The June 12, 1993, Presidential elections which saw Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO), emerging as the presumed winner, has also gathered, around it, some widely spread myths which have been held for 25 years and counting.
The election was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida, leading to series of crisis including protests and rallies that led to loss of lives.
Recently, the Federal Government declared the date of the election Democracy Day, canceling the former May 29. It also conferred on MKO, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR).
His running mate, Baba Gana Kingibe, Human Rights Activist and Lawyer, Gani Fawehinmi were both awarded the Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
Myth 1: Chief MKO won with a large margin
Contrary to popular belief that MKO won in a landslide, the unofficial final result saw Abiola winning with 58.36% against his opponent, Bashir Tofa’s 41.64%.
MKO had 8,341,309 million votes while Tofa garnered 5,952,037 million votes, with both cumulative total votes at 14,293,396.
MKO got 19 of the 30 states: Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Yobe, plus the federal capital territory.
Tofa won 11 states: Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Enugu, Imo, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Rivers and Sokoto.
In comparison, Olusegun Obasanjo had 62.78% of the votes in 1999 while his opponent Chief Olu Falae had 37.22% in the 1999 election. Obasanjo took 27 States and the FCT while Falae had just 9.
In 2003, Obasanjo beat General Muhammadu Buhari by 61.94% to 32.19% with 18 other candidates, including Chwukuemeka Ojukwu and Gani Fawehinmi, struggling for less than 6% of the vote.
In 2007, Umaru Musa Yar’adua increased this margin even more devastatingly as he beat Buhari by 69.82 to 18.72% while 16 others struggle for the remaining 11%.
The margins got narrower in 2011 and 2015 elections as if returning to the Abiola days. Former President Goodluck Jonathan beat Buhari with a margin of 58.89% to 31.98% in 2011. Mr. Buhari fought back in 2015 and defeated Jonathan with a 53.96% to 44.96%.
Figures from these elections appear to suggest that the more credibility an election is given, the less the winning margin.
Myth 2: Muslim-Muslim Tickets was not a problem
Since 1999, Nigeria has witnessed elections with the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates coming from different religious belief (Muslim/Christian or Christian/Muslim).
The narrative has been that both faiths majorly represent the Nigerian population, hence both demand equal representation in the polity.
In 1993 however, MKO, a Muslim, won the Presidency while fielding a fellow Muslim, Baba Gana Kingibe, as his Vice President.
The book, “The struggle for June 12” by Frank Kokori; a then Chieftain of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), explained why the Party’s Presidential candidate and his Vice were both Muslims.
According to Kokori, SDP “had presented its two best candidates”, as Party is above such “parochialism”.
Kokori also likens the SDP to a Socialist group that believes in ideology and welfare, not considerations of “ethnicity and religiosity.”
Despite being a Muslim-Muslim ticket for SDP, it was able to win in Southern States like Edo, Cross River, Delta, Akwa-Ibom and Anambra States.
Also interesting is the fact that MKO was the then Vice-President of Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA); the highest Muslim body in Nigeria.
This, to many, also put to death the infamous assumption that the Igbos can never vote for a Northerner due to the Civil War, as Tofa, a Northerner, got more Eastern States than MKO.
But on the flip side, there were actual agitations against the Muslim-Muslim ticket. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) went as far as providing MKO with names of Northern Christians to “balance” up his ticket. But Abiola’s choice of Kingibe was a right political move to make as none of the Northern Christians provided could pull enough Northern votes.
South Southern States where Abiola pulled votes are not known to have ax to grind with Islam, or the assumption of it, and Abiola’s win of Anambra may have been a pointer to Anambra being the home of the agitation for Biafra which may make it understandable that a Yoruba Muslim is picked over a Northerner.
The analysis which says the votes are cast against religion more than they are cast against tribe is further strengthened by the support the minority Christian tribes in the North gets from a good number of South Easterners on most matters of divide.
CAN and its members had thrown accusations in the air; sometimes directly, other times suggestively. One such fake story said Abiola used his influence to ensure a ship full of Bibles and Hyme Books heading to Nigeria was sunk in Sea. Another said he used his Newspaper, Concord, to support IBB’s move to add Nigeria to Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) whereas OIC has countries which have any kind of Muslim population, including Cameroon and its likes, Nigeria’s involvement was for profit and Nigeria is a member of other Christian Country Organizations, as ETN24 detailed in an earlier report.
Myth 3: IBB did not explain why he annulled the June 12 elections
The widely held belief that General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), is yet to give reasons for annulling the 1993 Elections is false, although his explanations have changed from his previous reason given while canceling the elections.
After the election was canceled, General Babangida announced in a Nationwide broadcast that he annulled the elections due to irregularities and electoral malpractices, just like the one conducted a year earlier in 1992.
