By Bola Bolawole
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Justifying his choice of a running mate, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said the spirit of June 12, 1993 is upon us again! Can that be true? Hear the Jabagan Borgu as he defended his choice of a Muslim like himself, Kashim Shettima, as running mate: “In 1993, Nigerians embraced Chief MKO Abiola and a fellow Muslim running mate, Babagana Kingibe, in one of the fairest elections ever held. The spirit of 1993 is upon us again in 2023” 1993! 2023! Do they sound the same? Or are they two of a kind? Is Tinubu another MKO? While we have said earlier that the personality of MKO and Tinubu resembles in many respects, can we say the same of 1993 and 2023?
Will the feat of 1993 be repeated in 2023 – free and fair election won by a Muslim-Muslim ticket (MKO/Kingibe) defeating a Muslim/Christian ticket (Bashir Tofa/Sylvester Ugoh)? A southern Muslim (MKO), usually despised by their pretentious and puritanical Northern neighbours, defeated a Northern conservative Muslim (Tofa). Will the Tinubu/Shettima Muslim-Muslim ticket in like manner defeat the Atiku Abubakar/Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa Muslim-Christian ticket in 2023? Will history repeat itself? If so, will it be half-way or all the way? MKO won convincingly with his Muslim-Muslim ticket in most parts of the country except the Igbo-dominated areas where Tofa’s running mate came from
The flip side of June 12, 1993, however, is that the election, free and fair as it was, was nevertheless annulled by the military junta of the self-styled evil genius, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, for inexplicable reason(s). When Tinubu said the spirit of 1993 is upon us again in 2023, did he also have that in mind? Like Babangida, the sitting president, retired Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, though today a civilian president, was also a vile military dictator. If a southern, Yoruba Muslim wins the 2023 presidential election, will a sitting Northern Muslim respect the wishes of the electorate and hand over power to him or will pressures from wherever, which IBB said forced his hands to annul MKO’s election in 1993, rear their ugly head again in 2023? Will that spirit of 1993 be upon us in 2023?
The cataclysm that followed the June 12 annulment should suggest that no one in his right senses would want to toe that perilous path again. But do men learn from history or are they forever doomed to repeat its mistakes, as posited by George Santayana, the Spanish-born American philosopher and author of the late 19th and early 20th century? Santayana insists that people who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are going to make the same mistakes again. Basically, he argues, if our world is ever going to make progress, it needs to remember what it has learned from the past. Aldous Huxley says: “That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach” Winston Churchill posits that “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” German philosopher, Hegel, says “The only thing that we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history” These are scary views on man and history!
In “Why History matters”, Penelope J. Corfield explains that “understanding our past history is invaluable (as it) may prevent us from making repeated mistakes and help us build on our future” Unfortunately, the study of history has been expunged from the curriculum in many of our schools. Reversing this ugly and very unfortunate policy, the Oyo state government recently announced the reinstatement of History in all public primary schools in the state. This is a welcome development because those who do not know their history cannot know who they were, who they are, and who they want to become!
Studying history helps us to understand and grapple with complex questions and dilemmas by examining how the past has shaped and continues to shape the present on global, national and local relationships between peoples, places and societies. History is also important because it helps us to understand how events in the past have made things the way they are today. For instance, assuming MKO Abiola was allowed to rule, would Nigeria have been what it is and where it is today? The annulment changed and shaped the history of Nigeria. It inflicted Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar and others down the line to Buhari on Nigeria. But for the annulment, our history or trajectory would have been different – for better or for worse!
With lessons from the past, we not only learn about ourselves and how we came to be but also develop the ability to avoid mistakes and create better paths for our society. What are the past mistakes that we must seek to avoid in our present situation? In 1993, Muslim-Muslim ticket was not a mistake. It was not even an issue. But annulling a free and fair election won by that ticket was a monumental error that shook this country to its very roots. We must by all means avoid that mistake in 2023. Is Muslim-Muslim ticket an issue now? Yes, it is because of the reckless and irresponsible pandering to ethnic and primordial interests hiding under the guise and donning the toga of religion by the Buhari administration. But truth be told, these people are not at all pious; they serve not God but only exploit religion to serve base ethnic and selfish personal interests. We need to see through that deceit to also understand the present and raging hogwash being spewed out by those railing against Muslim-Muslim ticket. Many of them are deceitful. Many lack understanding.
Now, tell me, how well has Christian/Muslim ticket served Christians in this country, not to talk of Muslim/Christian ticket? Obasanjo/Atiku was Christian/Muslim: How well did it serve even Obasanjo’s own political zone of the South-west? Did he repair the Lagos/Ibadan expressway? Did Obasanjo even repair the road to his home town and state – Abeokuta/Ogun state? As we speak, the Ogun state governor and the Minister of Works, both of them from the zone, are exchanging fireworks over the terrible state of the road. Was it not Obasanjo’s Christian/Muslim ticket that seized Lagos federal allocations when he should have seen reason with the then governor of the state, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to redress the unjust awarding of more local governments to states in the North to the chagrin of those in the South? We can go on and on! It took a Muslim as president to recognise the sacrifice of MKO and make June 12 Democracy Day; something that was anathema to Obasanjo, who is a fellow Egba man like MKO.
Goodluck Jonathan/Namadi Sambo was also a Christian/Muslim ticket: Tell me, how did it profit the South or the South-south? Jonathan did not complete the East/West road. He did not build the second Niger Bridge. He did not clean the oil pollution ravaging his Niger Delta region. Instead, he sleep-walked through his tenure in Aso Villa! The noise over Muslim-Muslim ticket is by the ignorant and those deliberately cashing in on it as a campaign material against Tinubu. It is a convenient excuse having no substance. Had Tinubu chosen a Christian as running mate, they would still have found enough justification to take a stand against him. But the needless hysteria over Muslim-Muslim ticket has the potential of providing enough justification for the annulment, by any means, of the 2023 presidential elections if Tinubu wins it in the same way he won the APC flag when many had given up on him. And that will be failing to learn from history!
If the Christians now weeping over Muslim-Muslim ticket are to be sincere, they should have worked assiduously and tirelessly to produce Christians as the flag bearers of both the APC and PDP; but they kept mute when Atiku entered the fray as PDP presidential aspirant. That was when they should have trooped to the streets in protest but they did not. They should have led a powerful delegation to the PDP secretariat. They should have met with Atiku and pressured him to perish his ambition. When the Muslim North came together and elbowed Gov. Nyesom Wike out of the way for Atiku to emerge as the PDP flag bearer, there was no whimper heard from Christians and their leaders!
When Tinubu was screaming “Emi l’okan” (It is my turn) at Abeokuta, where were these Christians? Did they meet Tinubu to impress it on him that another Muslim cannot take over after Buhari’s eight years in office? When they should have waged the real battle over substance, they waited until it was too late and began now to chase shadows. There were Christians in the race for the APC and PDP flag, what did Christians do to help one of them emerge as winner? For your information, many of the APC and PDP delegates who collected dollars and voted Muslims (Atiku and Tinubu) were Christians! Don’t be surprised if they are also among those railing at Muslim-Muslim ticket today! (NOW CONCLUDED)
*Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of the Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-Chief, BOLAWOLE was also Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Westerner newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and the TREASURES column in the New Telegraph newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.