June 12: 28 years later; current realities, lessons for Nigerians 

The annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election has been repeatedly referred to as a watershed in Nigeria’s history. The reasons for this statement are not far-fetched. That election was the freest and fairest election in the electoral history of the country.  The then National Electoral Commission (NEC), adopted a unique voting system known as Option A4 which made rigging and other electoral malpractices practically impossible.

It made accreditation, voting and declaration of results happened simultaneously in different voting units across the country, with the active participation of electoral officials, party agents and security agents in the presence of the voters. There was no room for bribing of voters, hijacking of ballot boxes or falsification of results. Option A4, though regarded then as a unique voting system with several limitations turned out to be very effective in checkmating the excesses of desperate Nigerian politicians.

The end result was that the result of the election was publicly known even before NEC started announcing it in Abuja based on returns from the states. Fourteen states had been announced and a clear winner already emerged before the General Ibrahim Babangida-led military administration stopped the process and eventually annulled the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history.

In examining the direct impact of Option A4 in Nigeria’s electoral process, certain fundamental issues were very clear. Chief Moshood Kashimawo Osuolale Abiola, the leading candidate in the election, who would have been declared as the president-elect if the process had not been truncated was a Muslem.  The fact that he picked a Muslem running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe didin’t matter to the voters; they massively voted for Moslem-Moslem ticket. Religion therefore wasn’t a consideration in that election. The analysis of the result showed that the mandate was pan-Nigerian.

The fact that MKO’s opponent, Alhaji Bashir Tofa was a northerner with a running mate from the South East had no impact on the voting pattern. So, tribal and ethnic sentiments were also pushed aside by Nigerians. The euphoria across the country was so positive that it became apparent that a new Nigeria was emerging through the June 12 electoral process. June 12 therefore could have been a foundation for a new Nigeria. The annulment of the June 12 election and the subsequent crisis it generated was what led Nigeria to its present quagmire. Another process, initiated by the late maximum ruler, General Sanni Abacha, was a direct opposite of the process that led to June 12. Abacha was hell-bent on transmuting from a military dictator to a civilian president that every step of that process was rigged to produce him as a sole presidential candidate of the five political parties that emerged from the process.

That was why he supervised the writing of a constitution specifically designed for him to use as civilian dictator. In doing this, he had the backing of the northern political establishment, made up of individuals who were unhappy about June 12 and who were fundamentally opposed to transfer of power to the South.

It must be noted that Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, along with the late Barr. Richard Babatunde Adejumo played a significant role for the June 12 election to hold. Onitiri and Adejumo obtained the historic judgment that enabled Nigerians to vote at the election of June 12. Onitiri also played important role at the swearing-in of the late MKO Abiola as the president of Nigeria otherwise known as Epetedo Declaration.

General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Abacha’s successor, dusted the document and presented it to Nigerians as the 1999 Constitution.  It is, therefore, clear that General Abdusalami Abubakar’s transition programme was a continuation of Abacha’s programme. The registration of new political parties was just a strategy to allow Abacha’s politicians who were loaded with loot from Abacha’s self-succession plot to regroup.

So, money politics and other bizarre behaviour of the present Nigerian politicians were direct consequences of Abacha’s ambition designed to bury June 12 permanently. That process has now thrown up the worst political system which caters only for the politicians and their appointees while ignoring the welfare and well-being of the ordinary Nigerian.

To repair the damage, Nigeria must immediately initiate a process of allowing Nigerians to write their own constitution. Further attempts to force Abacha’s constitution down their throats will lead to doom. Nigerians, in writing their constitution, will renegotiate the terms of their union in a federation. The issue of restructuring will be laid to rest permanently. It is yet not too late to start this process.

Secondly, a process of political reforms must begin in earnest. The present political system has shut out ordinary Nigerians from actively participating. The present money politics where by only rich individuals can afford to indicate interest in aspiring for public office is undemocratic. The leading political parties in Nigeria have used money, not patriotism, knowledge, intellect, positive values, community development spirit and care for the common people as criteria for selecting aspirants to public offices. Where ordinary forms to express interest, fight for nomination and participate in primaries cost millions, only moneybags can participate. Shutting the door against honest, hard-working and highly intelligent Nigerians by focusing only on money can never lead to good governance.

 

Chief Adesunbo Onitiri, Lagos.

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