June 12: Ghost of Nigeria's freest election lingers on

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Hope 93

The Nigerian dream of having Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola as president never saw the light of reality.

The ghost of the 1993 presidential elections still comes around to haunt us now and then, demanding from us that which it was denied twenty-four years ago.

The presidential elections that were held in Nigeria on the twelfth day of June 1993, was the first since the 1983 military coup. The result was a victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC).

With Abiola winning in his Northern opponent's home state, the election was easily declared Nigeria's freest and fairest presidential election by both national and international observers. Abiola also won at the national capital, Abuja; the military polling stations, and over two-thirds of Nigerian states.

And, the reason why the election was so historic, was because men of Northern descent had largely dominated Nigeria's political landscape since independence. The fact that Moshood Abiola (a Southern Muslim) was able to secure a national mandate freely and fairly remains unprecedented in Nigeria's history.

However, this glorious historic achievement was forcefully withdrawn from the embrace of the Nigerian people. The outcome of the election would be annulled by the then military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

 

Thus, the Nigerian dream of having M.K.O Abiola as president never saw the light of reality. 

But, sixteen years after, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida said for the first the reason behind his action. And these were his words:

"We knew that the new democratic government to be installed would sooner than later be toppled through another military coup d'etat, and that was something our government wanted to avoid."

"June 12 was accepted by Nigerians as the best of elections in Nigeria. It was free and fair. But unfortunately, we canceled 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 d'etat. 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 d'etat and I survived it. We knew that there would be another coup d'etat. 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."

Actually, it is not our desire to concern ourselves with the testimony of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida; for to contemplate on it is to cast pearls before swine. And that, my friend, is a thing we won’t be able to afford.

Be that as it may, we cannot fail to acknowledge the fact that the June 12 presidential election was the first time Nigerians voted across the sectional line. Neither religion nor tribe was placed before reasoning. In the spirit of unity, everyone voted freely on their own accord. And these, above all else, are the reasons the 1993 presidential elections is considered to be the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria.

Undoubtedly, Nigeria as a country would have moved pass this stage of nepotism if the will of the people had prevailed. Our democracy would have attained maturity through unification, and progress would have been made.

But, the will of the people was not only denied, their elected president was also arrested and jailed.

Why was M.K.O Abiola arrested?

In 1994, Abiola declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos island, an area mainly dominated by Lagos Indigenes, after he returned from a trip to solicit the support of the international community for his mandate. After declaring himself president he was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of military President General Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody. He was detained for four years, largely in solitary confinement with a Bible, Qur'an, and fourteen guards as companions.

 

When and how did M.K.O Abiola die?

Chief M.K.O Abiola died on July 7, 1998, under suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of General Abacha. The self-acclaimed president, Moshood Abiola, died on the day that he was due to be released. While the official autopsy stated that Abiola died of natural causes, Abacha's Chief Security Officer, al-Mustapha has alleged that Moshood Abiola was in fact beaten to death. al-Mustapha, who was detained by the Nigerian government, but later released, claims to have video and audiotapes showing how Abiola was beaten to death. The final autopsy report, which was produced by a group of international coroners has never been publicly released. Irrespective of the exact circumstances of his death, it is clear that Chief Abiola received insufficient medical attention for his existing health conditions.

What have we learned from the election as a nation?

Judging from the present situation of things, it can be sadly said that Nigeria as a nation has learned nothing from the June 12, 1993, presidential election.

ALSO READ: 'MKO's death paved way for our democracy,' Atiku says

 

 

 

 



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