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

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
[email protected]. Read June 24; MKO Abiola’s worst day ever in our next post
on this blog)

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