A seemingly unending circle of bad leadership makes Nigeria a sad country. No entity that does not have inherent problems, but Nigeria’s are compounded by the succession of bad leadership that haunts her landscape. Therefore, Nigeria is really a sad case. Even the medium of comfort zones the members of the ruling class create for themselves and theirs appear to be relishing, if you feel the eerie undercurrent, are under the peace of the grave yard.
As I write this wet Tuesday, it is exactly19 years on June 12, 1993, when Nigerians went out and voted overwhelming for business mogul and philanthropist, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola, in an election considered by local and international observers as Nigeria’s freest and fairest presidential election. It is history that the administration of Abiola’s “friend”, military President Ibrahim Babangida, annulled that poll, aborting the announcement of the final results by the then National Electoral Commission (NEC) Chairman, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, which already had Abiola coasting to victory with an embarrassingly-wide margin over his opponent, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, in the two-party race.
The annulment of the June 12, 1993,presidential election has had its repercussions on Nigeria since then. The annulment forced Babangida to “step aside” from the position of military President in which his regime had frittered over N40 billion and he amply lived up to his sobriquet Maradona (adopted from the skillful runs of the legendary but troubled Argentine footballer Diego Armand Maradona). The ultimate goal of Babangida’s expensive and seemingly endless political transition programme was his transmuting to “President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” sans the qualifier “Military.”
Babangida’s annulment of the June 12, 1993,presidential poll achieved what coup d’etat could not against his regime. His “stepping aside” gave Nigeria her first and only Interim National Government (ING) to date. In quick order, the Chief Ernest Shonekan-led ING was eased in and eased out. Nigeria got one of the bleakest episodes of her history, thus far, courtesy that annulment when Gen. Sani Abacha formally grabbed the reins of power from Shonekan in whose hands the hold had at best been tentative. If the bombing to death of the late Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine, Dele Giwa, marks out the watch of Babangida over Nigeria, under Abacha assassinations and near-assassinations through bombs, guns and other implements of death became as common as day following night or vice-versa. The victims or near-victims cut across ages, sexes and positions.
Remember the late Iyalode Egba, Chief (Mrs)Bisoye Tejuosho? The late Chief Alfred Rewane? Late Chief Security Officer (CSO), Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Ikeja, Lagos, Dr. Sola Omosola? Late journalist of The NEWS magazine fame, Mr. Bagauda Kaltho? Remember those who miraculously survived when their vehicles came under hail of gunfire? Remember late chieftain of the now defunct National Democratic Coalition(NADECO), Chief Abraham Adesanya? And late Chairman, Guardian Newspapers Limited and former Interior Minister under the Abacha regime, Mr. Alex Ibru? Adesanya and Ibru and a number of others equally survived and went on to add several fruitful years before answering the final call or are even still living their lives despite the traumatic experience.
Lest, I forget, the Abacha regime gave Nigerian’s the notorious “toxic” fuel that made many persons and vehicles sick. The reclusive maximum ruler, whose poor state of health was a favourite topic of discussion, passed on at the Aso Rock Villa and was succeeded by Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Whatever else may be said about his regime, Abubakar was quick in prosecuting a return into civil rule. However, he will surely be haunted by the memory of the fact that under his watch, Abiola died still under the shackles of detention that Abacha slammed him into about three years earlier, after the hero of June 12,1993, declared himself President of Nigeria at Epetedo, Lagos State. Abiola paid the ultimate sacrifice in pursuing the validation of his mandate.
“Soldier go, soldier come … the irrepressible Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang. Abubakar’s transition programme saw former military head of state, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd), returning in a civilian garb as Nigeria’s first citizen. Abacha had thrown Obasanjo into jail over alleged involvement in a coup, but Abubakar set him free. The former head of state in due course became the presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And in due coast emerged the civilian President of Nigeria with out as much as breaking sweat. Certain wags point to Babangida, Abubakar and others as the architects of the Obasanjo Presidency, making references to Fela’s Army Arrangement. Soldier go, soldier come, indeed.
While the repercussions of the annulment of the June 12, 2012, presidential poll have been bad for the majority of Nigerians, who were callously denied the opportunity to be led by the candidate they happily voted overwhelming for to do so, there are those who have reaped bountifully from the annulment. Political jobbers and sundry other hustlers had fled the country into exile in countries far and near, joining the ranks of persons who were genuinely fleeing for lives and limbs from the operatives of the Police state that Nigeria had become then. Did you say that Nigeria is still a Police state? No, I disagree! Acting (why still acting?) Inspector General of Police Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar has done so much within such a short time to restore public confidence in the Nigeria Police Force (NPF). So, if one must use Police state for Nigeria now, it must be merely figuratively, not literally. But, I digress.
Many have either settled in greener pastures abroad or have returned from such sojourns to cosy political positions by merely claiming to have given their all for the actualisation of Abiola’s mandate. But the man is dead, and they are alive and thriving? Many of them were active in actualising the and sustaining the annulment. Many of them had goaded Abiola into forcefully claiming his mandate, promising a human shield of thousands should the Abacha come for him. Abiola did not get that promised cocoon when he was grabbed and sent to a lonely and demeaning long-drawn detention that only ended with his demise.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.