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Archival: Personalities that shaped June 12 and the roles they played!

June 12, 2013

Indeed, the making of June 12 as a political memorial and the source of ceaseless national debates was a direct fall out of the actions of some principal characters and notably: Gen Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), Chief M.K.O Abiola, Alhaji Bashir Torfa, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, Chief Sylvester Ugo, Chief Tony Anenih, Chief Tom Ikimi and Chief Ernest Shonekan. Others are; Chief Frank Ovie-Kokori, Paschal Bafyau, Sen Athour Nzeribe, Justice Bassey Ikpeme, Justice Dahiru Saleh, Abimbola Davies, Prof Omo Omoruyi, late Gen Sani Abacha among others.

Ibrahim Babangida
Gen Ibrahim Babangida
For students of history, the name Gen Babangida (rtd), has been a recurring feature of any discourse on June 12. This is primarily informed by his position as the President and Commander in chief of the Armed Forces, on whose desk the buck stopped. As head of the Armed Forces Ruling Council – the highest decision making organ of the military junta, IBB as he is generally called, claimed he annulled the polls in the “interest of the state.”

In his June 26, 1993 broadcast to the nation, IBB said, “In the circumstance, the administration had no option than to respond appropriately to the unfortunate experience of terminating the presidential election. Our actions are in full conformity with the original objectives of the transition to civil programme.’’ He was generally acclaimed to have conceived the freest and fairest election in Nigeria history but ironically annulled the same.

Chief M.K.O Abiola

Late MKO Abiola
Chief Moshood Abiola was believed to have won the June 12 presidential election and was declared so fifteen years after by the chief electoral umpire, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu in June 2008. That was also ten years after Abiola’s death. Abiola, a business mogul became the presidential candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP having emerged after a fiercely contested primary on March 27, 1993 in Jos, that had Babagana Kingibe and Atiku Abubakar as his fellow candidates.

One of richest Nigerians at that time and with great influence in the military rulers of that time, it was easy for analysts to describe Abiola as the frontline candidate. His colourful campaigns across the country easily proved it. With the slogan ‘Hope 93’, he easily tapped from his extensive goodwill arising from his legendary philanthropy across the country. Abiola was known to have been conferred with chieftaincy titles from many places across the ethnic and religious divides.

It was no surprise to many Nigerians that he eventually overwhelmingly won the polls by 58 percent. But his decision to reject the annulment was the beginning of what is now known as the June 12 crisis. Indeed, it is believed that had Abiola accepted the annulment, that June 12 would have become like one of the several other political reversals that characterized the transition programme of the Babangida regime.

The election would have passed for any other national event. But by insisting on his mandate, the man, who abandoned the comfort that his money could guarantee to seek public service, largely made the event a watershed in the nation’s history. Even though his July 7, 1998 death at the point of freedom to a large extent brought to an end the struggle for his mandate, many issues thrown up by the issue have remained unanswered.

Alhaji Bashir Tofa
Alhaji Bashir Tofa was a largely unknown political figure at the point of his nomination as the candidate of the National

Republican Convention for the June 12 presidential elections. The Kano based businessman was, however, known as a very wealthy man who had connections to the then ruling military class.

His money, connections and political clout were, however, no match to Abiola who easily defeated him in his home in Kano. Suggestions that Tofa would play the good loser by conceding defeat failed and he as such played into the hands of those in the military who did not want the election to be upheld.

He has continued to defend the annulment telling reporters in Kano last week that the agitation for the mandate was nonsense and the whole brouhaha about June 12 as a fiction.”People who have nothing to offer this country or have nothing better to say can go on talking about June 12 because they have nothing else to say to help this country move forward,” Tofa said last week.

Ambassador Babagana Kingibe
Ambassador Kingibe was the chairman of the SDP, the party on which Abiola contested the election few months before the presidential primaries. With immense influence upon the SDP governors, he easily became a major factor in the run up to the SDP primaries which Abiola eventually won. The governors were nevertheless determined to foist him on the ticket as Abiola’s running mate, a decision Abiola took at the expense of Atiku Abubakar who was a loyalist of the powerful Shehu Musa Yar‘adua.

