June 12 election
The Nigerian Presidential election of June 12, 1993 was an annulled election won by the late MKO Abiola. (1) The election's annulment precipitated a national political crisis with the presumed winner and his supporters claiming their earned electoral mandate to govern while reigning and subsequent politically ambitious military and civilian Heads of State autocratically tried to steer the country away from enthroning the winner of the annulled election while trying to influence the political process and assert their point of view.
The struggle for the enthronement of the winner of the June 12 election united some members of the political class, unions and human rights groups to publicly oppose the military, seeking a return to democratic rule and drive ideas of democratic conducts in the military government's decision making. However, the political crisis or the June 12 struggle that followed the cancellation of election results was also viewed during the period through the prism of calculated self-interest, betrayal and hatred among many of the notable personalities involved in the election and annulment and to some groups, it showcased the failures of the Nigeria project; many themes such as Sovereign National Conference, regionalism, government of national unity, tribalism or the malicious aspersion of calling individuals tribalist were branded out during the period. The struggle for the actualization of the June 12 results embodied by Abiola and many 'progressive' politicians became a touching stone and rallying cry for democratic rule during the military government of Sani Abacha.
During the Nigerian third republic, the nation witnessed broadly spaced elections and transitional democratic government in 598 local governments (1991), in the state assembly and government houses (1992), in the federal legislature (1992) but excluding the presidency creating a diarchical system of government with military and civilian leaders. Apart from being a transitional system, it was also designed to favor so-called new breed politicians. However, the aforementioned democratic structure had its share of constant tinkering and government intervention to control perceived anomalies and the military government seeking acquiescence of various factions within the party to provide support for their impositions. Among the various military interventions was the cancellation of polls including a presidential election in 1992. The unlucky presidential hopefuls in 1992, where Yar'Adua, head of the Peoples Front Coalition in SDP, Olu Falae, (from the People Solidarity coalition of SDP), Adamu Ciroma and Umaru Shinkafi, the latter two from the National Republican Convention (NRC). The presidential system then was an homegrown nomination process though inspired by the American nomination system drawn over a few weeks.
The two political parties of the period, the SDP and NRC where formed partly to develop national consensus and consciousness and were both influenced by the military government since its inception. The SDP was deemed a little to the left and NRC, a little to the right. Both parties encompassed different personalities with varying ideologies and reputation for personal philanthropy and according to some members, held a self imposed logic of internal division. After the cancellation of the 1992 presidential polls, different groups within the parties threw accusations against each other for the cancellation: as an example Shehu Yar'Adua, a presidential aspirant felt the chairman of the party, Baba Gana Kingibe presented a report to President Babangida on the election which helped in the cancellation, Kingibe also earned the wrath of some disqualified governorship and presidential candidates who were later to play a part in his electoral loss at the SDP primaries in 1993.
A new presidential calender was released after the cancellation of the 1992 presidential polls. The two political parties were advised by the Federal Military Government to use the Option A4 system which resulted in the emergence of 30 presidential nominations in both parties each representing a state in the federation. However, in the SDP, the fight was between, Abiola, Baba Gana Kingibe and Abubakar Atiku.
SDP nomination and situation
The Social Democratic Party presidential primaries was held in Jos in March 1993. The major contenders were M.K.O. Abiola, a wealthy businessman and former business associate of former presidential contender, Shehu Yar'Adua and Baba Gana Kingibe,former party chairman and talented manager who controlled a large share of SDP governors and hoping to reap the influence of any good will generated while he was party chairman. The third contender was Abubakar Atiku, representing the Yar'Adua faction and hoping to reap rewards from drawing votes from the two candidates and strengthening his faction and also speculatively to benefit from a disqualification of the leading candidates.
Abiola, initially played a minor role in his party and presented to party members the benefits of his entry as that as of individual who was known as a politician within their ranks but his candidacy may gain sympathy with the large number of electorates who like him were not registered with both parties and a shared independent views. He courted many factions within party both at the state and national level. In Lagos, he held talks with the Sarumi and Jakande group, in Oyo, the Ladoja and Adedibu groups and in Kano, the Magaji Abdullahi and Abubakar Rimi groups.
The SDP presidential primary that took place in Jos showcased the various party bosses, with the YAr'Adua group stationed at Yahaya Kwande's residence, the Olu Falae and Rimi group, the SDP governors behind Kingibe and also the Arthur Nzeribe group. After haggling and votes, Abiola came out on top defeating Kingibe. A Yoruba Muslim, he chose Kingibe a Northern Muslim as his running mate.
Abiola assembled a campaign organization headed by Jonathan Zwingina and made use of the broken Olu Falae campaign machinery. His opponent was another wealthy businessman from Kano, Bashir Tofa. However, as pre-election campaigns progressed, Abiola's personality, a mixture of friendly countenance and warm mien was an attractive asset in a what became a popular campaign
About 14 million Nigerians voted in the election. The June 12 election was monitored and endorsed by over 3,000 election observes from various parts of Nigeria and the international community and was viewed as credible.
Association for Better Nigeria
During the presidential campaign of 1993, an association financed by Arthur Nzeribe known as ABN of the Association for Better Nigeria watched the campaigns from the sidelines while devising ways to scuttle the election. Five days to the conduct of the presidential election, the association brought a suit to an Abuja High Court to cancel the presidential primaries alleging that the outcome of the primaries were riddled by corruption. On June 10, 1993, the court made a ruling that the presidential campaign should not commence, however, a provision in a decree had made judicial jurisdiction is canceling an election null and the National Electoral Commission followed the military decree's direction. Awuru Ejike opined that there is an undisclosed reasons for the annulment which may have an ethnic considerations.
