THE June 12 That Will Never Die!
By Tony Okoroji
IT was June 12, 2017. They could not contain themselves! Those who catalogue the comings and goings of the stars and celebrities were in full force at COSON House, the sparkling new edifice commissioned just two weeks earlier. From every imaginable media establishment in Nigeria, they came with every imaginable make of video and still cameras. They fought for vantage positions to record the historic June 12 lecture by Ovation Publisher, Dele Momodu and party at the COSON Arena with KASI, the singing sensation born on June 12, 1993.
Oluwaleimu Street off Allen Avenue in the heart of Ikeja was practically on lock down as the expansive and enchanting red carpet laid in front of COSON House with lights streaming from the bowels of the earth and cocktails flowing seamlessly, struggled to contain Nigeria’s Glitterati who streamed in from every corner of the country to answer the call to remember and celebrate an African like no other, the enigma who paid the ultimate price for Nigeria’s democratic struggle.
Mentioning the names of the people who stormed COSON House on June 12, 2017 is a waste of time. Practically everybody invited was there. Even MKO Abiola’s young son, Ola, was there. It was an unforgettable evening which I had the honour to coordinate.
That evening, Dele Momodu in a poignant lecture titled “June 12 and the Lessons of History” which was masterfully delivered without one piece of paper, traced the trajectory of the forces that made June 12 happen and the forces that have tried to kill the day and if they could, stamp out June 12 from the annual calendar, leaving June with only 29 days instead of the usual 30. At the event, I foretold that regardless of what men may try, June 12 will never die.
I have said that practically everybody invited was there. Not quite so. There were those who refused to come because they could not understand what we were doing celebrating MKO Abiola many years after he had passed on. There were of course the perennial ethnic or religious jingoists who despised Abiola simply because he did not belong to their tribe or religion. There were those who do not show up at anything except they believe that there is immediate money to be made from the event. There are still those who do not like any idea not created by them.
I have had time to check how many of my colleagues who today call press conference after press conference to tell everybody how much they love COSON more than me, showed up at COSON House on June 12, 2017. None of them came. They could not see the historic nature of the event or the reason for a national institution like COSON to host the celebration of a man who in life was the greatest supporter of our profession and represented the democratic ethos that the Nigerian nation continues to strive for. At the end, I had to personally bear much of the cost of the June 12, 2017 Lecture. It is the same way that I am required to bear the cost of the COSON Week, by far the biggest engine that drives the COSON brand and ultimately creates the environment for the income that everyone so badly want to control. The argument is that since COSON Week does not make money on its own, it should be scrapped!
I have concluded, with all due respect, that with their small trader mentality of immediate return, these my guys lack the vision to build a world class organization. Give them COSON and very soon, it will be worse than PMAN.
I have followed the many arguments as to why President Buhari declared June 12, the nation’s Democracy Day and awarded Abiola the posthumous GCFR. Some say that it is master campaign strategy. I have also heard that the President wants to outflank OBJ. Some say that he is desperate for the votes from the South West which may no longer be taken for granted anymore as the falcon no longer appears to be listening to the falconer.
No matter the reasons, the rejected stone has once again become the cornerstone of Nigeria’s politics. It simply proves that it does not matter how much you throw stones at that which is good, what is good is good.
I herby bear witness that Moshood Abiola was an incredibly good man. I was 29 years old when I became President of PMAN. This Yoruba Moslem with more name recognition than probably any other Nigerian and more money than some banks in the country had almost unlimited time for me, an Igbo Christian boy with little pedigree and no penny to my name. The doors to Abiola’s home in Ikeja were always open to me. His incredible intellect and contacts were there for the asking. I found out that his goodwill was not there just for me but for nearly everyone Abiola came in contact with. His purpose appeared to be to make as many people as possible happy. That personality has in so many ways inspired my attitude to the work that I do.
A few weeks ago, on Saturday Breakfast, I wrote a piece, “I Miss Gani Fawehinmi! The piece got quite a bit of reaction. Some said “wow Okoroji had become a wailer!” That resulted in another piece on Saturday Breakfast, “Neither Hailer Nor Wailer” I am excited about the honour done to the great Gani even in death. In a nation that often celebrates rubbish, I am so happy that we are finally celebrating that which is good, regardless of what the motives may be. Good things never die!
See you next week.