“I did not vote for myself. Nigerians voted for me. I have already won the presidential election. You cannot re-sit for an exam you have already passed.”
Dare Babarinsa, veteran journalist and author of ‘House Of War’ that tour de force of a book on the second republic politics in Nigeria reported MKO Abiola to have said in one of his post-June 12 statements before he was arrested and incarcerated. But what prompted the statement? Why that defiant stance?
June 12 remains a watershed in the history of Nigeria. June 12, 1993, was the day Nigerians placed national interest above primordial sentiments. Nigerians conducted themselves in an orderly manner and filed out to choose the person they would like to be at the helm of affairs of the country in a bid to send the soldiers back to their barracks.
The election was a two-horse race in which Moshood Kashimawo Olawale of the Social Democratic Party(SDP) squared up to Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC). Abiola’s horse coasted home to victory ahead of Tofa’s eagle. However, after the horse had breasted the tape the race was cancelled. Ibrahim Babangida the Head of States then ordered a fresh election and that was what prompted the opening statement credited to the late M.K.O Abiola. The late business mogul remained as stubborn as a mule and demanded the validation of his mandate. The rest, as they say, is history.
The enemies of June 12 were legion. But in celebration of the June 12 epoch, we take a look at those who belonged to the Abiola’s camp initially but became turncoats as the battle to reclaim his mandate thickened. These are the people, dead or alive, who shouted themselves hoarse while chorusing Hossana in support of Abiola on the eve of June 12 only to abandon him and start shouting crucify him as he wobbled under the cross of June 12 and traipsed through Golgotha to pay the supreme price for democracy.
The “evil genius” was the head of the military government from 1985 to1993. History will remember him as the prime architect of the June 12 debacle. He came up with the two parties, Social Democratic Party(SDP) and the National Republic Convection(NRC). One, a little to the left and the other a little to the right—on these platforms MKO Abiola and Basiru Tofa respectively contested. The gap-toothed dictator annulled the June 12 election on June 21, 1993, when it was clear that the winner was the late MKO Abiola and ordered a fresh election.
Abiola refused to go to the pools again. Often called Maradona– after the rotund diminutive football genius from Argentina– for his political deftness, Babangida would later feint and dribble the nation into a political cul de sac. On August 26, 1993, Babangida announced his exit by saying he would ” step aside” thus adding a new word to our ever increasing repertoire of political lexicons. By that singular action, he ushered in the Interim National Government(ING) headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.
However, things used to be rosy between the self-avowed evil genius and Abiola before June 12 drove a wedge into their relationship. In fact, MKO said, in his lifetime, that it was Babangida who first mooted the idea of running for the presidency to him. He raised the idea with him during the burial of his first wife, Simbiat, in Lagos in 1992. IBB, as he is fondly called, told MKO that he must contest election as the country could not wait to welcome him as their next president.
Abiola would later regret trusting Babangida while in Abacha’s gulag by saying: ” I believed in a friend. I trusted a friend and he betrayed me. IBB betrayed me.” IBB would later describe June 12 debacle as “unfortunate”.
A British-trained Nigerian Lawyer and an Egba Man like Abiola. In a move ostensibly make to placate the aggrieved south-western bloc IBB imposed Shonekan as head of an illegitimate contraption called Interim National Government. However,the real reason for installing Shonekan was to upstage his fellow Egba man in a way reminiscent of how Dr Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi(the Federal Minister of Health), in the wake of the political crisis known as operation Weti e that rocked the Western region, was used as a stop-gap by Tafawa Balewa during his declaration of state of emergency( the first in the history of Nigeria) in the region ensured Awolowo had been cooling his feet in prison before installing S.L Akintola his estranged deputy and the Hausa-Fulani minion.
Recounting the events that preceded the imposition of Shonekan as head of ING, Professor Omo Omoruyi, the late political adviser to IBB in his expose of a book titled: “The tale of June 12″ (an insider’s account of the intrigues that characterised Gen. Babangida’s transition), said,: First he ( Shonekan) gave the assurance and undertaking to the outgoing president(Babangida) that under no circumstance would he reopen the June 12 matter. Second, was that he would do everything to divide the Yoruba on the matter of June 12.”
Coincidentally, Abiola and Ladoke Akintola were holders of traditional title of Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland while alive. Shonekan would later be booted out of power on November 17, 1993, through a bloodless coup by General Sanni Abacha. Abacha was the man that brought June 12 drama to its climax.
A suave retired diplomat who contested against Abiola in the presidential primary election of the SDP and lost. Abiola was persuaded by his friends and political supporters to pick Kingibe as his vice-presidential candidate because of his political clout in the North and closeness to Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who was the deputy Head of State in the military regime of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Together they sold HOPE 93 to Nigerians.
Unfortunately, as the plot for the actualization of the June 12 mandate thickened, Kingibe changed camp and ensured that Hope 93 was not just deferred but completely dashed. Kingibe served as foreign minister under Sanni Abacha, the same man that arrested and jailed Abiola with whom he ran on the platform of SDP.
Abiola would later regret choosing Kingibe over Dan Suleiman, a retired air commodore and former military governor from the then middle belt. Abiola referred to Suleiman as a ‘complete gentleman’. MKO said he did know that his running mate had ” extensive connections and relationship” with the security agencies and the military high command. Kingibe contributed to the abortion of the third republic. He would later be honoured by President Muhammadu Buhari with GCON solely because of being Abiola’s running mate. An honour many believe he does not deserve.
In the build-up to the 1993 election when Babagana Kingibe decided to throw his hat into the ring for the presidential primaries in SDP, he stepped down as the Chairman of the party and Anenih took over. He worked for the emergence of Abiola as the winner of the 1993 presidential election. However, the story changed after the annulment.
