracy and played a prominent role. The group was founded for the revalidation of the June 12 annulment. NADECO was the bedrock of all the political forces in the country, and we had people like Dan Suleiman, Ralph Obiora, Chief Segun Osoba, Chief Bisi Akande and several others.
On the Northern front, we had Colonel Abubakar Umar (rtd), late Balarabe Musa, Abdulkarim Dayebu, and youths like Yonnana, Suleiman Nasir, and others. And from the side of the media, Nigerians would never forget those that were at the forefront, like The Guardian, Punch, Tell, The News Magazine, National Concord, and Tribune were all in the struggle for democracy in Nigeria. Many countries and diplomats also supported the struggle.
Today, this is the first time we have a President of this generation that fought for our democracy, in the person of Tinubu. The victory of Asiwaju was a victory for democracy, and it is the first time someone who was a pillar of the struggle for democracy in Nigeria has come to power.
The reforms and restructuring, which he has been implementing, were actually the ideals of June 12 struggle. However naturally, reforms come with consequences and sufferings. But, what really matters is the end results.
When Buhari took over in 2015, we thought that somebody with that nationalistic spirit would have been able to lay the foundation for enduring political and economic reform in Nigeria for eight years, but he failed.
So, Asiwaju seems to have inherited a nation with people that have been disappointed with the party and the political leadership. You can see that it reached a point when the youths were happy with the military, and especially with the events in Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Niger Republic.
I can say that the reforms, which President Tinubu is implementing, are in the spirit of the June 12 struggle. But, the way and manner they are being implemented and carried out; and the consequences as they are being handled, is something that can be ascribed to the leadership of the day. There is no doubt that the content of the policies are drawn from the June 12 struggle.

Has the President shown any capacity to deliver on the ideals of the June 12 struggle?
We should remember that Buhari was the President before Tinubu. And now Tinubu must acknowledge the injustice that was done to the late MKO Abiola, and this is the first time that a President that fought for the revalidation of the June 12 struggle came to power. I can say he has the capacity and vision to promote the ideals of the struggle.
But, the point is that Nigeria is a very complicated and complex country, such that when you want to achieve a goal, you need people that will share the same ideals together, to promote those ideals and goals. If he alone is the one that came from the trenches and there are no fighters around him, then it will be difficult for him to implement the ideals and goals of June 12 struggle.
The question we need to ask him and the Nigerian State is if we had appreciated the June 12 struggle and the heroism of MKO Abiola. Have we recognised those forces that fought for freedom and democracy in Nigeria? How much has the President involved those in the Labour Movement that fought for June 12, those in the Civil Rights movements that fought for the struggle; journalists that stood in the forefront and gave publicity to the struggle has brought them closer?
Has he brought the forces in the academia and mass movements that fought for the struggle closer? Or is he an Island that surrounds himself with people, who never fought for democracy in Nigeria? These are some of the questions begging for answer. Tinubu will succeed as a President if he not just recognise June 12, but makes it as a foundation of a vision for a new Nigeria and makes sure that all the forces and fighters for June 12 struggle are now also in his government to redirect reforms and the future of Nigeria. I don’t think it will be of any good if he surrounds himself with people who never pay any price for the struggle of June 12 and democracy in Nigeria.

Do you think that Nigerians should still trust progressive politicians to make a difference in governance of the country?

You see, the option Nigerians have within the democratic process, if we all have a majority consensus that democracy is the best form of government other than any other form of government, then we have almost half the solution to our problems. The People Democratic Party (PDP) was ejected from power in 2015 when they had the opportunity to reform the country and build Nigeria as a nation with a strong economy, good standard of living and with an enduring legacy where we would not be living on borrowed terms. But, they failed to do it. And the people were tired and the party was voted out in 2015.
If the progressives have been in power since 2015, and failed to deliver, they will also be out of power. PDP was in power for 16 years. Probably 16 years may be the limit for any party to deliver what it wants to deliver, after which Nigerians would say enough is enough. So, if Bola Ahmed Tinubu succeeds as a President, certainly the progressive will continue to be in power. If he doesn’t, then Nigerians would vote the ruling party out and bring in a new government, either a coalition party or a credible party back to power.
Tinubu never emerged as president because the election was rigged, but because the opposition was disunited, and he got a majority of the votes. Tinubu has been the foundation for the APC for a long time now. You could remember that Buhari has been contesting for a long time, but when he merged with ACN, you saw what happened in 2015, they captured power.
So, if the opposition wants to take power they must come together and build consensus. That was also what happened in Senegal recently. The opposition in Nigeria have been having problems because ego kept them away from uniting together, and you can see the result today. So, the future of the opposition in Nigeria will depend on the issue of unity among them.
But, if Tinubu should consolidate on good policies under his government, his success would be measured on a number of factors. First, his ability to tackle the problem of insecurity in Nigeria, and he reverses the poor state of the economy, hunger in the land and unemployment. He should also ensure that the non-oil sector, agriculture and industry thrive. Then the sky will be his limit.

Should Nigerians still believe in June 12 or it is utopia, under the present socio-economic circumstances in the country?
Nigerians should continue to believe in June 12 as the foundation of our democracy and the struggle to emancipate our nation. You have been in Kaduna, and you have seen how some of us were chased, harassed, brutalized, and arrested by the military dictatorship and police in the 90s. I could remember that in your office then, the present governor of Kaduna was arrested during the struggle.
Because of June 12 there were people who went to prison, like me. There were people that were killed like Bagauda Kaltho. People were forced into exile, like Professor Wole Soyinka, and President Tinubu himself, and several others. And there were journalists too, like Bayo Onanuga, Nosa Igiebor, Tunji Ajibade, and others, who fought military dictatorship.
Without such struggle and sacrifices; and without our commitment and determination, there could not have been democracy now. So, it is not about believing in June 12 or not; the fact that the struggle was intended, it became a seed for liberation of our country. And this is what each of every Nigerian is benefitting today. Whoever is a governor, senator, member of House of Reps, Assembly or whoever is occupying a position in government or authorities today is a beneficiary of that struggle. Even the ordinary Nigerian that could not express his opinion is also a beneficiary of that struggle today.

In what ways do you think the ideals and struggle of June 12 can be realised under President Tinubu’s administration?
The ideals of June 12 can be realised fully under this administration by observing the following; firstly, by restructuring the political and economic structures of Nigeria. Presently, the structure of Nigeria’s economy is parasitic and also, a dependency type where people and organisations depend on the government. In which also, political forces exploit the situation and plunder the resources of the nation for their own personal ends. All that must stop.
Secondly, there must be repositioning of the economic opportunities of the country to benefit every Nigerian. Young people must be given the opportunity to display their talents and skills. And in fact, they must be involved in moving the standard of the nation in line with their own generation. And thirdly, this country must be secured. Kidnapping, banditry, and all forms of criminality must be stopped. President Tinubu must secure this country and all Nigerians.

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