Abiola And The Beneficiaries Of The June 12 Annulment
Another June 12 anniversary is here again when a section of the populace, especially in the Southwest, will celebrate the hero of democracy, Bashorun MKO Abiola.
June 12, 2013 is another anniversary of the annulled presidential poll rated as the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria. The election was won by the late business mogul turned politician, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and was annulled by his celebrated friend and the then military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, whose administration conducted it.
The historic election was annulled in every sense of it. It made a nonsense of every divide that had has been preventing the country from moving forward. Aside from the freest poll, both Abiola and his running mate, Baba Gana Kingibe, were Muslims, a dramatic departure from the culture of religious dichotomy. Abiola, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) also defeated his opponent, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in Kano, where he hails from.
But in a dramatic turn of events, the then political elite under the aegis of the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) met under the leadership of Babangida and ordered Professor Humphrey Nwosu, chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), not to announce the remaining results, and on June 15, Arthur Nzeribe’s Association for a Better Nigeria (ABN), got a ruling from the Abuja High Court directing the NEC to halt the publication of election results.
And one thing led to another. Babangida, in a national broadcast, annulled the celebrated election and the country was thrown into turmoil whose ghost has not stopped haunting us. The SDP candidate, according to an unofficial result, won 19 in out of the then 30 states, meaning his candidacy was accepted nationwide, but that was not strong enough for the ruling junta to reverse the annulment for reasons, best known to them.
As expected, there was growing tension and protests especially in the South West and civil rights groups led open campaigns denouncing the government and the then Chief of Defence Staff, General Sani Abacha ordered soldiers to shoot at sight of the innocent people on the streets. People began migrating to their home states, in fear that another civil war was imminent. Many died in motor accidents, while crooks vandalised peoples’ property across the nation in the process. The death toll was very high.
Finally, Babangida reluctantly agreed to “step aside” by handing over power to an “interim government” on August 27, 1993, led by Chief Ernest Shonekan, a businessman. Shonekan was asked to rule until freish elections scheduled for February 1994. But the then Defence Minister Sani Abacha, quickly assumed power and forced Shonekan’s “resignation” on November 17, 1993. Abacha dissolved all democratic political institutions and replaced elected governors with military officers. Although Abacha’s junta reportedly promised to return the government to Abiola but that never happened.
Abacha later died and General Abdlusalami Abubakar who had been penciled down for retirement by Abacha took over. But a month later, Abiola died mysteriously in the presence of some American diplomats on the day he was expected to be released.
Abdulsalami conducted the shortest political transition and the north conceded the presidency to the south, to sooth the nerves of the west thus General Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Chief Olu Falae of the joint ticket of Alliance for Democracy (AD) and the All People’s Party (APP), as it was, contested the presidential poll which was won by Obasanjo. Since then, PDP has remained the ruling party in the country.
It is a tragic irony to note that many people have been the beneficiaries of the annulment and of the supreme price paid by Abiola but they have not deemed it fit to honour him for what he did for the restoration of democracy. All because most of them were in support of the annulment with the exception of the AD governors and the members of the National Assembly between 1999 and 2003! And the only thing they could do was to name some institutions in the southwest after Abiola and continuing to commemorate the annulment every June 12. Just as the protest against the annulment was reduced to the Southwest so also is the commemoration of the day. All attempts to make June 12 the Democracy Day was futile as Obasanjo, the beneficiary-in-chief of the annulment foisted May 29 on the nation.
Interestingly, it was Babangida who first accused those who benefitted from his unpatriotic gesture of being unfair to Abiola in an interview granted the Hausa Service of the Voice of America (VOA) which was monitored on 23 October, 2000, seven years after the annulment.
Hear him, “it is seven years after the annulment of the June 12 presidential election, yet people keep asking me about it in spite of enough answers I have given.But you will find out that it is just a group of people who feel aggrieved by the annulment of the June 12 presidential election.
If it were not for the annulment, what would have been their positions today? June 12 has served as a key to open the door for many Nigerians in positions of authority today. These beneficiaries of June 12 annulment are not being fair to me.”
The question is; who are these beneficiaries that were not fair to IBB and who have failed to honor the victim of the annulled poll?
Shortly before Babangida ‘stepped aside’, he foisted a contraption called Interim National Government (ING) which a courageous female judge described illegal on the populace led by Shonekan before Abacha sacked them. Those who participated in the contraption, either as secretaries, as they were called, or as service chiefs, were all beneficiaries of the annulment but who did nothing for the rich but poor man.
MEMBERS OF ABACHA CONFAB
Everyone that participated in the National Political Conference organized by the Abacha junta, apparently, to keep the political elite busy, were beneficiaries of the annulment. And every one that served in the Abacha administration, either as ministers or service chiefs or who held any political or military posts, were all busy “eating on June12” and they had forgotten to do anything for Abiola until both Abiola and Abacha died.
Shortly after Abacha had passed on, the baton of leadership fell on General Abdulsalami Abubakar who lifted the ban on political activities. Without the annulment, neither Abdulsalami nor those that served in his government would had been there yet they did nothing for Abiola, instead, the winner of the 12June 1993 died under their watch.
Those who participated in the administration of Obasanjo as members of the National Assembly or as ministers or who held one sensitive post or the other, while it lasted, were beneficiaries of the annulment and the demise of Abiola yet they did nothing in his honour. Those who were at the national political conference, which reports remained in the cupboard were also guilty of abandoning Bashorun Abiola.
In fairness to Obasanjo, a beneficiary-in-chief, he did not hide his disdain for Abiola presidency, during the heat for the de-annulment campaign, he told the bewildered world that “Abiola was not the expected messiah’’ which Nigeria needs. He did nothing reasonable to immortalize his kinsman. To add insult to the injury, he used the presidential order to impose 29 May as Democracy Day, despite all the deafening agitation for the adoption of 12 June. However, Obasanjo in a nationwide broadcast merely listed Abiola as one of those that offered sacrifice for democracy in this dispensation.
As it happened under the watch of Obasanjo, so we had in the administration of his successor in office, the late President, Umaru Yar’ Adua. His late brother, General Shehu Yar Adua was not only a close friend of Abiola but a business partner, yet Yar’ Adua did not see any need to honour the man the populace regard as the hero of democracy.
The Jonathan administration followed the footsteps of his predecessors-in-office with the exception of his decision to rename the University of Lagos after Abiola. But the hues and cries that greeted the decision had forced him to retreat and till today nothing is being done to honor the man who died for our democracy to live.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Some are calling for the official declaration of Abiola as the President and to grant his family all the benefits which all former leaders, dead or alive, are enjoying. To those advocating this, doing this, would give June 12, ‘a benefiting burial’.
Other suggestion is the naming of either the National Assembly or Presidential Villa, Aso Rock after Bashorun Abiola. Some are even asking for one of the national currencies to have his photo with an inscription, ‘Bashorun MKO Abiola, President-elect, June 12, 1993 election.
By Bayo Oladeji:Leadership News
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