Annenih was later quoted to have declared that the day the Interim National Government was signed was the happiest day of his life. He even subtly mocked Abiola in his autobiography titled ‘ My Life And Nigerian Politics’. In the book, Anenih said “Chief MKO Abiola as indicated earlier has said that if you want to go to Kano, going by air or going by road does not make any difference as long as you get there.
“His interpretation of this was that going by air meant Abacha taking over from Shonekan and he, Abiola, being sworn in the next day. Going by road was waiting till March 1994, when Shonekan would use the National Assembly to hand over to him because he actually won the election.
“Unfortunately, for Chief Abiola, there was, in fact, no landing, and Kano as the desired destination proved to be a fantasy”.
MKO Abiola regretted doing the bidding of Yar’Adua to ensure the victory of Annenih over Chief Sergeant Awuse. He said Annenih did not consult him before ” he negotiated away our victory”. The late Professor Omo Omoruyi corroborated Abiola’s claim in his book. He, however, included Alhaji Sule Lamido who was the National Secretary of the SDP as being privy to the signing away of the June 12 mandate.
Former Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, like Abiola, is also from Ogun state. In fact, they both(Abiola and Obasanjo) attended Baptist Boys High School. Obasanjo was said to have served as the deputy editor of the school magazine known as the Trumpeter, while Abiola served as editor.
Abiola initially supported Abiola in the struggle to reclaim his mandate. Obasanjo had urged Babangida to relinquish power and stop dawdling on the transition programme. He said, “Annulment or no annulment, Babangida must leave by August 27. He made the promise, he has to keep it.” However, Obasanjo would later become a renegade of the June 12 struggle by saying “Abiola is not the messiah”.
Obasanjo would later become the chief beneficiary of the democracy Abiola paid the supreme price for when he was sworn in on May 29, 1999, as the president of Nigeria. He kept mum on the issue of June 12 throughout his tenure.
Like Obasanjo and Abiola, Lieutenant General Oladipo Diya is from Ogun State. He served as second in command to the late dictator, Sani Abacha. Diya had promised that Abacha reign would be brief. Having put his mouth to the nectar of power, Diya started singing a different song. In fact, in the heat of the struggle for the actualization of June 12 Diya became an instant punster; he derided agbako (woe) the coalition of democrats, known as the National Democratic Coalition(NADECO).
He later regretted his action as Abacha, his boss, would later try him for planning to topple his regime.
EBENEZER BABATOPE, OLU ONAGORUWA, LATEEF JAKANDE
The duo of Ebenezer Babatope and Lateef Jakande have always been staunch Awoists. They decided to serve in the Abacha cabinet at the behest of Abiola who thought Abacha would redeem his pledge of having civilians as deputy governors. However, they refused to back out of the deal when it became obvious that the game had changed.
Olu Onagoruwa was a firebrand and legal luminary. He used to be Gani Fawehinmi’s ally and confidant until he decided to serve under Abacha. He was said to have decided to serve in the Abacha cabinet on the prompting of his fellow Odogbolu townsman, Oladipupo Diya. It is a sad thing that Onagoruwa would be reminded as a ‘villain’ of June 12 having sacrificed a lot for activism and human rights. His decision to serve in Abacha’s Cabinet cost him a lot. And he was eventually sacked by the dictator.
LAMIDI ADEDIBU, ARISEKOLA ALAO
Both were Muslims. In fact, Arisekola held the title of Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland till he died. And like Abiola, he was a businessman. However, both decided to pitch their tent with Sanni Abacha in the battle for the realization of the June 12 mandate. Arisekola and Adedibu hobnob with military men and other enemies of June 12. Arisekola even defended Babangida on the annulment of June 12 election.
At a press conference, he had said: “Wallahi Tallahi, Billahillazi la’ila ha illahuwa, and we are in the month of Ramadan, that is what happened at that time. It was after the election that members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council threatened to kill both MKO Abiola and IBB if he insisted on releasing the result of the election. They threatened to kill both IBB and Abiola,”
Arisekola would later escape death by a whisker when he followed Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar to the premises of the University of Ibadan for an event. Irate students who felt he contributed immensely to thwart the realization of the June 12 mandate attacked him and set his car ablaze.
A former personal assistant to the late Kudirat Abiola, wife of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola who was assassinated during the struggle of June 12. Call him an enemy within or a fifth columnist and you will not be far from the truth. Shofolahan was prosecuted along with Al-Mustapha, a former Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the late Head of State, General Sanni Abacha over the death of Kudirat Abiola. Shofolahan was travelling in the same car with the late Kudirat Abiola when she was shot in the forehead. Her driver too was killed but Shofolahan miraculously escaped unscathed.
In the court, Mohammed Abdul (a.k.a Katako), who gave evidence as a prosecution witness, narrated how late Kudira Abiola’s personal assistant, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan, gave his boss away to the assailants. Though they would later be discharged and acquitted, Shofolahan will go down in history as a villain and one of the Judases of June 12.
UCHE CHUKWUMERIJE, TOM IKIMI, WALTER OFONAGORO
The lethal troika, and you may throw Jerry Gana into the mix, worked tirelessly against democracy. Blessed with the gift of the gab, they deployed their awesome talent into the services of the anti-democratic forces holding this country in the jugular.
Chukwumerije who served as information minister in the Babangida regime and Shonekan’s ING was a virulent propagandist in the mold of Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of propaganda who kept rationalizing holocaust.
He once called Abiola a generalissimo( referring to his traditional title) that ran away from war. And in a moment of madness even asked General Abacha to sign a Decree outlawing the mention of ‘June 12’ in public places. Chukumerije would also serve as a senator before his death. He benefited from Abiola’s sacrifice as well.
These are just 12 of the many Judases that betrayed MKO Abiola, the Hope ’93 messiah.