There is no doubt that the annual celebration of the annulment of the June 12 (1993) presidential election will be done on a happier note today than previously. The presidential election conducted on June 12, 1993 was inconclusive because the then Government headed by then Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, abruptly cancelled the election when almost all the results were ready. Then National Electoral Commission (NEC), headed by erudite university lecturer, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, was prevented from announcing Chief M. K. O. Abiola (of the Social Democratic Party, SDP), who was coasting home to victory, as the winner of the election.
Abiola rejected the annulment and took on the government of that time in a protracted confrontation that culminated in his death in prison, shortly after the death of Gen. Sani Abacha, who sacked the lackluster Interim National Government headed by Chief Earnest Shonekan, in a palace coup.
Abiola had, in the now famous Epetedo Declaration of June 11, 1994, declared himself president and commander-in-chief of a national unity government which made the Gen. Abacha’s government to arrest and detain him till he died.
Abiola in that speech at the Epetedo Island in Lagos State had declared: “As of now, from this moment, a new Government of National Unity is in power throughout the length and breadth of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, led by me, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, as President and Commander-in-Chief. The National Assembly is hereby reconvened. All dismissed governors are hereby reinstated.
“The State Assemblies are reconstituted, as are all local government councils. I call upon the usurper, General Sani Abacha, to announce his resignation forthwith, together with the rest of his illegal ruling council. We are prepared to enter into negotiations with them to work out the mechanics for a smooth transfer of power”.
Since the annulment of that election which is considered by political observers as the freest and fairest election in Nigeria, the country has not been able to resolve the crisis that followed the cancellation. The decision of ex-President Babangida to step aside, the enthronement of Chief Ernest Shonekan as head, Interim National Government (ING), the overthrow of the ING by Gen. Abacha, the death of Abiola’s wife, Dr. Kudirat Abiola, the decision of Ambassador Babagana Kingibe (Abiola’s running mate) to dump the struggle to take appointment in Abacha’s Military Government and finally, the death of Abiola in prison, were all believed to have been negative fall out of the annulment. There was general and sustained opposition against the annulment by Civil Society Organisations led by the Civil Liberty Organisation (CLO). Simply put, the bitterness refused to die.
The struggle to actualize June 12 continued with frustrations engulfing those opposed to the annulment. In fact, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) Chairman, Olawale Oshun in a speech titled: “Nigeria: finding a closure to June 12 crisis” in Akure, Ondo State, to mark the 24th anniversary of the annulment said: “What other evidence do you need that the country is in a stranglehold of an invisible ruling clique, if almost 20 years into Abiola’s death, and almost 24 years into the annulment of his election as president of our country, some kind of post-hummus accommodation cannot be found for him. No recognition of his martyrdom, in any form, even by the beneficiaries of his struggle. Is it that the country should die for them to exist, and like the parasite feasting on an organ, isn’t the death of the organ a precursor of the death of the parasite?”
ARG’s bewilderment remained the thinking of all pro-June 12 agitators until last Wednesday when President Buhari announced recognition for Abiola and his supporters. Coming at the time and from an administration least expected of such gesture, Buhari conferred the honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), reserved only for Presidents on the late Bashorun and also proclaimed the honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) usually given to vice presidents on Ambassador Kingibe.
The announcement has arguably smoothened frayed nerves and Buhari has been commended by several people and groups for this gesture. Some other people however argue that it was an action taken more for quick political gains than for any enduring resolution of the wrongs and tension still mounting in the country as the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led federal government faces uncertain future in next year’s general election.
The AUTHORITY Newspapers believe that some reconciliation has been achieved by the recognition given to Abiola and June 12 agitators, but we also believe that it was not deep enough, not methodical and in fact, has raised more issues and posers. For instance: On what basis is Abiola being recognized as a former president? Was it not proper to have officially announced the 1993 presidential election results, before the winner (Abiola) is recorgnised as winner? Why is Prof. Humphrey Nwosu not given any recognition for conducting the best election recorded in the history of Nigeria? Beyond Abiola and Kingibe, what remedies does the Buhari administration have for other victims of the June 12 crisis? There is no doubt that the biological family of the late Abiola was wrecked by that crisis.
Moving forward, we advise the Federal Government to go further in tackling other lingering crisis on which brutal force has failed as a remedy, in particular, the Biafra agitation, insurgency, herdsmen attacks and killings, armed banditry, Niger Delta agitation, among others. The president must seek immediate solution to these festering issues. Leaving them behind or treating half-heartedly, or apparently so, is not too good at this time.