By Issa Itopa Lucky
Today being June 12 is earmarked as the day Nigeria and Nigerians all over the world celebrate the hard-fought democracy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
June 12 is a significant day in the annals of the history of Nigeria, hence it is named in its significance as Democracy Day, in Nigeria.
It all dates back to the June 12, 1993 Presidential election that was won by former President M.K.O. Abiola but was annulled hence leading to series of horrible events that would eventually lead to the truncation of the third republic.
The events that will follow after the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election were events that would later shape the destiny of the nation Nigeria in its struggle for democracy and nationhood in its essence as the will of the people of Nigeria was greatly tested in various dimensions. Many joined the struggle, many would later back out and in some instances, many would later pay the supreme price of laying down their lives for the struggle. The Military would later unleash real terror on promoters of democracy. The days were indeed getting darker and darker as the months after June 12, 1993 went by as more and more pro-democracy activists took their stands in the struggle and in the process, more had to pay the ultimate price of laying down their lives, while some others were kept in indefinite and dehumanising detention for trumped-up charges and for charges that are clearly made up on the spot to fight democracy as democracy had become outlawed by the late General Sani Abacha Military regime.
Some others were forced into exile as Abacha’s men hunted them like Herod hunting for baby Jesus in the Bible. Abacha’s goal was one, which was to completely eliminate even the very memory of democracy of Nigeria and Nigerians hence he sought to end the lives of any and all who try to speak in favour of democracy under any guise whatsoever.
Thirty years after, we continue to re-live those moments and one person who played a key role in withstanding the anti-democratic forces of General Sani Abacha was Chief Dele Momodu.
Chief Dele Momodu stood with his leader, Chief M.K.O. Abiola and he was going to follow the struggle to the very end and he did indeed.
Chief Dele Momodu, a 1982 graduate of the prestigious University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) and a media mogul joined the Moshood Abiola presidential campaign organisation in the year 1993.
Chief Dele Momodu was later arrested and detained by the Military Government, following his stand against the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election which is generally acclaimed as the most free and fair election in the history of Nigeria. Chief Dele Momodu was punished by the reigning dictatorship of Abacha for his pro-democratic views but he was undeterred because more than anything else, he was loyal to his then boss, Chief M.K.O. Abiola and more still he was a democratic force to reckon with any day any time as long as he keeps breathing.
In the year 1995, the Abacha Government planned to re-arrest Chief Dele Momodu as he was already charged with treason by the dictatorship Government of Sani Abacha. Chief Dele Momodu was accused of being one of the brains behind the famous Radio Freedom (later Radio Kudirat).
Chief Dele Momodu managed to escape through the Seme border into Cotonou, in Benin Republic, from where he went into exile to Togo, Ghana and eventually to the United Kingdom.
For three agonising years afterwards, he could not re-enter Nigeria, because the Abacha Government was on the look-out for him to perhaps go as far as taking his life as Abacha was relentless in his bid to ensure democracy never again nears the shores of Nigeria under any guise.
As we solemnly remember these events thirty years after even in the memory of their defining moments, it is just and fair that anti-democratic forces don’t get to attempt to re-write history by taking the glory of our democracy but rather we hope that the likes of Chief Dele Momodu who paid steep prices for our democracy to thrive and survive, and are still alive to tell the story, gets their flowers everyday and not just once a year or once a while or never at all for if we don’t celebrate them now that they are still alive, it will be meaningless to themselves celebrating them after they are gone to the great beyond.
For the great sacrifices of Chief Dele Momodu thirty years ago for Nigeria’s democracy, this is appreciating him for he is a person who has shown even all his life thus far what loyalty and dedication to a cause means and if not for him and his fellow comrades in the struggle thirty years ago, we may never get to know what democracy means, as a nation, especially the generations after, as the memory of democracy would have been fully wiped out even from our nation’s history books by anti-democratic forces.