It is now 24 years since Nigerians voted in an election that is still regarded as the most peaceful, transparent, freest and fairest poll the country ever had since its Independence in 1960.
The historic poll had Late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola referred to as MKO Abiola, contesting under the Social Democratic Party (SDP) against Bashir Tofa of the then National Republican Convention (NRC).
In a supposed clear victory, Late Abiola reportedly won the presidential election but the then military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, annulled it.
The consequent results of the annulment was protest by majorly South-West, where Abiola came from, and military clampdown on protesters which led to the death of many.
How Babangida stepped aside to allow for an interim government headed by Ernest Shonekan, how the government was toppled by General Sani Abacha and how Abiola landed in prison for declaring himself Nigeria’s president and eventually died struggling to reclaim his supposed stolen mandate are now history.
Abiola died on July 7, 1998, his supposed day of freedom from prison, at the age of 60. He died under suspicious circumstances just a month after Abacha died.
However, many Nigerians hold the opinion that Abiola and his said 1993 truncated mandate, played a major role to Nigeria’s present democracy.
24 years after that epic event, Ripples Nigeria looks at four lessons from the June 12 event Nigeria’s democracy has continued to fall short of:
1. A replica of June 12 free, fair elections: A great number of Nigerians have kept and maintained the view that June 12 election remains the freest and fairest presidential elections since the country’s independence in 1960 till date.
The election was believed to have recorded no single case of rigging, violence, or any form of electoral malpractices.
Analysts have continued to argue that the electoral feat of June 12, 1993 has not been achieved again in any election in the country not even with the 2011 and 2015 presidential elections that many arguably consider free and fair.
2. Discarding ethnic sentiments: One great feat also achieved by June 12, 1993 presidential election that Nigeria’s democracy since its return in 1999 has continued to shy away from is ethnic sentiments, many political observers in Nigeria have noted.
While Nigerians in the annulled election of June 12, voted without recourse to ethnic nationalities of the candidates, as Abiola even won Tofa in some northern states, that scenario seems to have been a far gone situation in Nigeria’s present democracy.
According to commentators on politics in Nigeria, virtually every subsequent elections in Nigeria that followed after June 12, have been characterised by ethnic sentiments.
The last presidential election where the South-East and South-South massively voted for former President Goodluck Jonathan from South-South against current President Muhammadu Buhari from North, and the northern region also voting in the same fashion, buttressed how Nigeria’s Democracy has failed to learn from one of the credits of June 12 election.
3. Total absence of religious sentiments: The issue of religion which apparently was silent in June 12 elections has now become one of the major threats to the country’s democracy.
In the June 12 1993 elections both Abiola and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe, as well as their opponent, Tofa were all Muslims and yet Nigerians went ahead and voted for them.
However, in present day Nigeria, politicians have rather adopted religious sentiments as basis to negotiate for political positions.
During the 2015 presidential election, campaigns against Muslim -Muslim ticket was so pronounced that certain persons had to be persuaded to drop their vice presidential ambitions within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) because the presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim.
It was recently revealed how Senate President Bukola Saraki and others vigorously opposed the ambition of a leader of the APC and a former governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu, to run as Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate, because he (Tinubu), like Buhari is also a Muslim.
4. Peaceful pre and post election conduct: The June 12 1993 election achieved a high level of peace before, during and after the election, such that has never been replicated since then.
But for the annulment of the election that brought about protest, Nigerians were very peaceful prior, during and after the election.
No election before or after that has been able to achieve such a feat, many have continued to say.
The 2011 presidential election, even with its wide acceptance as measurably free and fair, still threw up crisis that erupted in some northern states that saw about 11 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members killed along several other Nigerians and millions of Naira worth of properties destroyed.
The 2015 election had politicians attacked during rallies, and campaigns leading to the election and during the election. A former Minister of Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe, openly rejected ongoing results count from the election, a scenario that could have led the country into crisis, but for the congratulatory call of then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan to Buhari, the winner of the election.
So, as the event of June 12 is remembered today, some of the expectations of Nigerians is to see some of the lessons of that election being replicated in Nigeria’s present democracy.
RipplesNigeria ….without borders, without fears