Throwback Thursday June 12 reminds you of how Nigeria's unborn democracy was murdered - Welcome to NaijaCity Blog


Throwback Thursday June 12 reminds you of how Nigeria's unborn democracy was murdered

Throwback Thursday June 12 reminds you of how Nigeria's unborn democracy was murdered

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After MKO Abiola won the June 12 elections, the military began to look for ways to hold on to power dor a few more years.

The misrule of Nigeria’s military era, from the 60s to the 90s, suppressed the will of the people on two notable occasions, first with the January 1966 coup and Buhari’s time-out on Shagari’s agbada-wearing corruption on the last day of 1983.

But it was on June 12, 1993, that the people’s hopes was expressed in a nascent democracy; it would be murdered, along with a lot of the people who had fought to make it happen.
After Nigerians had tired of Babangida’s constant manoeuvring and corrupt dealings and had managed to pressure Maradona as he was then known, into agreeing to step down from his position, elections had been called for June 12, 1993.
The two candidates seemed to command enough of a followership to guarantee a tightly contested election.
Bashir Tofa was but it was Chief M.K.O Abiola, a wealthy international businessman and philanthropist who seemed to be the people’s favourite.
From 1972 until his death Moshood Abiola had been conferred with over a hundred traditional titles by numerous different communities in Nigeria, in response to his having provided financial assistance in the construction of secondary schools, mosques and churches, libraries, and 21 water projects in 24 states of Nigeria.
He was grand patron to 149 societies or associations in Nigeria.
playNelson Mandela and MKO Abiola (thescoopng)
In addition to his work in Nigeria, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola supported the Southern African Liberation movements from the 1970s, and sponsored the campaign to win reparations for slavery and colonialism in Africa and the diaspora.
All these helped portray the image of a man who would fit seamlessly into the position of President of the world’s most populous black nation.

The voice of the People

The sentiment, support and scale of his campaign were collectively so overwhelming that when Nigerians went to the polls on June 12, 1993, it seemed the outcome was only a matter of protocol.
Elections in Nigeria, from the pre-colonial era, have always been marred or at the least, influenced by rigging and violence at various levels.
While it is difficult to make unnecessary assertions on the nature of the June 12 elections, not many in the country would have flattered themselves to expect a completely clean process.
Yet, international observers adjudged the June 12 elections to be the freest and fairest in Nigeria’s history.
There were minimal reports of violence despite a massive turnout, one of the largest by percentage of registered voters in Nigerian history.
When the results were released, it became clear that pre-election sentiments were right on the money.  MKO had secured a resounding, overwhelming victory over Tofa, even defeating the latter in his home state.

With 8.3 million votes and 53.6% of the total vote count as against Tofa’s 5.9 million votes, MKO was declared the winner of the election.
playBabangida and Abiola enjoyed a cordial relationhip before the elections were annulled. (NaijaGists)

There was dancing in the streets. It seemed that finally, a dark phase in Nigerian history was giving in to hope and the creation of the Nigerian dream.
But then things began to go very very wrong.
No-one can settle on the specific reason why this happened.

The day Democracy died

Many believe that Babangida had promised Abacha the seat of power in exchange for the army’s support in months around their 1985 coup and with the clock winding down, the ruthless Chief of Defence Staff had come calling for his end of the bargain to be fulfilled.
Others speculate that the Northern elite was reluctant to see power shift to the North, under such optimistic circumstances.
Since independence, federal power had been held by Northern officers and politicians. With a Southern Muslim introducing the dawn of democracy and civilian rule, the existing power structure was threatened.
Even still, there is a belief that the soldiers were reluctant to hand over power to a civilian who they saw as one of them. Abiola was a friend of the military’s most promising and influential stalwarts.
There are rumours that he had sponsored coups in the past and was often manoeuvring his way to the presidency over the years.
M.K.O Abiola, June 12 election winnerplay
M.K.O Abiola
It is likely that the soldiers saw this as Abiola protecting his altruistic image on the outside, even though he was basically one of them.
Either way, Babangida proved hesitant to announce Abiola as the winner of the elections.
After massive pressure, he seemed ready to do so, but a few weeks after the results were announced, IBB annulled the June 12 elections.
In a message broadcast to the country, Babangida claimed that the process had been incredibly flawed.
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”.
The nation was thrown into disarray, discontent and gloom.
Violence erupted in many cities, especially Lagos. Followers of Abiola called for the presumed winner to claim his mandate and stick the people’s voice in the military’s face.
In a speech to the country, Abiola read his intent to millions of Nigerians who were anxious to know what would come of the power tussle.
playWhile speaking truth to the military and demanding her husband's release, Kudirat Abiola paid the ultimate price (Information Nigeria)

It is inconceivable that a few people in government should claim to know so much better about politics and government than the 14 million Nigerians who actually went to the polls on June 12."
The people of Nigeria have spoken. They have loudly and firmly proclaimed their preference for democracy. They have chosen me as their president for the next four years. They have determined  that August 27, 1993, shall be the terminal date of military dictatorship in Nigeria.
On that date, the people of Nigeria, through their democratic decision of June 12, 1993, expect me to  assume the reins of government.
"I fully intend to keep that date with history.", he said.

The events that followed are some of the most storied in Nigerian history.
By the end of the year, Abiola was languishing in prison, where he would pass away on July 7, 1998.
Sani Abacha would take power from Babangida, after the latter all but fled, to his residence in Minna.
Today, Nigeria is in the 9th year of the longest democratic dispensation in its history, called the fourth republic.
It was and is still packaged as the time when Nigeria finally realises it’s potential.
Yet, the problems that plagued the military era have remained albeit in new, media-friendly iterations.
The men in uniform who stole out democracy in 1993 are still around; in 2018, they’re feeding off it with agbadas draped over their shoulder.
I fully intend to keep that date with history.

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