Museum And Institution Of Democracy
“On two different occasions I was offered, first the post of Deputy Prime Minister (before May 1962), and second that of Deputy Governor-General (in August 1962), if I would agree to fold up the Opposition and join in a National Government. I declined the two offers because they were designed exclusively to gratify my self-interest.”
Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s 28th March 1966 letter to Ironsi.
“THE OPPOSITION THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY….In Nigeria, the opposition not the position is the face of democracy! An attack on the opposition, with instruments of state, is an attack on democracy, for the check and balancing role of the opposition is the gauge of our democracy and the value of it.”
Amaso Jack (RIPPLES FROM EKITI….THE OPPOSITION NOT THE POSITION AS THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY)
By this, 1960-66 Awolowo (the opposition) was the face of democracy and not Prime Minister Balewa (the position). 1979-1983 Awolowo (the opposition) was the face of democracy and not President Shehu Sagari (position). 1993 M. K. O. Abiola (the opposition) was the face of democracy and not Ibrahim Babangida. 1999-2015 Bola Ahmed Tinubu (the opposition) was the face of democracy and not Obasanjo, Umoru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan. 2015 Fayose and 2018 Saraki and Boma Goodhead (the opposition) are the faces of democracy and not President Buhari.
MUSEUM AND INSTITUTE OF DEMOCRACY
There should be a museum of democracy in Nigeria. A fitting historical institution to celebrate individuals who stood for democracy, to be opened on June 12, of whatever year it happens, to celebrate the icons of democracy in Nigeria, just the way Rosa Parks was honoured.
“In 1999, the US Congress awarded Parks the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest civilian award. The following year, Parks was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, an organisation that recognises Alabama citizens for their contribution to the state. Later that same year, she was awarded the first Governor’s Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage from Alabama Governor Donald Seigelman.”https://www.google.com.ng/amp/s/yourstory.com/2017/02/rosa-parks-civil-/amp.
GALLERY OF THE FACES OF DEMOCRACY:
1 AWOLOWO: THE FIRST FACE OF THE OPPOSITION AS THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY.
Because the opposition and not the position is the face democracy, in Nigeria a national museum and institution of democracy must be established. The museum and institution would have in its vaults a section for the custodians of democracy, who refused to compromise the plurality of democracy, by refusing to give up their status of the opposition. In this respect, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and not Abubakar Tafawa Balewa the Prime Minister, would be the first face of our democracy, because the opposition and not the position is the face of democracy.
By the evidence of Awolowo’a classified letter to Ironsi in his capacity as the Supreme Commander and Head of the Federal Military Government, written on March 28, 1966, titled:
“PREROGATIVE OF MERCY: SECTION 101 (1) (a) OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERATION ACT 1963”, contained the following details.
“In October 1963 (that is about a month after my conviction and while my appeal to the Supreme Court was still pending), a Peace Committee headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, made overtures to me through my friend Alhaji W. A. Elias to the effect that if I abandoned my intention to enter into alliance with the N.C.N.C. which, according to the Committee, was an Ibo Organisation, and agreed to dissolve the Action Group and, in co-operation with Chief Akintola (now deceased), form an all-embracing Yoruba political party which I would lead and which would go into alliance with the N.P.C., I would be released from prison before the end of that year. I turned down these terms because I was of the considered opinion that their acceptance would further widen and exacerbate inter-tribal differences, and gravely undermine the unity of the Federation.
“On two different occasions I was offered, first the post of Deputy Prime Minister (before May 1962), and second that of Deputy Governor-General (in August 1962), if I would agree to fold up the Opposition and join in a National Government. I declined the two offers because they were designed exclusively to gratify my self-interest, with no thought of fostering any political moral principle which could benefit the people of Nigeria. The learned Judge who presided over the Treasonable Felony Trial commented unfavourably on my non-acceptance of one of these posts and held that my action lent weight to the case of the Prosecution against me.”https://groups.google.com/forum/m/#!msg/usaafricadialogue/GTHjhZCGEZk/rmkTJ4jAKtwJ
From the chief’s letter, three things stand out with respect to our first democratic experience.
- The first subtle attempt to compromise democracy was the offer of “the post of Deputy Prime Minister (before May 1962)” which was turned down by Awolowo, democracy not Awolowo was the beneficiary.
- The second subtle attempt to compromise democracy was the offer of “Deputy Governor-General (in August 1962),” which was turned down by Awolowo, democracy not Awolowo was the beneficiary.
- The third subtle attempt were the overtures by the Peace Committee headed by Chief Justice of the Federation, Sir Adetokunbo Ademola, to Awolowo to abandon his intention to enter into alliance with the N.C.N.C. an Ibo Organisation, in exchange for liberty. He chose personal bondage as the price to keep democracy plural and free.
A fourth eventually happen.
- The fourth attempt was the coup de grâce of September 11, 1963, delivered by Justice showemimo the judge with tied hands. Chronologically it occurred before the third above. The coup de grâce was the final terminal blow to the plurality of Nigeria’s young democracy, that occurred when Awolowo was put out of circulation and into prison. It was democracy and not Awolowo that was jailed!
