BOOK REVIEW: JUNE 12, 1993: ANNULMENT
THE DAY THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
June 12, the date, as used in the media and in discussions, is really not a day, it is a period. Some might argue and say it is a moment. In fact, it is used to refer to the period between the announcement of the elections Babangida arranged and the incarceration of the widely acknowledged winner of that election. Some might say it ended with his death, others may say it ended when he declared himself president.
Whatever it is, one thing is accepted: it is beyond the 24 hours of the day June 12, 1993.
Abraham Oshoko narrates the events of that period in his graphic novel, June 12 subtitled 1993: Annulment — apparently, there would be a sequel, 1994: Declaration.
The value of telling the story of one of Nigeria’s most controversial events in comic book form is fodder for debate. What isn’t, however, is the inherent value of storytelling itself. Now into its second decade of uninterrupted democracy, the story of the country’s democracy has to be told. This renders the format to some extent immaterial.
(The book is sponsored by the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy which inevitably puts its integrity as an impartial slice of history in a dubious position.)
Fitting with its cinematic aspect, the graphic novel begins with a ‘cast of characters’ from the two major figures of the time, Chief Moshood Abiola and Ibrahim Babangida to the less known, Colonel Abubakar Umar, General Aliyu Gusau to the almost forgotten, Baba Gana Kingibe and Arthur Nzeribe of the ephemeral ABN. It starts proper with a meeting between advisor Professor Omo Omoruyi, whose account of the annulment is indispensable, and President Babangida. Professor Omoruyi is berated by General Dogonyaro, commandant of the Staff College, Jaji, for attempting to get the president to approve the election.
This encounter sets up the conflict that the book carries throughout its 10 glossy chapters. For a story deprived of that great ingredient of graphic novels, suspense, and dependent on vast stretches of volubility, it succeeds in generating enough motivation to turn the page.
Nevertheless, that the book depends on heavy dialogue and pictures presents a contradiction as to its expected audience: young people might be impressed by the pictures, although its style is quite different from that of American comics, they might also be unimpressed with the absence of anything like physical action— the closest thing to heightened violence in the book, is a rowdy senate session which ends in a grabbing of the mace. But, of course, even that can’t shock a generation that has borne witness to several skirmishes in house of assemblies around the country and the recent mace-as-weapon incident in Rivers state.
It may, however, connect with older audiences, who are old enough to remember the events and also trace the style back to the Ikebe Super comics of the 80s. But they may prefer analyses than a straightforward narrative and may consider the novel method of the graphic novel, a mere gimmick.
If they do, it’s their loss: June 12 1993: Annulment, apart from having substance, is handsome and stylish— which is more than can be said for the event it covers.