Following the posthumous award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) conferred on Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO) and Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON) on Baba Gana Kingibe, there have been conversations as to if indeed Mr. Kingibe deserves the award considering that many, including APC Chieftain Bola Ahmed Tinubu, sees Kingibe a betrayer. But other facts suggest that Kingibe may have been deceived into accepting a role in Sani Abacha’s Government.
Stating the reason for Kingibe’s award, the President had said in part
“His (Abiola’s) running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded the GCON.”
However, the pro-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, said the GCON award on Kingibe is undeserving.
According to Afenifere Spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, Kingibe betrayed the June 12 mandate by committing himself to the Abacha Government, where he became Foreign Affairs Minister and later Minister of Internal Affairs.
This position was also supported by Social Democratic Party (SDP) – the platform on which MKO and Kingibe contested for the Presidency in 1993.
National Secretary of SDP, Alhaji Shehu Gabam, referred to the conferment of the GCON award on Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, as “misplaced and self-serving.”
“Ambassador Kingibe renounced the June 12 mandate as quickly as the military gave him a pot of porridge. He accepted ministerial appointments, first as Foreign Minister and later as Minister of Interior under the draconian administration of Abacha. Kingibe did not participate in the struggle hence he does not deserve this National honour.”
When Kingibe was contacted, he only praised the Federal Government and declined to comment further, saying he is on pilgrimage in Mekka for the lesser Hajj (Umrah).
“I really appreciate this. I will love to express my feelings, but right now, I am in Makkah praying to make peace with my Maker. There will be time enough to share worldly thoughts with friends.”
Betrayal or deception?
Against the popular position, there were reports that MKO and his supporters had agreed to work with the Abacha’s Government in order to re-validate the June 12 mandate.
They were promised the actualization of June 12 and invited to take up appointments in the new Government pending the validation of June 12.
Dare Babarinsa, an author and Journalist wrote in “Abiola, June 12, and road not taken” that MKO had unknowingly and indirectly contributed to inactualization of June 12 by agreeing to work with it Abacha’s Government.
According to him, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, the Director of Organisation for the defunct Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN) had come to his office to inform him of a meeting held at MKO’s resident where a resolution was made that MKO’s group would support Abacha.
Babatope told him that the resolution had been communicated to the “Awoist group” which, according to MKO’s decision, would be nominating members into the new Government.
“He said because of this, Abacha had agreed that supporters of Abiola would be nominated as Deputy-Governors to Military Governors that would soon be announced by the junta.
“He said most likely, Kingibe, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, the popular former Lagos State Governor and several top politicians who were close to Abiola, may also join the Abacha cabinet.”
He iterates that the resolution was later followed by MKO’s visit to Abacha in Lagos and he was accompanied by Bola Tinubu, Kingibe, Lateef Jakande and others.
Senator Jonathan Zwingina, the Director-General of the MKO Abiola campaign organisation in very recent times, said it was not a case of betrayal but deception by Abacha’s Government to lure SDP members.
Speaking on “Sunrise Daily”, a programme on Channels Television, Zwingaina said as Secretary of MKO “Hope ‘93” Campaign, he was abreast with all events that occurred then as he was the one who took minutes of the meetings.
“It may not be quite accurate to say somebody jumped ship or ran away from a mandate. That is not accurate. I had the list of those who were presented to Gen. Abacha and we had protests about some areas and they were corrected
“With the benefit of hindsight, we can say we were deceived but the fact was that we had good faith, we believed it was going to happen and so we threw in our best heads. The late Onagoruwa didn’t really want to be in the government but I remember that my principal (Abiola) said to him ‘look, if you are not there and June 12 is being discussed, who would speak for me?’
“This same argument was presented to Lateef Jakande and other leaders and this was what encouraged them (to work with Abacha). It is true that we were given this impression strongly that this was going to lead to the validation of the June 12 mandate and I am speaking with authority because I have the minutes of the meeting.”
However, Frank Kokori, Secretary-General of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), in his book, “the Struggle for June 12”, claimed Kingibe had betrayed MKO by lobbying for an appointment in Abacha’s cabinet.
But former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu agrees that MKO’s loyalists were allowed to participate in Abacha’s government with the hope of restoring June 12, but still insists Kingibe was one of those who betrayed MKO, as he had gone AWOL before MKO agreed to have his loyalists in the government.
Responding to the aftermath of the meeting between MKO and Abacha, where it was speculated that there was an agreement between both parties, Tinubu said MKO was deceived.
According to him, after they had challenged and won the case which declared the Interim National Government (ING) illegal, MKO had prepared to be sworn in but Kingibe was nowhere in sight.
“He trusted Kingibe so much. He had told him, we were going to Court, he had given Kingibe details of the action. The matter leaked to (Gen. Sani) Abacha, who was then Minister of Defence.
“Abiola was not ready to be sworn in without Kingibe. He said it should be done in the traditional, normal way, two of them, that he was not the only custodian.”
Tinubu said Abacha got wind of the information and told MKO not to swear himself in yet, as there was information that his Government is about to be toppled and he needs to deal with the conspirators first. He (Abacha) explained that if he was to hand over to MKO, the new government will not last up to four days.
Abacha had then promised MKO to relinquish power to him on the third day, in six weeks’ time or at most, six months, but the deadline passed and he hung to power.