The words of Justice Showemimo:
“Whatever others may say, this is my personal view. I am not speaking as a judge but as a Nigerian. Here we have one of the first Premiers of the autonomous region standing trial. If you were the only one before me, I would have felt that it was enough for you to have undergone the strain of the trial. I would have asked you to go. But I am sorry, I cannot do so now because my hands are tied.”
“At the conclusion of the speech by Justice Sowemimo, Chief Awolowo was sentenced as follows:
- 1st Count – 10 years I.H.L (Imprisonment with Hard Labour) Treasonable felony, contrary to Section 41(b) of the Criminal Code.
- 2nd Count – 5 years I.H.L (Imprisonment with Hard Labour) Conspiracy to commit a felony, contrary to Section 516 of the Criminal Code.
- 3rd Count – 2 years I.H.L (Imprisonment with Hard Labour) Conspiracy to effect an unlawful purpose, contrary to Section 518 (6) of the Criminal Code.
Sentences to be concurrent.”https://www.mightyvoice.com.ng/?p=1805
1 To have put Awolowo the face of democracy in prison, amounted to “jailing” democracy and compromising its plural nature in the direction of a one-party capitalist state, Awolowo chose liberty of democracy over personal liberty.
OTHER HISTORICAL FACES IN THE GALLERY OF THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY 1
IMPORTANT OBSERVATION: IMPORTANT OBSERVATION: It was not only and exclusively about Awolowo, there were others whose loss of opposition liberty, changed the face of our young democracy. The entire group may be split into three:
“THOSE STILL SERVING THEIR TERMS
1.Chief Obafemi Awolowo
2 Chief Anthony Enahoro
3.Mr.Lateef K. Jakande
7.Mr.Sunday Ebietoma 8.Mr.U.I.Nwaobiala
“II. THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY SERVED THEIR TERMS.
III. THOSE WHO HAVE NOT YET BEEN TRIED.
3.Mr.James Aluko” http://www.waado.org/NigerDelta/Nigeria_Facts/MilitaryRule/awolowo/awolowo_ironsi.htm
-OTHER HISTORICAL FACES IN THE GALLERY OF THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY 2.
CHIEF MKO Abiola, for the sacrifice of June 12.
–BOMA GOODHEAD: THE CURRENT FACE OF THE OPPOSITION AS THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY.
Honourable Boma Goodhead (https://nass.gov.ng/mp/profile/826), would have a pride of place for the courage to defend democracy in the face of masked arms of fascism.
-OTHER CONTEMPORARY FACES IN THE GALLERY OF THE FACE OF DEMOCRACY.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Chris Ngige, Rotimi Amaechi, Saheed Popoola.
ENUGU MUNICIPALITY GALLERY OF NATIONAL UNITY
This gallery would be dedicated to the people of Enugu, who looked beyond ethnicity and religion to elect a total outsider by race and religion as Mayor. This gallery would give a pride of place to the people of Enugu municipality, who were Christians and Igbo, but elected a Fulani Muslim as the first mayor of Enugu.
“Umoru Altine, scion of the Sokoto Caliphate, who, on a record two occasions, became the Mayor of Enugu, which lies deep in Nigeria’s South-East. He was the first ever Mayor of Enugu……Documents obtained at the National Archives Enugu by Weekly Trust indicate Umoru Altine’s name listed among those who won elections in Enugu in 1954……..Umoru Altine became Mayor of Enugu in the 50s, at the beginning of the real political evolution of the city.”https://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/sokoto-prince-who-became-enugu-mayor/12864.html
OBSERVATION. It is to the exclusive credit of the people of the Enugu municipality most of whom were Igbo and Christians to have elected a Fulani Muslim as mayor of Enugu twice. In Lagos State, a non-Yorubas was elected to the State House and assembly and several appointed into the executive council of the state. The unique thing about Umoru Altine’s example is that those elected non-Yoruba, were voted into the house from those areas in Lagos with a high concentration of non-Yoruba speaking people, but Umoru Altine a Fulani Muslim, was elected mayor by Igbo Christians twice. Those who voted for him and not Umoru Altine are the real heroes of democracy and if the records still exist, their names should be written in marble for public display in the museum and institution.
Hon. Jude Emeka Idimogu representing Oshodi-Isolo II, constituency, is the only non-Yoruba elected member of the current Lagos State house of assembly.
GALLERY OF CROSS CARPETING:
Urowayino Warami’s article titled: “Nigeria political cross carpeting: Danger to democracy”, published in the Vanguard, captured the first recorded example of cross-carpeting this way:
“In 1951 the first celebrated cross carpeting episode occurred in Nigeria; which consequently robbed Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe the chance to lead the government’s business of Western Nigeria. This happens to be the most celebrated cross carpet episode in Nigeria. Yoruba members of the National Council for Nigerian and Cameroon (NCNC) were lobbied to cross over to the Action Group (AG) to stop Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo man, from becoming the premier of Western Region. This heralded the massive cross over to the AG. As the leader of the NCNC, Azikiwe was to be the Premier of Western Nigeria following the elections of 1951 with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a Yoruba man and the leader of Action Group, as the leader of the opposition in the Regional House of Assembly. The NCNC won 42 seats out of 80, but within 24 hours 20 of them had cross carpeted to AG.”
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not of ALEDEH.