Following the annulment, Kingibe initially stood with Abiola but confidence in him among the pro-June 12 agitators gradually ebbed following his acceptance to serve in the Sani Abacha administration. A kanuri man like Abacha, some believe that he betrayed Abiola with his continued service in the government that detained and held Abiola hostage for five years.

Chief Tony Anenih
After Kingibe exited the office of national chairman of the SDP, the lot fell on Chief Tony Anenih, who fifteen or so years

Chief Anenih
ago retired from the police and entered into business and politics. Anenih was anointed chairman of the SDP with the blessing of Yar‘adua being that he was also a member of the Peoples Democratic Movement, PDM one of the strongest blocs within the SDP.

Though Anenih led his party to victory in the June 12 election, but not long after the results were annulled, Anenih was seen to have abandoned the cause of the party. While political leaders and rights activists were agitating for revalidation, Anenih reportedly looked the other way, and according to some sources turned into a strategist for the military regime that detained the flag bearer of his party.

Chief Tom Ikimi
Ikimi, was the national chairman of the NRC who led his party to defeat in the June 12 1993 election. Like his party’s presidential candidate, Tofa, he refused to concede victory and echoed the words of the military to justify the annulment of the results.  In his capacity as NRC chairman, Ikimi was allegedly a member of the committee that prepared the plan which produced the Interim National Government, ING. He also served in Abacha’s administration as Foreign Affairs Minister.

Chief Ernest Shonekan
Chief Ernest Shonekan was a respected figure in the business community who through his successful stewardship of UAC, one of Nigeria’s leading blue chip companies at that time had carved a name for himself. He was appointed by Babangida to head the transition cabinet at the beginning of 1993 and with the annulment he stayed on as chairman of what was named as an Interim National Government, ING which was supposed to arrange for another presidential election.

His ING was eventually declared illegal paving the way for Abacha to bare his fangs and assume full control of the country in November 1993. His acceptance to head the 32-man ING at the expense of his kinsman, Abiola infuriated many, who dismissed him as an obstacle to social justice.

Senator Arthur Nzeribe
Senator Arthur Nzeribe
Arthur Nzeribe had carved a dubious reputation as a spoiler through his Association for Better Nigeria, ABN. He had navigated the courts with several court actions aimed at stopping the election and with one Abimbola Davies and the mysterious Dr. Atkins raised fears among many Nigerians. His action in obtaining a midnight court injunction on June 10 stopping the election in a court presided over by the late Justice Bassey Ikpeme was one of the reasons given for the annulment.

Justice Bassey Ikpeme
Ikpeme made a ruling a few hours to June 12, 1993 to stop the elections from holding. This ruling is believed to have contravened Decree No. 13 of 1993, which does not recognise the jurisdiction of the court on the matter.

Justice Dahiru Saleh
An Abuja High Court, presided by Justice Dahiru Saleh ordered National Electoral Commission, NEC, to stop further announcements of election returns and subsequently declared the entire poll illegal on the ground that it was held in contravention of a subsisting court order. Defending his action in 2008, Saleh said both the late Ikpeme, who first ordered NEC not to conduct the elections, and himself were only doing their job.

Late Sani Abacha
Sani Abacha
Gen Sani Abacha came to national limelight as the announcer of the military coup that ousted President Shehu Shagari from office in 1983. Following that he became a permanent fixture in the military political chess game who bided his time till November 17, 1993 to acquire maximum power. It was claimed by some that Abacha and Abiola reached an agreement for a military intervention that would eventually lead to the transfer of power to him.

Even if true, Abacha apparently did not have any interest in honouring it as his regime exploited the June 12 crisis, by dismantling all democratic institutions and suppressing agitations for actualisation of the mandate. His regime brought a reign of near bestiality that had never been seen in the country as the government used all instruments of power to sustain Abacha in office. opponents were thrown into detention or forced into exile, and some were killed. Abacha held on to power until he died in office on June 8, 1998.

Prof Nwosu
Prof. Humphrey Nwosu
Prof. Humphrey Nwosu was the charismatic chairman of the election monitoring agency, National Electoral Commission, NEC. His supervision of the elections leading to the National Assembly and state legislative houses and the governorship elections were hailed as a large success. Even though the presidential election was also largely successful, Nwosu’s failure to speak up in defence of the election conducted by him even if he was reportedly under military coercion led many to lower impression of his earlier actions.


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