Going back to the memory lane, June 12, 1993 was known to be the free-st and fairest election ever to be held on the soil of Nigeria. We had the best two party arrangements as espoused by the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida led administration.
We had the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a little to the left and National Republican Convention, a little to the right.
The Pro-democracy groups fought the military to a corner, IBB had no choice than to submit to the will of the people for the election to hold.
Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola was the Presidential candidate of SDP while Alhaji Bashir Tofa was the Presidential candidate of NRC. At this time religion was not a factor unlike now. It was a Muslim/Muslim candidates on both sides. SDP also had Muslim as its presidential candidate and running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe. The election was peaceful, as if the weather knew there was going to be an election, we had the best friendly weather.
MKO of SDP won the election in 19 states including FCT with over 8m votes while Alhaji Bashir Tofa of NRC had 6 million votes and won in 10 states as declared by the Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, Prof. Humprey Nwosu many years later.
ON June 23, 1993, the unexpected happened, the election was annulled by IBB in a nationwide broadcast, not announced by IBB. The heaven was let loose with massive protests nationwide especially in the southwest. The Nigerian Labour Congress, NUPENG led by Chief Frank Kokori and pro-democracy activists took to the streets protesting the annulment.
IBB was forced to “step aside” on August 26, 1993 while Chief Ernest Shonekan, a Yoruba man was sworn in as Head of Interim government hurriedly put in place by the cabals.
After the annulment MKO addressed a world press conference in which he firmly rejected the annulment “..As I speak today, I am, by the infinite grace of God, and the wishes of the people of this country the president elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I am the custodian of a sacred mandate, freely given, which I cannot surrender unless the people so demand, and it is by virtue of this mandate that I say that the decision of Federal Military Government to cancel the election of June 12, 1993 is invidious, unpatriotic and capable of causing undue and unnecessary confusion in the country. I also call on the international community and all democratic forces to stand by the Nigerian people in our just struggle for democracy, freedom and justice in our fatherland,
From now on, the struggle in Nigeria is between the people and a small clique in the military determined to cling to power at all costs..”
To worsen the struggles, Gen. Sanni Abacha, Chief of Defence Staff under Chief Shonekan took over power in a bloodless coup to consolidate power on November 17, 1993.
The struggles gave birth to NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) with eminent personalities like Pa Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Bola Ige, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Pa Alfred Rewane, Pa Anthony Enahoro, Chief Ndubuisi Kanu, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Col Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (Rtd), Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd), Senator Bola Tinubu, Pa Ayo Opadokun, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi and many others.
The notable pro-democracy groups’ personalities include; Prof. Wole Soyinka, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, Dr. Tai Solarin (until his death on June 27, 1994), Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, Chief Femi Falana, Chief Emeka
Anyaoku, Joe Igbokwe, Chima Ubani, Chief Alao Aka Bashorun (former NBA President), Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, Iyochia Ayu (former Senate President), Chief Frank Kokori, Prof. Sola Adeyeye, Bayo Onanuga, Nosa Igiebor, Babafemi Ojodu, Dare Babarinsa, Bagauda Kaltho (Tempo) The News, Tell, The Guardian, Tempo, Concord the lists are endless.
Senator Bola Tinubu and Prof. Wole Soyinka escaped through Benin Republic to United Kingdom to set up Radio Freedom and later Radio Kudirat being run by Dr. Kayode Fayemi and others between 8-9pm daily. One should not forget to specifically mention National Association of Nigerian Students, Nigerian Labour Congress and NUPENG.
I could remember a day at Yaba when the army came with their tanks to scare away protesters led by Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), the story had it that Gani as he was fondly called dared the armoured tanks by sleeping on the floor for it to crush him. But they could not.
One other incident I witnessed was a day after the annulment at Ilasamaja close to Isolo under Bridge in Lagos, we always come along with others to the Expressway to resume our protests with born tyres. No vehicular movements. But this very day, I and my younger brother were on the road till about 1.00pm we decided to go home very close to the Expressway to have our lunch and then come back. By the time we came back an hour later, we saw corpses of youths littering the road, many of them. I was wondering if I had not left to have my lunch I and my brother would have been involved. I would have been dead like hundreds of others across Nigeria. I was told that Abacha who was passing with his entourage ordered the shooting. The youths were hailing him thinking he was on the side of MKO with all his declarations before he took over power. The rest has now become history today.
Under the tense situations, the economy was almost grounded to a halt with mass protests especially in Lagos and Ibadan and other major cities in Nigeria.
In all of these struggles, I did not hear names like Dr. Bukola Saraki, Dino Melaye, Femi Fani-Kayode, Ayodele Fayose neither did I hear names like Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Boda George or Wike of this world. These people were never part of the struggles but are eating where they did not sow. People like Babagana Kingibe, Anenih, Olu Onagoruwa, Chief Ebenezer Babatope backed out when the struggles was fierce.
Under the struggles Tell, The News, Tempo, Weekly Concord, The Masses (Chief Gani Fawehinmi) were all proscribed by IBB same day. In spite of their proscription order, you will still see the magazines on newsstands through the back door. I always got my copies of Tell, The News, and Tempo by subscription delivered to me directly to my office on Broad Street by their Despatch Riders.
In the struggles many activists lost their lives, Pa Alfred Rewane and Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, wife of winner of June 12 election, MKO Abiola were assassinated, Pa Abraham Adesanya’s car was riddled with bullets near Sandgross Market, Sura in Lagos, he escaped by the whiskers.
MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential elections died in prison after taking a cup of tea. His offense? For claiming his mandate. He died for these greedy prodigal political jobbers to reap where they did not sow.
Should we allow these heroes and martyrs of democracy to die in vain? With the way our democracy is being managed and run, it seems we have forgotten the trauma we went through to get to where we are today.
Those who were never part of the struggles are the ones messing up democracy many Nigerians shed their blood for.
I don’t know if anyone can still remember “Abacha Stove” with saw dusts that was the extent of hardship we all went through to bring about this democracy we laboured so hard to achieve.
The question is, why should the federal government declare May 29 and not JUNE 12 Democracy Day?
I recognise JUNE 12 of every year as democracy day in Nigeria. Without June 12 Chief Olusegun Obasanjo would not have become a civilian President at a time he was elected. Without June 12 there would not have been anything called democracy in Nigeria. I thought APC led federal government, a progressive party would have declared June 12 as national public holiday on assumption of office.
This issue should be revisited, democracy day should be June 12 and not May 29.
The majority of the politicians of today across party lines have not learnt any lesson from June 12 debacle.
- This is not the democracy Chief MKO Abiola fought and died for.
- This is not the democracy many notable people were assassinated for.
- This is not the democracy hundreds of innocent people lost their lives through police and army bullets and brutality on the streets.
I wish you ALL happy Democracy Day!
By: Adesoji Omosebi.
www.sojworld.com (c) June 12, 2017