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Exactly thirty years after the June 12 presidential election was annulled, Nigerians need to know that this happened when General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida was Military President and Commander-in-Chief.
The move to cancel the presidential election which Nigerians described as the most credible election did not start hours before the election but months before the electoral process.
According to Vanguard, the move started with one Association for Better Nigeria, ABN, led by the late Francis Arthur Nzeribe and one Abimbola Davis.
Dateline: Abuja, 9:35 pm, Thursday, July 10, 1993. Justice Bassey Ikpeme chose that hour to launch her voyage into infamy.
Though it was an interlocutory application, filed by the ABN, Ikpeme, apparently over-mobilised and over-induced, made a “final” pronouncement. And this was in flagrant disregard of the provisions of Section 19(1) of Decree 13 of 1993.
In a 2018 report published in Vanguard and written by Richard Akinola, a veteran law and human rights reporter, “the Plaintiff in the case, Davis, on behalf of the ABN, had alleged electoral corruption on the part of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, candidate, Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola, (Abiola was contesting against Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention, NRC) at the SDP primaries in Jos, between March 27 and 29, 1993.
Before her ruling ex-parte at 9:35 that night, there were flurries of activities between Justice Ikpeme’s court chambers and the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation occupied by Clement Akpamgbo, leading to the postponement of the ruling from morning to night.
In the ruling, Justice Ikpeme not only stopped the election but also got carried away by the interests she wanted to serve by making a “final” pronouncement on the case even at an Interlocutory level.
The allegations ABN levelled against some of the state governments at the primaries, Justice Ikpeme held, were “the greatest shame in the history of Nigeria’s politics”! For a judge to make this outlandish statement at the ex-parte stage of the case when the other party, the National Electoral Commission, NEC, had not been heard, exposed the judicial conspiracy in the whole saga.
Confusion cradled the nation in its hands.
The NEC promptly issued a statement, disregarding the court order, stating that the election would go on as scheduled.
Meanwhile, NEC filed a counter-affidavit that the jurisdiction of the court had been ousted by Section 19(1) of Decree 13 of 1993″.
According to one of the senior officials of NEC, the commission’s leadership had paid a visit to Aso Rock presidential Villa earlier that fateful day to brief the government on its preparedness to hold the election.
Upon arriving at the Villa, according to the very senior NEC official, “a member of the National Defense Security Council, NDSC, the nation’s highest ruling body at that time, asked us what we came to do at the Villa and we told him we were there to brief government about our preparations.
He simply asked, “Oh is there going to be an election’?.’ It was not until 9:35 that night that the accidental event of the morning resonated in the consciousness of NEC officials.”
The ABN was suspected to have the backing of a section of the NDSC. Indeed, it had. And had Bashorun Abiola paid more than passing attention to the activities of ABN, perhaps, Davis may not have appeared in court that Thursday morning.
One of Abiola’s associates disclosed to Vanguard that Davis was in touch with them and that he kept them abreast of the plans of the ABN and how Abiola could checkmate them.
While some merely suspected that the government of the day was behind ABN, a few insiders were aware of Nzeribe’s visits to Aso Rock where he got briefings.
But many saw the plot as being too odoriferous to be effectuated – until the late-night court order.
And although the late Augustus Aikhomu, who was then Vice President, did issue statements that the transition programme did not have a hidden agenda and that the government was going to keep its promise to hold elections and handover in 1993, the events of June 10, 1993, began to cast doubts over its sincerity.
Section 19(1) of Decree 13 of 1993, an addition to the Transition To Civil Rule Decree of 1987/’88, specifically ousted the intervention of the courts in the affairs of NEC.
But that did not matter to the cabal of that era which included but was not limited to the Attorney General of the Federation Minister of Justice and a national security chief along with a handful of greedy politicians who used the instrumentality of the ABN to disrupt the process.
For, if the government of the day was not involved, why would an association be threatening the major government programme which was meant to lead to a handover to a civilian administration? Yet, there was never a rebuke from any government official against ABN – not even a whimper against what ABN was doing.
A learned legal luminary drew attention to the fact that in 1993 alone, over 103 decrees were promulgated to regulate elections.
Now, that a government which went to great lengths to guide its transition programme with that much legislation would allow a subversive body to ambush it speaks to the evil that resides in the heart of men and women.
Details On What Turned Out On Saturday, June 12, 1993
But the elections were held on Saturday, June 12, 1993. Against all expectations by the schemers, there was no rain, there were no reports of violence or election rigging – and if there were, they were so inconsequential to warrant reportage because Nigerians were willing to put up with just about anything to ensure the exit of the military.
Interim results on Sunday, June 14, 1993, showed Abiola leading with an overwhelming majority in 19 states while NRC had a clear majority in 11 states.
Wednesday, June 16, 1993, NEC declared that it had decided not to release the final results of the presidential election ‘until further notice,’ as the ABN had once again taken NEC to court, and as another Abuja High Court injunction had been served to restrain the NEC from announcing the results.
Thursday, June 17, 1993, following popular demands for the results, two court orders reversed the Commission’s decision not to publish the election results and a Lagos High Court judge, Justice Moshood Olugbani, ordered NEC to release the results within 24 hours.
Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, the chairman of Campaign for Democracy, CD, issued an ultimatum to NEC to release the results within 24 hours or the CD would do so.
Friday, June 18, 1993, CD released the election results and declared Moshood Abiola the winner of the election. On the same day, Moshood Abiola reportedly “went on television to claim victory”.
Events That Happened On Wednesday, June 23, 1993
The results were mounted on a scoreboard outside the commission’s building but within its compound so that people who were just passing by on the street would be updated with the latest results as and when they were certified to be correct, counted and collated and the agents agreeing and affirming the authenticity of the result.
Alas, after about eight of the results from the states had been put on the scoreboard, an order came from the election committee that the scoreboard should be brought down and removed.
The committee had the NEC chairman, Professor Humphrey Nwosu, the chief returning officer, the resident electoral commissioners of the respective results, national commissioners and the representatives of the two political parties. What transpired was that within INEC, there were moles who kept feeding Aso Rock Presidential Villa of developments within the Commission.
It was from the Villa that the instruction came that the scoreboard should be removed. But that was just the beginning.
Events took a frenetic turn. Later that day, however, Justice Dahiru Saleh, Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, declared the election null and void allegedly because the NEC had ignored a first, late-night injunction of Bassey Ikpeme not to conduct the polls. On the same day, the government made an announcement cancelling the elections and suspending NEC.
The final straw that suggested that the government of the day had chosen to break the back of Nwosu and NEC, as well as gave the game away was that the warrant and judgment by Saleh was served on NEC by the then Attorney General, Akpamgbo, so, there was nobody to run to.
The Attorney General would have been the one NEC could have approached but here he was, serving NEC with an order. He also told Nwosu that if he disobeyed, he would be on his own.
NEC’s Director of Legal Services, Bukhari Bello, very intelligent and strong-willed, went on appeal.
And while he was at the point of getting a judgment, the government announced the suspension of NEC and the transition programme and that meant that the court was no longer in a position to take any decision because it was going to act in vain.