5 Facts You Need To Know About June 12
Twenty-four years ago, Nigeria's fairest election was annulled by the military junta headed by General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd).
To commemorate the day, all the six states in the South-west have declared today a work-free day.
Here are five important facts you need to know about the date.
- First election after 1983 coup
It was the first election that was held after the 1983 coup. The election was declared historic and unprecedented in many ramifications. Many Nigerians believed they were at the threshold of witnessing the completion of a political transition from military to democratic governance, with the conclusion of the presidential election. But the final results did not see the light of day, as Babangida, made a shocking announcement that the election had been annulled.
No political event in the history of post-independence Nigeria has generated as much controversy, comments and analysis as the befuddling annulment of the presidential polls.
- The man who won the election and his deputy are both Muslims
Moshood Abiola, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who won the election, contested the election with a fellow Muslim, Babagana Kingibe, as his running mate and yet Nigerians were easily convinced of the imperative of voting for them. Religious and ethnic barriers were demolished and for the first time in its history, Nigeria appeared a truly united country.
- June 12 marked the beginning for most of Nigeria’s present-day ‘progressive politicians’:
There are certain politicians in Nigeria who are today identified as progressives after the fashion of the late Western Nigeria premier, Obafemi Awolowo. The truth however is that many of them were too young in Awo’s active political days to be his students. They really and truly joined the ‘progressive’ cause when the need arose to galvanise the people to protest the annulment of Abiola’s election as Nigeria’s president.
Notable among those progressive leaders today is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Bisi Akande and Dele Momodu who joined the likes of Professor Wole Soyinka and the late Abraham Adesanya among others to form the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) which for many years agitated for the restoration of Abiola’s stolen mandate.
- Abiola was not the only June 12 casualty
Abiola, the presumed winner of the election remains the major victim of the annulment. It was in the process of protesting the annulment that Abiola and his wife Kudirat lost their lives.
Although he was initially a beneficiary of the June 12 annulment, going by his scheming and eventual emergence as Head of State, Sani Abacha himself became a victim as he was consumed by the June 12 conflagration with his death.
Hundreds of people were killed in the protests that followed the annulment.
Many pro-democracy activists were randomly arrested, brutalised, maimed and killed by the despotic Abacha regime. Many notable Nigerians also had to run into exile.
- Several key actors in the election are now dead.
Aside Abiola and Abacha, other key players in the annulment of the election are now dead. Justice Bassey Ikpeme, who gave the controversial order stopping the election, died in 1997. Clement Akpamgbo, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who was involved in the legal tussles, died in 2006. Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, then second-in-command to General Ibrahim Babangida, famously said Abiola could not be sworn in as president because government was owing him a lot of money. He died in 2011. Hammed Kusamotu, then NRC chairman, died in 2005.