Monday, 25 July 2016

MKO: How Bassey Ikpeme & Dahiru Saleh killed Democracy on the eve of Hope


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MKO Abiola: The Enigma

On the night of June 10, 1993, around 10 p.m., a time that was very unusual for judges to issue judgments, a judge by the name of Bassey Ikpeme ruled that the presidential election, which was meant to be held in less than two days, must not take place. To justify her ruling she resorted to accusations made by the Association for a Better Nigeria against some of the governors in Moshood’s party who, according to the allegations, had helped Moshood to win the party’s presidential primaries through corruption.
The following morning the ruling was the talk of the town. Many scenarios were formulated. Some said that the judge drove herself to court that night. Others said that she was driven to court by force in an army vehicle. To some, she had simply issued the ruling at home without going to court since she had the backing of the powers that be. Regardless of how the ruling came about, its consequences were disastrous and that was all that mattered. All of a sudden there was a heavy fog hanging over an electoral process that had been full of promise and expectation.

But the hardest hit were the actual political contestants such as Moshood, Tofa, and their respective vice presidential candidates. The ruling meant that all the labor of their long and costly campaigns, meticulously drafted speeches, elaborate press conferences, endless expenditures, live debates and sleepless nights might have been in vain. And that is exactly what would have happened if a man named Humphrey Nwosu, who was the head of the National Electoral Commission at that time, did not take some bold steps to prevent it from happening.


MKO Abiola launches his HOPE 93 Campaign amidst pomp and promises

Humphrey Nwosu was determined not to let his efforts go down the drain. His aim was to conduct a flawless election and to him there was no going back. The judgment was an order restraining his electoral commission from conducting the election but he intended to ignore it by relying on a decree that enabled him to do so. He did not halt preparations for the elections after the ruling and was not contemplating taking that step although, in order to be on the safe side, he went to seek clarification from Nigeria’s military president the morning after the ruling.
People had expected him to immediately issue an announcement suspending the elections, but when that did not happen, hope was rekindled and the fog caused by the controversial ruling gradually began to disperse. Cynics who had already assumed that the election would not be held were about to be proven wrong.

 “The following morning the ruling was the talk of the town. Many scenarios were formulated. Some said that the judge drove herself to court that night. Others said that she was driven to court by force in an army vehicle. To some, she had simply issued the ruling at home without going to court since she had the backing of the powers that be”

Arthur Nzeribe

The military government had underestimated the momentum of the coming election. Nigerians wanted change. The military government was too weak to stop the election from taking place. It could not speak with one voice because it was held together by a thirst for power and torn apart by almost everything else. So many negative values such as envy and greed within its ranks had taken away its cohesion and replaced it with indecision.

Humphrey Nwosu finally received a reluctant permission from the military president to conduct the election.
By the time this happened, electoral officers had already arrived at their places of operation with their materials because their boss had never halted the process. The country was once again in a festive mood as eager electoral officers went about educating the public about the rules of the elections that were less than twenty-four hours away.


Jamiu Abiola defends his father's political record in his new book

Moshood had become jittery and nervous as the election drew nearer. He was exhausted by the campaign but found it hard to sleep. This period in his life was the golden moment he had anxiously awaited for almost two decades. He had analyzed leaders, learning from them and hoping that he will one day be one of them. Wealth no longer meant anything to him. All he wanted now was power, which would give him a chance to fix Nigeria, he hoped, and write his name in gold.
He was very restless on the night before the election. He wandered around his expansive house. Then he went to Kudirat and watched his presidential debate with her. He was full of life that night. He even rehearsed his presidential inauguration speech, revising it over and over again, before going to sleep late at night. The last thing he told his wife that night was that there was nothing sweeter than the smell of victory when it is fast approaching.

Humprey Nwosu

By the time he woke up the following day, his face was glowing. He set off to the polling booth, which was within walking distance from his house, in the company of Kudirat, one of his daughters, and a large crowd. He cracked jokes throughout the day. He was in such a cheerful mood but his joy did not last for long. Political opponents, later that same day, spoiled his mood by accusing him of flaunting electoral rules.

They pointed to the fact that he had worn an outfit with an image of a unicorn, which was similar to a horse, the symbol of his political party, and accused Moshood of campaigning on election day, which was against electoral law.
The dust of that controversy had not yet settled before another crisis, bigger and more dangerous erupted. The Association for a Better Nigeria went to a court in Abuja with a request to stop the National Electoral Commission from releasing the election results. Once again, its request was granted by another Judge named Dahiru Saleh, who ordered the National Electoral Commission to stop declaring results. By the time of that ruling, the National Electoral Commission had already released official results for fourteen states. But to the military government’s dismay, people already had unofficial copies of the election results, which tallied with the details of the copies already released by the National Electoral Commission, and they all knew that Moshood had won.


MKO Abiola; The Star Child

The election results showed that more than fourteen million people had voted and that Moshood had won in a landslide. He had even defeated his opponent in the latter’s state and local government. These results were confirmed by reports from international observers. Although The National Electoral Commission suspended the declaration of results in line with the ruling, it also appealed the ruling in the hope that it would be quickly overturned to enable it to continue with the announcement of the results. But the unofficial results showed that Moshood had 8,341,309 votes, while his opponent had 5,952,087. Moshood had won by 2,389,222 votes.
In the meantime people had begun paying congratulatory visits to Moshood Abiola. Crowds came to his house in even larger numbers than during the campaign. A lot of his visitors gossiped about a range of things such as the purported arrest of Humphrey Nwosu, spreading frightening tales of how the electoral chief had been beaten up by close aides of the military president for daring to announce some of the results. None of these stories were confirmed but they created a lot of tension, which culminated on June 24, 1993, a day in which Nigerians were given a clear glimpse of what lay ahead.

That day had marked the burial of Alhaji Ya’adua, a very prominent northern Nigerian elder statesman, and the father of Shehu Yar’adua, the most powerful Nigerian politician of that time. Moshood had traveled to attend the ceremony and was told upon his arrival that General Babangida, Nigeria’s president, had just left. Moshood was even informed that his plane had not been allowed to land on time because the Nigerian president wanted to avoid seeing him. This piece of information was easy for Moshood to believe because he had not been able to get in contact with the president for a very long time.

Jamiu Abiola with the GDA

By the time Moshood returned to Lagos later that same day, he was informed that the military president was about to give a speech. He turned on his television in the presence of some family members and a former governor of a northern state, and was shocked by the content of the military president’s speech. In one breath, General Babangida announced that he had annulled the- presidential elections.
Justifying his action, the general cited various excuses, such as Moshood’s alleged use of money to secure votes and the unreliability of the election’s status because of numerous court rulings. After that General Babangida announced his intention to conduct another election, a more credible one, even though international and local observers had already declared that the just concluded elections were the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria.

The Book that cleaned MKO of all his Political attrocities

(Excerpts from the book, The President Who Never Ruled by Jamiu Abiola; get copies in any book shop across the world or write Jamiu Abiola through jamiulinguist@yahoo.com. Read June 24; MKO Abiola’s worst day ever in our next post on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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