My June 12 Story
Ifedigbo Nze Sylva
On June 12 1993, I was only nine years old-far too young to participate in the political process-but quite conscious of the happenings all the same. I was lucky to have had an active television set permanently tuned to NTA (the only available station then), a strict Dad who expected you to know all there is to know at every point in time , and most importantly, a far more constant supply of electricity than we do today. So then, I never missed the network news at nine. I remember the exact seat I always curled myself into, eyes on the black and white tv set, trying…struggling to make sense of all the talk at 9.00pm everyday.
Watching the news was particularly interesting those months preceding June 12. It was election year and all sorts of jingles were on tv in addition to the many coloured posters of the contestants that dotted the streets and corners. I knew the two major parties: SDP and NRC. I knew their logos, the Horse for SDP and the Eagle for NRC and on so many occasions it was the subject of arguments among my friends in school on which of the two animals (not really the parties) was greater. I knew the two main contenders to the post of President: MKO and Tofa. I guess I had this liking for MKO not only because he was SDP (the party with the Horse which was my favourite) but also because of his rather interesting name. for us then, his initials stood for money (which we heard he had in good measure) in English and two major Nigerian Languages Viz Money, kwudi (hausa). Owo. There was also this wonderful jingle of his on tv “Nigerians on the march again” which kind of stock to my memory till date and of course, a whole lot of freebies doled out on the streets courtesy of MKO.
I also know Professor Humphery Nwosu the Electoral Commissions chairman. Perhaps, it was the fact that this particular professor didn’t have grey hair like the lot I knew that endeared him to me. Often I imagined that he must be a very powerful person to have been chosen as the umpire of this great and historic election. Also, his being Igbo sort of completed the picture of the tripod on which our country rested; a hausa and a Yoruba were contesting, an Igbo was the umpire. It was just perfect.
I remember all the talk then about option A4 all of which made little or no sense to me.i knew however that people stood in long queues in front of the poster of the candidate of their choice and were counted by the polling officials. A polling station stood not quite far from our house and though my parents made sure we-I and my kid sister- weren’t out side on election day(for what ever reason), I could see everything clearly from the window of my room.
I was excited about the elections. For me it was simply a process to bring about change. I was tired of knowing Gen. Babangida as the President and I thought it was cool to have someone else as President just for a change not that I had any thing against him. If anything, I liked his gap tooth and the smile of his pretty wife but l still felt it was going to be nice seeing two new faces on the news every night. More so, I looked forward to finally seeing a Democratic Government which I had read time and gain in my social studies text book in practice and from the bits I gathered from my dad and mums discussions, “things” were expected to get better afterwards, whatever that meant.
June 12 was the date for the Presidential election. From my window, I watched the voters queue up to be counted at the polling station near our house. Then came the anxiety wrapped excitement of waiting for the final results to be announced. It was said that MKO (that is the party with the Horse) had won the elections, I couldn’t say who did but I remember the gist was allover. In fact it was then I picked up the word “landslide” which was used to describe the victory. For me, it was done. I was already making a mental picture of a not too handsome man with a long Yoruba cap smiling on tv and greeting “fellow Nigerians”. I was enthusiastic and excited. Indeed it felt like a new dawn.
Days later however I heard the elections had been annulled (another new word). I had some difficulty understanding this. Of course all the big talk on tv and my Dads discussion with friends (often in hushed tones as if the walls had ears) made very little sense to me. In school, there were all sorts of stories , as much as our childish fantasies could accommodate on why the election was annulled. One version had it that Babangida felt MKO must have used supernatural powers to win the election as it was said that even Tofas mother had voted MKO. Of course such thoughts were very childish but we also held our own discussions and speculated on national issues. Later I started hearing of one Shonekon and before I could fully come to terms with the idea of an acting President, I began to hear of General Sani Abacha.
In my childish innocence, I felt hurt by the unfolding events. Somehow, I feel some thing in me died with that annulled election. I kept hoping that some thing will happen, but they only got worse. I never ceased hoping that one day MKO will return to assume his mandate and in some ways today, fifteen years after, I am still hoping.