For the generation of Nigerian youths who do not fully recognize or understand the struggle of their forbears to achieve the present political nomenclature of their country, there appears to be a ray of hope as a documentary has been produced to record and preserve history, lest it be lost and its significance forgotten.
Deeply entrenched in the history of Nigeria is the June 12 annulment of the presidential election which was generally acclaimed to have given the people’s mandate to Chief MKO Abiola.
However, June 12 has become of reduced significance to present day youths who were not present in the throes of the exodus to move Nigeria from military dictatorship to democracy.
The documentary, produced by Joanna Lipper in collaboration with MainFrame Film and Television Production, Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) and screened at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Abeokuta in collaboration with Ogun State Ministry of Culture and Tourism, showed the series of event which led to the annulment of the historic vote and a military coup which brought into power General Sanni Abacha.
The documentary also brought to light the imprisonment of Abiola after he was arrested for the ‘treasonable offence’ of declaring himself President in line with the results of the widely monitored and declared votes, as well as the role of his wife, Kudirat Abiola as she took over the leadership of the pro-democracy movement and sought to have her husband released to fulfill his mandate.
She organized rallies and the longest oil workers’ strike in Nigeria which lasted 12 weeks as she stood against human rights violations perpetrated by the military leadership.
At the height of this struggle, Kudirat became a target because of her activities and was subsequently assassinated in 1996. Her husband, MKO, who perhaps having witnessed Nelson Mandela’s installation as South African President after 27 years in prison and garnered hope for such fate himself, was sorely disappointed as he died in prison two years after his wife’s demise under suspicious circumstances.
The documentary, seen through the eyes of Kudirat’s eldest daughter, Hafsat, tells the story of a nation’s struggle during turbulent historic landmarks, meandering through an era of political corruption and a culture where a tiny circle of political elites monopolized billions of dollars of oil revenue while the vast majority remained impoverished.
A world acclaimed master cinematographer, Tunde Kelani of MainFrame Productions noted that more documentaries were required to preserve the history of the country and prevent collective amnesia that is bound to happen over time, with facts and events erroneously misrepresented, if not appriopriately documented.
The Abeokuta born film maker disclosed that several films like this should be produced and widely circulated for posterity’s sake.
“It is not possible to make one film that will tell all the story, but a series of films with different individual focuses will turn out to give a more wholesome account of historical events,” Kelani opined.
Another individual who saw the documentary, Mr Taiwo Adedamola bemoaned the removal of history in the curriculum of schools in the country, saying it will have a negative effect on the already lukewarm level of patriotism in the country.
Adedamola said this documentary is a breathe of fresh air and should be translated to indigenous languages and widely circulated, as well as used to teach children history formally and informally.
The documentary was shown to mark the 23rd remembrance of June 12 in Ogun State.
This piece was written by Ajibola Taiwo from Abeokuta, Ogun State and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org