New Telegraph

February 29, 2024

Over 28 years of June 12 and the current realities: Lessons for Nigerians

The annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election has been repeatedly referred to as a watershed in Nigeria’s history. The reasons for this assertion are not farfetched. That election was the freest and fairest election in the electoral history of the country.

The then Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO), adopted a unique voting system known as Option A4 which made rigging and other electoral malpractices practically impossible. It made accreditation, voting and declaration of results happen simultaneously in different voting units across the country, with the active participation of electoral officials, party agents and security agents in the presence of the voters.

There was no room for bribing of voters, hijacking of ballot boxes or falsification of results. Option A4, though regarded then as a unique voting system with several limitations, turned out to be very effective in checkmating the excesses of the desperate Nigerian politicians.

The end result was that the result of the election was publicly known even before FEDECO started announcing it in Abuja based on returns from the states. Fourteen states had been announced and a clear winner already emerged before the General Ibrahim Babangida-led military administration stopped the process and eventually annulled the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history.

In examining the direct impact of Option A4 in Nigeria’s electoral process, certain fundamental issues were very clear. Chief Moshood Kashinmawo Osuolale Abiola, the leading candidate in the election, who would have been declared as the President-elect, if the process had not been truncated, was a Moslem. The fact that he picked a Moslem running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, didn’t matter to the voters.

They massively voted for Moslem-Moslem ticket. Religion, therefore, wasn’t a consideration in that election. The analysis of the result showed that the mandate was pan-Nigerian. The fact that MKO’s opponent, Alhaji Bashir Tofa was a Northerner with a running mate from the South East had no impact on the voting pattern. So, tribal and ethnic sentiments were also pushed aside by Nigerians.

The euphoria across the country was so positive that it became apparent that a new Nigeria was emerging through June 12 electoral process. June 12, therefore, could have been a foundation for a new Nigeria. The annulment of June 12 election and the subsequent crisis it generated was what led Nigeria to its present quagmire. Another process, initiated by the late maximum ruler, General Sanni Abacha was a direct opposite of the process that led to June 12.

Abacha was hell-bent on transmuting from a military dictator to a civilian president that every step of that process was rigged to produce him as a sole presidential candidate of the five political parties that emerged from the process. That was why he supervised the writing of a constitution specifically designed for him to use as civilian dictator. In doing this, he had the backing of the Northern political establishment made up of individuals who were unhappy about June 12 and who were fundamentally opposed to transfer of power to the South.

Abacha’s sudden death in office was a divine intervention that saved Nigeria from perhaps the worst dictatorship that could have emerged in the country’s history. It is unfortunate, however, that it was the same Abacha’s Constitution that Nigeria retained till today which is causing division amongst the three major tribes today. General Abdulsalam Abubakar, Abacha’s successor dusted the document and presented it to Nigerians as the 1999 Constitution. It must be noted that Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, along with late Barr. Richard Babatunde Adejumo played a significant role for June 12 election to hold.

They obtained the historic judgement that enabled Nigerians to vote at the election of June 12. Onitiri also played important role at the swearing in of Late MKO Abiola as the President of Nigeria, otherwise known as Epetedo Declaration. Another fall-out of the annulment of June 12 was that the late General Abacha was not working alone in his quest to transmute into civilian dictator. He had a lot of foot soldiers across the country. What made it easy for him to go that far was money. Abacha opened the Central Bank of Nigeria for anyone willing to work for the actualization of his ambition.

So, all the politicians who participated in the Abacha transition programme did so for the money. His sudden death was not anticipated. That threw spanners into the deal. The next option was for Abiola, then in Abacha’s detention to be released to claim his mandate. Abacha’s people, especially in the military and their civilian collaborators, would not want that. Too much investment had gone into their plot to grab power in Nigeria. So, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Osuolale Abiola, the Nigerian president-elect, through the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history must die for them to achieve their ambition despite Abacha’s death.

It is, therefore, clear that General Abdusalam Abubakar’s transition programme was a continuation of Abacha’s programme. The registration of new political parties was just a strategy to allow Abacha’s politicians, who were loaded with loots from Abacha’s self-succession plot, to regroup. So, money politics and other bizarre behaviour of the Present Nigerian politicians were direct consequences of Abacha’s ambition designed to bury June 12 permanently. That process has now thrown up the worst political system, which caters only for the politicians and their appointees while ignoring the welfare and well- being of ordinary Nigerians.

•Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, a socio-political activist and critic, writes from Lagos.

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