Did Ibrahim Babangida truly plan to hand over to Ibrahim Babangida?

(A review by Lasisi Olagunju, Ph.D of the book: Nigeria’s Aborted Third Republic And The June 12 Debacle: Reporters’ Account).

This collection is an admirable effort at doing two things: One, proving that twenty children could spectacularly ‹work› together for more than twenty years even while pursuing their individual dreams. Two, that journalists could successfully challenge historians in their turf by filling the gaps left on the highways of our (recent) political experiences as a nation. This book is a huge project that draws the contemporaneity of journalism into the settled thoroughness of historical writing. Did Ibrahim Babangida truly plan to hand over to Ibrahim Babangida? Historians have spent years searching for a definite answer to that question. Readers should have an idea on this after reading this unusual book written by tens of critical witnesses to the events that defined the Babangida years.

The book is due for presentation on September 20, 2022 in Abuja.

A book review can be descriptive or evaluative. It can also combine the elements of both. I intend, here, to adopt a combination of everything a review is: summative and evaluative analysis of the content, the style, the form and the language of this book as put together by its almost thirty authors. A journalist on a beat is both a witness to history as well as a participant-observer, a creator of history in his own little corner. That is what readers encounter in this book which I may describe as a history of the histories of one of the most important events in Nigeria since 1914 – the June 12 debacle.

The timeline starts from 1987. The book, ‘Nigeria’s Aborted Third Republic And The June 12 Debacle: Reporters’ Account’, authored by transition political reporters who covered activities across the tense years of the IBB regime, takes the reader down memory lane.   It tells how our third republic›s political process began during the military presidency of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, popularly known as IBB. It proceeds to discuss the party conventions and primaries, the election proper and the protests that greeted the annulment of the presidential election adjudged to have, till date, been the most credible in the history of Nigeria.

Published by Xlibris, the 220-page, five-section book, edited by renowned journalists and scholars, Deba Uwadiae, Dr Emeka Nwosu, Dr Segun Olanipekun and Dr Abiodun Adeniyi, relies on first-hand reporters’ accounts to tell, in a sequential order, the story behind the stories of Babangida›s political transition programme, the scheming, the intrigues and the counter intrigues that defined that period. In the Foreword, Professor Tonnie Iredia remembers that the implementation of the Transition to Civil Rule Political Programme of the military government of President Ibrahim Babangida (1987-1993) took off amidst a myriad of criticisms by Nigerians. Iredia is, perhaps, one of the most competent to write on that epoch: he was the Director of Public Affairs of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and, thus, was the direct link between the NEC, the press and the public. Iredia retells the general environment of lack of trust which clothed that process. While many had the cause to doubt the sincerity of the military to relinquish power, he said the elite loathed the transition programme for its mechanical, rigid, and over-regulated design.  He describes the book as an authentic record of what actually transpired before, during and after the June 12, 1993 presidential election. “As a compilation by eyewitnesses – media correspondents attached to political institutions such as the Electoral Commission and the political parties, the compilation is uniquely authoritative,” he writes.

The Introduction, entitled ‘When Reporters Go Down Memory Lane,’ was written by one of the then political reporters, Olusegun Adeniyi, who worked for a number of news organisations during the period and later became a presidential spokesman. Adeniyi provides what I would call a panoramic summary of the entire book, giving readers the benefit of having a bite of every chapter right from the very beginning. He explains how the group and the book came to be and the momentous events that culminated in the formation of NAPOC (National Association of Political Correspondents) in the 1990s. The era ended, the boys became men and everyone went their ways, then death snatched one of them, Tunji Olawuni (a former Vanguard newspaper political reporter). It was at that point it dawned on the reporters that the contents of the huge library which each of them represented deserved to be preserved. The result of that resolve is this book.

Section One of the book has the tag: ‘NAPOC At The Beginning.› The theme of that section is clear enough from its choice of title. Then, the first article by Gbenga Onayiga traces the birth of NAPOC. Onayiga writes that the members were a group of reporters assigned by their media organisations to cover activities at the national headquarters of the defunct NEC at Onikan, Lagos at the dawn of the political transition programme of General Babangida. He says the late Chief Ike Mbonu of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) mooted the idea for correspondents to come together to form an association with the main idea of generating and reporting news from the electoral body and other agencies set up under the political transition programme. Emeka Nwosu, one of the editors of the book, wrote the next piece and entitled it ‘NAPOC and the Babangida Political Transition Programme’, where he details the prominent roles NAPOC played which went a long way in influencing the course of events during the period. Deba Uwadiae’s piece is on the electoral umpire (NEC), its ways and his own personal experiences covering the that beat.

Mikhail Mumuni’s ‘1993 Transition To Nowhere’ provides, perhaps, the hardest of the cores of the book. Mumuni recollects a parley which political correspondents had at Dodan Barracks with President Babangida on the electoral process. During that interaction with journalists, Babangida asked the reporters what they thought of his transition programme: “Gentlemen, what do Nigerians think of my transition programme?” IBB asked the reporters. Many hands were up but the person first recognized to talk, Mrs Remi Oyo summed up everybody›s feelings. “Sir, most Nigerians believe that the transition programne is designed for General Ibrahim Babangida to hand over to Alhaji Ibrahim Babangida.” Fiddling with his wedding ring, Babangida asked Mrs Oyo: “So, what do you people advise that I should do?” The reporter responded: “Sir, our honest advice is that you should prosecute the transition faithfully, hand over to the winner and retire to Minna with your honour and integrity intact.” And what was Babangida’s response? The General says: “I think that is what I should do.” Mumuni says he noted Babangida’s choice of words: “what I should do,” instead of “what I will do.” The reporter says that those words provided a glimpse into the mind of the General as well as a hint on the political direction the country was facing.