On June 14, 1993, the Military government succumbed the president of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to stop the announcement of the results already authorized by the NEC office at Abuja. Prior to the intervention, NEC had announced the results of 14 states with the Abiola/Kingibe ticket leading comfortably. Nine days later during the burial of Musa Yar'Adua, father of Shehu Yar'Adua, feelers of the cancellation of the election reached Abiola and his supporters in Katsina where he had gone to commensurate with the Yar'Adua family. On his return from the trip, he was greeted with notes from journalists on June 23, 1993, the notes was about a press release signed by Nduka Irabor on the cancellation of the June 12, election. Abiola, who became upset released statements signaling his determination and that of his party to fight the annulment.
The SDP leadership subsequently held a meeting in Benn in July 4-5 and took a stance, contrary to the military that June 12 was non-negotiable. However, Yar'Adua whose group controlled the party leadership opposed an anti military stand. By early July 1993, a committee comprised by the chairman of the party, Anthony Anenih and dominated by the Yar'adua faction was asked to meet with the opposition party, NRC for talks on moving the nation towards a democratic and united goal. However, the committee jettisoned the party's hard line June 12 position of the Benin meeting and supported a plan for an interim government in partnership with NRC and the military government and also that a move to force or disgrace the military out of office was out of place, this plan was supported by Olusegun Obasanjo and Yar'Adua. A few weeks after the multi party discussions, the presumed winner of the June 12 election fled to London upon rumours of an impeding attack on his residence. After the seemingly pro interim government and anti-June 12 stance of Anenih, and the powerful YAr'Adua faction and with Abiola abroad, the struggle for the actualization of a democratic government was borne by the senate under the leadership of Iyorchia Ayu, though his deputy was seen as an ally of Vice President Augustus Aikhomu.
Following the annulment there was a feeling of insecurity in the country as many non-indigenes working in various cities in Nigeria began moving back to their native lands. Also, a few foreign governments released statements denouncing the cancellation and imposing minor sanctions on the country.
Post June 12, Babangida administration
Babangida's insincerity in handing over power to a democratic leader was enhanced following the annulment as the cancellation was viewed by some as a means for Babangida to extend his stay in government. Following the cancellation, while his administration's support was likely swiftly going south, it found favors among some politicians in both parties, led by some National Republican Convention lawmakers and a few SDP members in both legislative houses, majority of whom were inclined for various reasons not excluding perceived loss in the assembly and presidential election to back the stance of the military government. Many of the lawmakers were from the North and perceived by some Southerners as fearing a power shift from the North to the South. The Nigerian Television Network under the ministry of Information led by Uche Chukwumerije was also used as a solidarity organ for the administration.
During the political impasse that ensued following the cancellation of the presidential election, an interim government was one of the solutions to the impasse, the interim administration was to be led by a prominent leader but with exception of Abiola. On August 26, the date Babangida promised to hand over power, he announced the inauguration of an Interim National Government to be headed by Ernest Shonekan as he announced his stepping aside from government. In Shonekan's, cabinet was General Sani Abacha, defense secretary, a key player in the cancellation of the June 12, election and the announcer of the December 31, 1983 military coup, he was also a key backer in the Babangida coup of August 1985. Shonekan's government suffered from having co clear mandate, sense of direction and strong support. Abiola loyalists were also against the Ernest Shonekan led government. Prior to handing over the government, Babangida had banned Abiola from holding elective office and Shonekan had resolved not to de-annul the election.
Abiola, returned to the country from exile in September 1993 and began making plans for the actualization of the June 12 mandate, he also challenged the legality of the Interim National Government in court.
Concerning June 12, as the Abacha regime progressed, the administration began to clamp down on leaders that came to be seen as holding on to the political struggle. Most of the members of NADECO, the National Democratic Coalition established in May 1994, to campaign for a return to democratic rule and the de-annulment of June 12 were seen by the new military government as pro June 12 and many were arrested. Also, union leaders like Frank Kokori campaigning for a return to democracy rule went through political victimisation. The leadership of some unions among whom Kokori belong used their power to launch crippling strikes and fuel shortages. During the period, some opposition members went on exile. The period also saw a perceived mixture of tribalism and bigotry as it was thought by many opposition members from NADECO, mostly drawn from the South and Christian middle Belt that Abacha was drawing strength from anti-Yoruba and anti-South sentiments in the North.
In the camp of the dissolved political parties many members of SDP such as Baba Gana Kingibe had by late 1993 resolved to work with the military and downgrade the struggle for the actualization of the June 12 mandate so also did members of the Jakande group in Lagos and former senate president Iyorchia Ayu.
In 1994, a national progressive platform to be launched as a solid organization base of various members such as Sam Mbakwe, Adekunle Ajasin, Balarabe Musa, Ebitu Ukiwe, Cornelius Adebayo, Adeyinka Adebayo and Dan Suleiman joined the pro June 12 agitators in support for democratic rule and the de-annulment of the June 12 election. Many members of these platform later became to be known as NADECO members. Abiola himself came to be seen as a thorn in the military government of Abacha as a he made a public declaration as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on June 11, 1994 and thereaftr going underground for 11 days. He was later arrested on June 23, 1994. Abiola died in prison in July 1998.
- (1)Article from Punchng
- Wale Oshun. Clapping With One Hand: June 12 And The Crisis Of A State Nation. Joel Publishers, London (1999)