From This Day.
IBB: The Real Reason I Annulled June 12
By Omololu Ogunmade, 02.05.2009
For the first time since the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late business mogul, Bashorun MKO Abiola, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, has given a reason for the annulment. He said he was compelled to nullify the election because of security threats to the enthronement of a democratic government at the time.
Babangida made this disclosure yesterday on a TV programme, Moments with Mo, anchored by Mo Abudu and broadcast on MNet channel of DSTV.
Babangida, who described the annulment as “unfortunate” and revealed that he would launch a book on the saga next year, said having been on the steering wheel of government at the time, he and the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) knew that the new democratic government to be installed would sooner than later be toppled through another military coup deta’t, which he said his government wanted to avoid.
According to him, his regime had decided that it would be the last administration that would ascend the seat of power through coup, adding that it would make no sense to install a democratic government that would be truncated within another six months.
He, however, admitted that the June 12 presidential election was free and fair and also the best of all elections ever conducted in Nigeria’s history. “June 12 was accepted by Nigerians as the best of elections in Nigeria. It was free and fair. But unfortunately, we cancelled that election. I used the word unfortunately, for the first time. We were in government at the time and we knew the possible consequences of handing over to a democratic government. We did well that we wanted ours to be the last military coup deta’t. To be honest with you, the situation was not ripe to hand over at the time.
“Forget about the wrong things that happened in politics. The issue of security of the nation was a threat and we would have considered ourselves to have failed, if six months after handover, there was another coup. I went through coup deta’t and I survived it. We knew that there would be another coup deta’t. But not many people believed what we said. They could have allowed me to go away and then they (coup plotters) would regroup and stage another coup. This is how coups are staged – one man will always come to complain. And he will try to convince you about his complaints,” Babangida said.
He said security threats to the advent of democracy at the time culminated in fresh plans to conduct another election within another six months after June 12 annulment, with better strategy, but which he said he could not achieve as a result of the hostility which accompanied the cancellation. According to him, another election was conceived to come up in November 1993.
He revealed further that he was determined to conduct another election which culminated in the constitution of an Interim National Government (ING), which he noted was eventually toppled by a military coup staged by General Sani Abacha.
Babangida implied that what happened to the ING was eventually the fate that would have befallen the civil rule which his regime would have handed over to.
The former military president said the whole concept of his regime’s plan to hand over to a civil government was aimed at effecting a lasting change which could put paid to rigging. This notion, he said resulted in the decision to register only two political parties, the Social Demoratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). “When there are two things, you have an option – this or that or nothing. We tried to regulate the number of political parties. We knew what to do,” he said.
Babangida, who expressed fears that his revelation might put him in trouble, was not categorical about his presidential ambition come 2011. Instead, he played around it, saying he was not getting younger, adding that he would rather make himself available to make certain corrections whenever he deems fit.
How quickly we forget. Flashback 10 years. The political situation was as follows:
- Nigeria was being ruled by a ruthless and reclusive military dictator called General Sani Abacha
- General Olusegun Obasanjo and over 50 other army officers were in jail on trumped up charges of coup plotting.
- Nigeria had become a pariah nation after being expelled from the Commonwealth for executing Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists who were campaigning for a fairer share of Nigerian oil revenues and against the environmental damage caused to their lands by the drilling and spills of big oil companies.
- Lt-General Oladipo Diya, Major-Generals Abdulkareem Adisa and Tajudeen Olanrewaju, and several other officers were on death row awaiting execution for their role in another coup plot.
- The winner of the acclaimed June 12 1993 election Chief MKO Abiola had been in jail for 4 years, kept incommunicado from the outside world.
- General Abacha was on the verge of transforming himself from a military ruler to civilian President having strong armed all the 5 political parties (“five fingers of the same leprous hand”) into adopting him as their presidential candidate.
- Genuine democracy seemed far, far away.
Plus a lot of the “pro democracy” activists shamelessly abandoned Abiola to join Abacha (Olu Onagoruwa, Baba Gana Kingibe). Even ministers in Abacha’s regime were not safe. The Guardian Newspapers (owned by Abacha’s minister Ibru) was proscribed by a newspaper proscription Decree and shut down after it criticised the government. It was the paper’s continual criticism of Abacha’s regime that led to the near fatal assassination attempt on Ibru.
The Abacha -v- Abiola power struggle was holding the entire country hostage. Abacha’s thirst for power and Abiola’s unrealised mandate. Even if Abacha is removed, what to do about Abiola who won a credible election? Then the following cataclysmic events happened in the space of 30 days:
On June 8 1998 Abacha dies of a heart attack and is hurriedly buried without an autopsy by the time the news filters through to most Nigerians. Nigerians publicly celebrate the death of a reviled leader with wild jubilation. General Abdulsalam Abubakar quickly replaces Abacha and announces that Abiola will be released but that he had to realise that his mandate had expired. A lot of chicanery was used to get Abiola to renounce but he refused. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sent to talk to him and explain that his “term of office” had expired since 5 years had passed since the June 12 1993 election. All to no avail. Exactly one month after the death of Abacha, Abiola suddenly dies of a heart attack on July 7 1998.
With Abacha, Abiola and the June 12 issue out of the way, General Abubakar announces a swift 10 month programme for a return to civilian democratic rule. Just 10 months after Nigeria seemed doomed to perpetual military rule under General Abacha, the military steps down and a new democratic government is elected under President Obasanjo. The speed with which Abacha’s infrastructure was dismantled just seemed too contrived. With Abacha alive and Abiola incarcerated, most people thought democracy was years away in Nigeria. Just 10 months after his death everything he did was undone: his killer squad was dismantled, coup convicts and pro democracy activists released, Nigeria back in the Commonwealth, democracy restored, and the army back in the barracks. Note that a lot of Abacha’s cronies survived in office and resurfaced in subsequent dispensations (Sarki Mukhtar – NSA, Jerry Gana etc).
Somehow exactly 30 days apart, both men die of heart attacks. Abacha is prevented from becoming a civilian ruler, from executing the condemned men like Diya, Adisa and Olanrewaju, and a recalcitrant Abiola (who refuses to renounce his mandate) also dies. Problem gone, debate over, fresh start. All rather convenient isn’t it?…. How easily we forget….
Without wishing to turn the site into a video fest, I think these videos on the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election are another didactic series. Each of the three videos runs for about 10 minutes. I’ve been having problems with some of the videos so if the video screens don’t work, click the URL link below each screen and that will take you directly to a youtube link of the video.