Unsung heroes of June 12 — Femi Adeoti Column

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FEMI ADEOTI COLUMN

The more they celebrate themselves, the more they ignore the unsung
heroes of June 12. The victims who made June 12 tick and thick.
They don’t want to hear us out. Yes, we the untrumpeted warriors of
the struggle. We were and still at the receiving end. Those maximum
rulers (undeserved beneficiaries) won’t listen to us.
They occupy every space. And they are reaping with utmost impunity and
recklessness where they never sowed. The actual sowers are left in the
cold. To rot!
We sowed painfully with every pint of our blood. We put our lives on
the line. But these latter-day democrats did not care a hoot. They are
strangers to democracy.
They carried on dastardly then as if there would be no tomorrow. That
tomorrow is here today.
Sad! They still dwell in their old, wild and weird ways. They refuse
to obey even their own much-taunted change mantra. They continue doing
things their queer manners.
They flaunt their dubious character arrogantly. But time won’t stop
ticking. And it’s closing on them with the speed of light.
No matter how hard they pretend. One day a Daniel would come to
judgement. And a Pharaoh would certainly emerge who would not know
Joseph.
They labour strenuously to curtail the unsung heroes of June 12 to the
dustbin of our ugly history. It’s their tall dream. That is why I am
bringing this piece back. First published in my column, Daily Sun,
Thursday, June 14, 2018, exactly 20 years after our release from
detention.
It was in response to the recognition of some individuals and
personalities as the heroes of June 12 by President Muhammadu Buhari
on June 12, 2018. None of us, 40 in all, was recognised or remotely
mentioned. That has not been addressed till date, and we remain the
“Unsung Heroes of June 12.” The piece:
Prisoners of War (PoWs), remember them? Sure, you must. If not, let us
risk a quick flashback.
The story runs like this: On May 1, 1998, Ibadan, Oyo State capital,
was shaken to its foundation. Protesters from three different
locations invaded the city.  It was a bloody Friday.
They were up in arms against the dictatorial government of the despot,
General Sani Abacha. He had planned to rule us forever. The rioters
vehemently disagreed and displayed it.
This was one of the violent spill-overs from the annulment of the June
12, 1993 presidential election. It was presumed, Chief Moshood
Kshimawo Olawale Abiola, GCFR, won the election. It was a struggle of
life and death.
The Ibadan 1998 May Day riots consumed lives and properties. The
targets were Abacha’s cronies and everything associated with them. The
city was literally turned upside down and inside out.
The following Sunday, I practically paved the way for my detention.
The Sunday Tribune, which I edited, went to town screaming. Its banner
headline was fearful.  It roared, Genesis of Ibadan bloodbath: The
Untold Story. Nobody could ignore it, not even Abacha’s security
sycophants!
When the dust settled, 40 of us lost our freedom at different times
and locations.  We were framed up, clamped into detention.
We were strangely accused of planning to overthrow a military junta of
Abacha mode. Our chief accuser and tormentor was the then Col. Ahmed
Usman (retd), ex-military administrator of Oyo State. To his greatest
delight, we were captured in the warfront. So, he came out publicly to
recklessly pronounce us PoWs. And it sticks till today.
Sadly enough, none of our members made the list of honours for June 12
Pro-Democracy Heroes. To the compilers and masterminds of that list,
we never for once existed. That is the weird thinking of the Office of
the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF).
Our team was by no means formidable. We had Chief Bola Ige as our
undisputed leader. The last public office he held was Minister of
Justice and Attorney General of the Federation in the Olusegun
Obasanjo civilian administration. He was initially his Minister of
Power. Ige was before this, governor of the old Oyo State in the
Second Republic. That was between October 1, 1979 and September 30,
1983. He was murdered in cold blood on December 21, 2001, in his
Bodija, Ibadan residence.
Other members included: Alhaji Lam Adesina (late) former governor of
Oyo State; Comrade Ola Oni (late), the legendary rights activist; my
humble self; Alhaji Lateef Akinsola, a.k.a Tokyo, former chairman,
state National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW); Alhaji Billy
Akanji, a.k.a Baba 70 (late), Kehinde Adesina and Sunday Morenikeji,
aka, Baba Blessing (late).
None of us spent fewer than 32 days in detention while Abacha had his
way.  We regained freedom through bail the second day he lost his
life. His gross loss was our bountiful gain. Such is life.
But President Muhammadu Buhari ignored the whole pack of us. He left
us in the cold; all alone to lick our wounds, all by ourselves. What
an unfriendly deal!  Is it because we are not government-connected?
We are not alone in the cold. Prominent National Democratic Coalition
(NADECO) chieftains were equally and embarrassingly left out.  NADECO
was one of the major platforms used to fight for June 12.
The affected NADECO chieftains included Chief Abraham Adesanya, SAN
(late). He risked his life many times over for the struggle.  Abacha’s
foot soldiers were always on his trail. We were grateful to God we did
not lose him to the struggle. Others were Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Sir
Olanihun Ajayi (late) and Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd). There are
several others of the like minds.
None of us could make the list in the reasoning of the compilers.
Pity!  We are not APC-compliant! Only Chief Bisi Akande in that
category made it. He was the first and only interim chairman of the
All Progressives Congress (APC). He also ruled Osun State between 1999
and 2003.
Undoubtedly, the pillar of the struggle was Chief Alfred Rewane (also
late).  As a matter of fact, he lost his precious life in the thick of
the agitation.  He was the silent and main financier of NADECO.  He
was shot dead because he strongly believed in the actualisation of the
June 12 mandate.
Now that June 12 has been posthumously actualised in a way, Patriot
Rewane remained largely unlauded in his grave. He was a man of great
courage and discipline. He never pretended; he proudly showcased his
June 12 belief.  And he lived for it. But here we are all ignored by
those who should know better.
I have very strong conviction that we cannot celebrate June 12 without
Patriot Rewane. He struggled with his heart and sweat. He threw
everything he had into it. We are forever proud of him.
To be sure, no dispute about those “lucky” to be so honoured now. And
certainly, no grudges against them not even one. If it took 25 years
to recognise MKO; then there is still hope for the PoWs and others. We
have clocked 24 years having been detained in May 1998.
We, the PoWs never ran away. Some of us had ample opportunities to do
so. But we refused the urge and the pressure. Yet, we are alive today
with those who bolted away. Those of us (PoWs) who are not dead we
were left off the hook. We never lost a life in the struggle despite
the agony and trauma we went through. That is God’s great grace.
Nevertheless, what is sauce for the goose is equally sauce for the
gander. There is no half way to it. No half measure either. What is
worth doing at all is worth doing well.
We’re spurred to shout, “Egbe kini yi wa, awa lokan.” We insist: “Awa lokan.”

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