By Stephen Ubanna
For the past 25 years, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo in the south west geo-political region of Nigeria and Edo state in the south south had kept the name of late Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, Presidential election alive.
The 1993 election which threw up Abiola as the Presidential Candidate of the defunct, Social Democratic Party, SDP, and went to ahead to win the polls was annulled by Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, a retired General, and the then Military President . The annulment of election was said to have brought the country to a to a standsill by the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO and other pro-democracy groups within and outside the country.
At the onset, the June 12,celebration in these south west states had been under close security watch by the then military Administrations of Babangida and Late General Sani Abacha. The situation was so bad in Lagos, Nigeria Commercial nerve centre where there was frequent a clash of interest between pro-democracy groups and security operatives.
In one of the instances at Ojota, Late Gani Fawehinmi, a senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, who had led the demonstration in to force the government to reverse its decision on the June 12 Presidential election annulment had dared the heavily armed mobile police men to shoot at the crowd.
The defenseless demonstrators were encouraged to stay put as they were served food and drinks to sustain the struggle. The activists who were under the watch list of the Department of State Security,DSS, suspected to have called out the demonstrators to the street were said to have been, arrested and detained. The dentition of the pro-democracy demonstrators, political analysts said, never dampened the enthusiasm of the Pro-democracy activists to continue the struggle for the actualisation of June 12, 1993, Presidential election.
The return of democracy in the country in 1999, provided ammunition for the Pro-democracy activists to celebrate June 12, in Lagos and the other states in the south west without fear of molestation by security operatives.
But the June 12, 2018, anniversary, being the 25th year rememberance of the annulment of the 1993 Presidential election by Babangida was a different ball game. The pro-democracy and labour activists had trooped out in their large number and while some matched to Abiola Crescent, off Toyin street, to pay their last respect to the late political hero who died in military detention.
For now, they could happily match on the streets of Lagos with singing and chanting of Abiola’s name because of the recognition of the annulled Presidential election and late Abiola as the winner by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All progressive Congress, APC,
On Tuesday June 6, 2018, Buhari demonstrated that his decision to uphold the annulled election was in the best interest of the country by declaring June 12, as Nigeria Democracy day , given its symbolic in the struggle for democracy in the country.
Buhari may have bowed to pressures from the pro-democracy groups , to identify with the progressives in the country, considered by many as a decoy to facilitate his re-election bid in 2019. OnTuesday, June 12, 2018, which coincided with the June 12, celebration, an elated Buhari said the ceremony was not intended to open new wounds but to ”right the wrongs of the past”. He was said to have apologised to the family of the business mogul for the wrong done to him by the Administrations of Generals Ibrahim Badamosi, rtd and late Sani Abacha.
The event provided an opportunity for him to confer the national honour of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR title on Abiola . He wa said to have also conferred the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, GCON, national honour title on Babagana Kingibe, a former Secretary to the Federal government of the Federation under the then Administration of Late Musa Yar’ adua, and who incidentally was Abiola’s running mate in the 1993 Presidential election and , Fawehinmi, a pro-democracy activists and SAN.
The Magazine learnt that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan and Babangida, the former military President who is at the center of the June 12, annullment, could not honour the invitation extended to them by Boss Gida Mustapha, Seecretary to the government on the orders of Buari.
Giving his inability to show up at the event, Obasanjo was said to have tendered a letter of apology to the government. He had attributed it to pressing international engagements outside the country but however, wished the Abiola family well with their new title.
Babangida, t was also said to have tendered a letter of apology to the government for his absence in the ceremony. He was said to have apologised to the family over his action which many described as belated.
A source informed the Magazine that Buhari had been under intense pressure from Civil Rights groups to arrest Babangida and other senior military officers, now retired who spearheaded the annulment of June 12, 1993, Presidential election considered one of the freest and fairest in the country by the International Community and Observers.
Nigerians, according to the source are not only pushing for the arrest of Babangida and his cohorts in the June 12 annulment but are urging the government to prevail on the former Military President to explain why he had remained unremorseful and not telling the public the full story why his Administration took the action.
Given reasons for the annulment of the 1993 Presidential election, Babangida had attributed it in a broadcast to the nation in 1993 to wispread irregularities and bad conducts leveled against Abiola and Bashir Tofa, the Presidential Candidates of the SDP and National Republican Convention , NRC, who slugged it out in the poll.
Tundun Abiola, one of the daughters of the late ” best President”, Nigeria never had confirmed that the former military President had actually apologised to the family. It would be recalled that the former military President had said repeatedly that he was forced to take the action because his ”life was threatened”. He was said to have been told by tofficers within the Army, opposed to Abiola, being sworn in as the President and Commander -in-Chief, CinC, of the Armed Forces, which was under the firm grip of late General Abacha , that they will not hesitate to kill both of them, if he dares them to allow the business mogul succeed him.
Perhaps, to save his life and walk out of ASO Rock a freeman, he had set up the lame duck interim government headed by Earnes Shonekan,a former Chairman and Chief Executive of UAC, in November 1993 to appease the Yorubas for the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential election.
Many had expected him to step aside with Abacha, but he left him behind to work with the interim government in the same portfolio as the Secretary of Defense.
Unknown to many, the military had a succession plan that after Bangida eight years in office, late General Abacha would step in. It is not surprising why many see him as the greatest beneficiaries of the theJune 12 saga.” Babangida was responsible for June 12 annulment but not for his incarceration and murder”, Tundun had said.
There is no gain saying the fact that late Abacha masterminded the arrest of late Abiola after the June 11, 1994, proclamation speech at Epetedo area of Lagos Island local government area where he was said to claimed his stolen mandate from the politicians in Army uniform who , he had described as being ”more devious than any civilian would want to be”.
The business mogul had formed a” Government of National Unity” which was considered by Abacha, who ordered his arrest and incarceration in 1994 but died in mysterious circumstances on July 7, 1998.