“There were allegations of irregularities and other acts of bad conduct levelled against the Presidential candidates but NEC went ahead and cleared them.
“There were proofs as well as documented evidence of widespread use of money during the party primaries as well as the Presidential election. These were the same bad conduct for which the party presidential primaries of 1992 were cancelled. Evidence available to government put the total amount of money spent by the Presidential candidates at over two billion, one hundred million naira (N2.1 billion).
“However, there was in fact a huge array of electoral malpractices virtually in all the States of the federation before the actual voting began. There were authenticated reports of the electoral malpractices against party agents, officials of the National Electoral Commission and also some members of the electorate.”
But in 2009, IBB said in an interview with Mo Abudu, that he was compelled to annul the elections due to security threats and a possible coup.
According to him, the election was the freest and fairest in history, its annulment was “unfortunate” but necessary to save Democracy.
“June 12 was accepted by Nigerians as the best of elections in Nigeria. It was free and fair. But unfortunately, we cancelled that election. I used the word unfortunately, for the first time. We were in Government at the time and we knew the possible consequences of handing over to a democratic Government. We did well that we wanted ours to be the last military coup deta’t. To be honest with you, the situation was not ripe to hand over at the time.
“The issue of security of the Nation was a threat and we would have considered ourselves to have failed, if six months after handover, there was another coup. I went through coup deta’t and I survived it. We knew that there would be another coup deta’t. But not many people believed what we said. They could have allowed me to go away and then they (coup plotters) would regroup and stage another coup. This is how coups are staged – one man will always come to complain. And he will try to convince you about his complaints.”
He also expressed his willingness to conduct another election later the same year and was making plans which gave room for his stepping aside for an Interim National Government (ING) before it was toppled and ousted by General Sani Abacha-led coup.
There are also some revelations that hinted threats on IBB’s life and his fear that he would be killed along with MKO if he did not annul the election.
According to Chidi Amuta, a veteran Journalist, there were “forces” that had compelled IBB to annul the elections or risk his life.
“Anybody who knows Babangida closely will understand one thing, he plays politics, he plays the game of power, but there is one constant, even if he is the last man standing, he is not going to play the power game and perish in pursuit of any course. He is not suicidal, and given what I know…
“I mean, I was also close to MKO Abiola, he was my friend… the only reason you could still have a Babangida standing there today is that he annulled the election. Otherwise, you would have had a dead Babangida, a dead Abiola, and dead so many people.”
This was also corroborated by the former Governor of Anambra State, Chukwuemeka Ezeifa, who affirmed that IBB was under threat to annul the elections.
“I was close to Babangida and he was telling me that the military were opposed to (the declaration of Moshood Abiola as winner of the election). He said ‘will you like me to be killed?’ as if he had recognised the victory of Abiola and that if he (Abiola) is made President, people will kill him and kill the new President.
“So I said this one it is your job to do it but protect yourself as you do it. Of course he tried it didn’t work.”
Myth 4: IBB did not show remorse or took responsibility for his actions
According to Tundun Abiola, one of MKO’s daughters, IBB had apologised privately to the family for annulling the election.
“IBB has actually apologized to the family. Personally, he has. Now IBB has said in public but stopped short of an apology in public that his life was threatened.
“He was told by certain factors that Abiola must never become Commander in Chief of this Country. He was afraid. He has actually admitted that publicly.”
On why he has not offered a public apology, Tundun attributed it to IBB’s ego.
Myth 5: Babangida was toppled, Abiola fought Abacha all along
There was actually a time MKO was forced to trust Abacha and wait for his promise. After Babangida canceled the election, he left office for an Interim National Government which he claims was meant to bring in Abiola or at least a democratically elected leader.
Bola Ahmad Tinubu, who was a Senator, had initiated a suit against the Interim National Government and won unlike expected. The Court declared Ernest Soyinka’s government illegal, but it did not mean much because General Abacha took over through a Coup.
Multiple sources say Abacha met with Abiola and Tinubu and explained that there were “mines” in the military which needs to be removed as they were ready for a Coup in the event that Abiola becomes President. He claimed Abiola will not spend more than 4 days if he becomes President.
The General was said to have pleaded for either 4 days, 3 weeks or at most 6 months, which was supposed to allow him clean up the house so that Abiola can rule smoothly. Abiola believed this and allowed a number of his people serve in Abacha’s government as offered. His own calculation was that it would be good to have loyalists close to the government so that it can be reminded to keep its promise. Some say Abacha’s calculation was different.
Abiola waited for 6 months but there was no show. The ruling class had change tone, for reasons Abacha is not alive to explain.