June 12: Not just another day in the lifetime of our nation

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MKO Abiola, President-Elect of the 1993 Presidential election

June 12, 1993 is a day that will never be forgotten in Nigeria's history.

Where were you on Saturday, June 12, 1993?

It's been 24 years since Nigerians came out to vote for a civilian president. We had two choices, MKO Abiola the wealthy businessman on the ticket of the SDP and Bashir Tofa of the NRC.

I was a kid back then but I could sense the gravity of the elections. Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida had been in power since 1985. After tricking Nigerians several times he decided to hold a democratic election.

 

With a two party system, MKO Abiola and Bashir Tofa emerged as the presidential candidates of the Social Democratic Party and the National Republican Convention respectively.

 

In the South-West, MKO Abiola was the candidate. I didn't know about politics and was way too young to vote but I knew Abiola was the candidate of choice. In 1993, Lagos and most of the country was engulfed in MKO Mania. He was positioned as the generous millionaire who would revitalise Nigeria's economy. A man who would put an end to decades of on and off military rule and coups.

 

We the kids of Corona Primary School Apapa knew MKO's 'On the March Again' word for word. We sang it during lunch break or any free period we had. We joined our aunties and uncles in breaking down his initials as 'money, kudi, owo'.

The D-day finally came and my parents voted for him. My teachers voted for him. Everyone I knew voted for him. I had this tingling sensation that MKO was going to win.

The results started coming in and it was clear that MKO was going to win. It was just a matter of formality until IBB aka the Evil Genius appeared on our TV screens.

 

"Fellow Nigerians: I address you today with a deep sense of world history and particularly of the history of our great country. In the aftermath of the recently annulled Presidential Election, I feel, as I believe you yourself feel, a profound sense of disappointment at the outcome of our last efforts at laying the foundation of a viable democratic system of government in Nigeria.

"I, therefore, wish, on behalf of myself and members of the National Defence and Security Council and indeed of my entire administration, to feel with my fellow countrymen and women for the cancellation of the election. It was a rather disappointing experience in the course of carrying through the last election of the transition to civil rule programme.

IBB annulled what has been deemed as Nigeria's freest and fairest election. The country was thrown into confusion. Nigerians had clearly spoken but IBB decided not to listen.

 

The aftermath of June 12, 1993, led Nigeria into a crisis. There were riots and protests. I remember leaving school early on many days because there were riots in Lagos. I remember my green leaves on the windscreen of my father's car. It was a sign of solidarity. It was a sign to tell the protesters that we were down for the cause.

Two months later after much upheaval, IBB 'stepped aside' as Head of State. The events that would play out after this would throw Nigeria into darkness for the next 5 years.

 

IBB tarnished his legacy by denouncing the will of the people and MKO Abiola started his journey to immortality.



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