Sufuyan Ojeifo further develops that theme of insincerity in governance with his ‘MAMSER, CDS And Political Engineering In the Third Republic.’ Ojeifo takes a deep look into the Babangida programme and describes it as “long, ambitious, comprehensive, painstaking, shifty and full of twists and turns.” Ojiefo also writes on the regime’s Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), the National Orientation Movement (NOM), Mass Mobilisation for Self-reliance, Economic Recovery and Social Justice (MAMSER), among others.

The second section of the book has the ominous title: “Intrigues.” It dwells on the kick-off of political activities with contributions focusing on the political parties, their campaigns and the election. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji’s offering is along that line. The seismic political events that threw up Alhaji Babagana Kingibe as the chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is carefully documented in this section by Felix Oboagwina. Again, here, readers will encounter the ideological conflicts in the National Republican Convention (NRC) as told by Gboyega Amoboye; coverage of the campaigns (by Bisi Onanuga) and how MKO Abiola won SDP’s party primary in Jos written by Kunle Oyatomi; MKO Abiola’s last outing by Bosun Oluwabusayomi and what one of the authors (Yemisi Fadairo) describes as “Abiola’s only regret.” Sina Ogunbambo’s “When Rebellion turned victory” takes a spur away from the book›s discourse of national politics of that republic. Like an interlude, this Ogunbambo, perhaps, for the first time, tells us the intriguing story of how IBB phoned a completely unknown Michael Otedola and convinced him to join Lagos politics and how the man, against all odds, became governor of Lagos state. Isa Husaini also appears in this section with “Rumours/fake news versus professionalism” which is an attempt to explain how the media dealt with the poison of untruth and misinformation during the period.

When you see “Interventions” as the title of Section Three, you would wonder what that really is. The aftermath of the presidential election after the annulment is actually the focus of this third section with Lawal Ogienagbon writing on ‘June 12 Stalemate at Appeal Court,’ the day Abiola returned from flight abroad by Felix Oboagwina What MKO Abiola told Gani Fawehinmi two days before he was allegedly killed›; and Idowu John Bakare’s account of how the court overruled Babangida over June 12 and Interim government. The section ends with some interesting photographs of the principal characters in the Nigerian tragedy, and the authors at work during that momentous period.

Section Four contains insightful interviews granted by political actors who participated actively in the transition programme. Some of those whose interviews are included are Barrister Oladosu Oladipo, who explains the intrigues of the emergence of MKO Abiola as his party’s presidential candidate. The managing director of PM News, The News and Tempo Magazine, Mr Bayo Onanuga, in his interview, details how his medium embraced guerilla journalism to beat the regime of repression and give accurate information about the political situation of the period to the world. Comrade Frank Kokori and Mr Bola Tinubu also spoke in separate interviews on how they fought against the annulment. Kokori tells the story of his leadership of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) which crippled the nation with a strike like no other. And Tinubu, a member of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and stakeholder in Radio Kudirat also beams light on certain activities of the group and its methods. The interviews were conducted by some of the authors earlier mentioned including Bola Ojuola and Stella Benjamin.

Section 5 carries the title: Retrospection. And you know what that means; a look at the back; a review of what has been. Writers in this section recall their invaluable experiences covering politics and elections across the years. Moni Abudu tells readers what she saw as the nation transited from the FEDECO of the second republic to NEC under Babangida, NECON under Abacha and, finally, INEC under General Abdulsalami Abubakar who birthed the fourth republic. Like the previous chapters, there are other contributors: Segun Olanipekun (The gaps in my notepad); Akin A. Onipede (We failed to scrutinise documents and actors of the transition); Abiodun Adeniyi (The operational scopes of the political journalist of yore); Cordelia Ukwuoma (June 12 for me); Ike Abonyi (Top news sources of June 12 era); Jide Ajani (A Glimpse into the Fourth Republic). Felix Oboagwina›s piece – the shortest in the collection provides a fitting closure, not just for the ‘retrospection’ but, more meaningfully, to the entire work. It is a tribute to the memories of members of that ‘clique’ of political journalists who have left the realm of the living. He lists them: Moses Ezulike (Champion), Ike Mbonu (NAN), Clement Eluaka (New Nigerian) and Tunji Olawuni (Vanguard). The piece carries the title: ‘Unforgettable, our fallen heroes.’ If “How it all began”, the first article on the book’s first page, is the takeoff of the book›s plane, this part is the landing. And like the story of Nigeria, it is dark and sad.


When a book has so many authors (and editors), it is bound to be as varied in language and style as the number of the writers. That, precisely is what I find here. The language is generally accessible but the sentence structures are not uniform. Some simple, some complex, some like the Ikogosi warm spring- a little cold; a little warm. Or, like the two political parties of the era it treats – a little to the right (NRC) and a little to the left (SDP). Generally, the book is well-written and edited with minimal errors. At the level of structure, the editors paid special attention to the details ensuring that everything a book needs from front, body and back are present. However, the placement of one or two of the pieces does not follow the chronological structure the editors adopted.

Nigerians who witnessed the long knives of the third republic may say that they saw it all. They will be shocked by how very little they knew after reading this book. This collection is, therefore, recommended for all Nigerians particularly students of politics, politicians and political commentators, researchers and policy makers. It is also strongly recommended for all who seek answers to the Nigerian question: How did we get here?

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