Why Obasanjo refused to recognise June 12
by LEKE SALAUDEEN,
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has drawn the ire of Nigerians over what they described as his failure to recognise the June 12, 1993 presidential election. They are furious that Obasanjo who rode to power on the waves of the June 12 annulment saga, never acknowledged the historic election and the winner, Chief MKO Abiola, at public functions throughout his tenure, Assisant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN reports.
THE struggle for the actualisation of June 12, 1993 presidential election started immediately the former Military President Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election won by Chief MKO Abiola and his running mate Ambassador Babagana Kingibe. Following the advent of the Fourth Republic and the election of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, Nigerians were optimistic that recognition would be given to June 12 as the authentic ‘Democracy Day’. That didn’t happen. Obasanjo who came to power on the crest waves of the June 12 annulment saga disdained the symbolic date and questioned its relevance of the date in the polity of the nation.
Obasanjo ruled for eight years, but he never acknowledged the role Abiola and June 12 played in his emergence as a democratically-elected president. Abiola sacrificed his life for democracy to thrive in Nigeria, but that did not mean anything to Obasanjo who chose May 29 as ‘Democracy Day’ against the popular demand that it should be June 12.
At the peak of the struggle for the actualisation of the June 12, 1993 elections, Obasanjo told the world that the acclaimed winner of that election, MKO Abiola was not the messiah that Nigeria needed. The comment was a reflection of Obasanjo’s perception of himself as the country’s ultimate saviour.
Afenifere chieftain, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, berated Obasanjo for saying Abiola was not the messiah Nigeria needed. He asked: “Is Obasanjo the messiah now? He is not the messiah we are looking up to. As far as I am concerned, Obasanjo has become a spent force. He wants to be recognised as the one directing the affairs of the nation at every stage from the time he was military Head of State, civilian president, through the late President Umaru Yar’Adua time to former President Goodluck Jonathan’s period. He has the feeling that he knows it all.
“We should be careful about Obasanjo. I have my reservations about him. Yoruba must come together but not behind Obasanjo. Obasanjo can’t lead us. I can’t recognise any invitation from Obasanjo.
“The honour that was conferred on Abiola by President Buhari should have been done by Obasanjo. He didn’t do it. We thank President Buhari for doing this. We should support him and not Obasanjo’s agenda. Obasanjo should go into retirement. He only wants to be seen and heard.”
The spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State, Mr Joe Igbokwe, said: “Obasanjo did what he did apparently to mock and get at the late Abiola and the family he left behind. He did not want the name of Chief MKO Abiola to be remembered or to be associated with anything he is doing. He pretended as if June 12 never existed. He must have reasoned that he got to power in 1999 through his personal efforts.
“But Obasanjo was being economical with the truth. Without June 12 there would not have been 1999. For eight years that Obasanjo was in power he deliberately pretended that June 12, 1993 never existed. At public functions, he never for one day mentioned Chief MKO Abiola or acknowledged the obvious and painful truth that it was Chief Abiola that paid the supreme price for his rise to power again.”
On his part, Senator Shehu Sani said Obasanjo’s failure to honour the late Abiola reflected the effort of the political class to suppress the sacrifice of those who went to jail and those who paid the supreme price for the democracy that Nigeria has today.
Sani, who represented Kaduna Central at the just dissolved eighth Senate, said: “It is not simply about Chief MKO Abiola not being recognised by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, it is about an institutional decision of the political class who continues to suppress the role played by the free press bringing about democracy. Hardly will you see any of those that were on the streets of Lagos protesting for democracy ever being recognised with even an award of OON, which is the lowest. As they share oil blocs to themselves, share positions to themselves, so they share national honour to themselves.”
He said the June 12, 1993 presidential election that the late businessman won, but which the military junta of General Ibrahim Babagida annulled, laid the foundation for the current democratic rule in the country. Without the struggle of June 12, there could not have been democracy in Nigeria today. The change and the experience in the 2015 election was part of the seed of June 12. It was the same forces that forced the military out of power that rallied Nigerians to reject the PDP out of power.”
June12 activist, Comrade Jude Egbas knocked Obasanjo for failing to address the annulled June 12 1993 presidential election. He noted that “Obasnjo had eight years to recognise Abiola as the winner of the June 12 election and tender apology to the MKO family and Nigerians for the injustice. But his ego wouldn’t let him be great.
“Obasanjo was the military choice after the 1993 robbery of MKO and Nigerians. Obasanjo was the one the power elite settled for to placate the Southwest after the injustice done Abiola. Ironically, from 1999 to 2007, Obasanjo refused to mention Abiola’s name and refused to acknowledge the significance of June 12. Obasanjo had the opportunity to right the wrongs of June 12, but he blew it. Hopefully, someday, he will publicly tender unreserved apologies for his ignominious roles in the June 12 debacle.”
Former General Secretary of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Mr Ayo Opadokun, was sad over the inability of Obasanjo to recognise the election mandate of Abiola, believed by many to have emerged winner in the polls, adjudged to be free and fair. NADECO spearheaded the movement for the restoration of election mandate of the late politician, business mogul and philanthropist.
He said: “Former President Olusegun Obasanjo who the military foisted on Nigeria for eight years ignored all pleas to close the chapter of military’s disrespect to the popular will of the Nigerian people as expressed on June 12, 1993 which results have been officially announced at all the wards, local government areas, and state levels of collations confirming Abiola’s victory.” He was disappointed that Obasanjo being a beneficiary of Abiola’s martyrdom ought to have recognised him.
The son of late MKO and Kudirat Abiola, Jamiu, disclosed that Obasanjo ignored several pleas which he made to him to honour his father. He said: “When Obasanjo was the President, I visited him several times and called him several times. There was a time I sent him a text message when he was President telling him that people’s impression about his failure to honour Abiola was because he did not like him.”
However, Jamiu was happy that his father’s sacrifice has been recognised. “I am the happiest man because for so long I felt that my parents died for nothing because there is nothing worse than somebody making a sacrifice and the sacrifice not recognised. He said it was recognised by Nigerians but those that got power after June 12, 1993 found it convenient to sweep it under the carpet for reasons best known to them.”
Credit: The Nation