No doubt, Ibrahim Babangida was an admirable ruler and head of state. His posture, interaction, and communication presence aligned with his position as the military head of state with a flavour of democratic apparatus.
However, Nigeria’s history will not wait to forget the damages the annulment of June 12 did to her and her future. Hence, IBB and his team are rulers whose legacy has been eroded by their actions and inactions in the annulment of June 12, the election described as the most peaceful and credible in our history.
While the families who lost loved ones see the June 12 celebration as a National Day of Sorrow and a day when an infinite magnitude of injustice befell them, IBB is unremorseful. He is still characteristically defending his leadership failure and chicken-hearted nationalistic ego with his rhetorical statement that Nigerians have not learnt the lesson of June 12. He recently claimed that June 12 was annulled in the national interest, a comment he had failed to explain since 1993.
In the previous articles, I have charged Nigerians to hold their leaders accountable and deal decisively with those whose actions have damaged or mismanaged our diversity. What’s the value of the names of some of our past leaders if we judge their actions by the result they produced for our country and the current state of poverty and division in Nigeria?
Suppose leadership is judged by legacy and results. In that case, our history will not be kind to us if we do not remove the names of some people on our national monuments for using the privileges our country gave them to retrogress us as a nation.
What’s the value of the names of some of our past leaders if we judge their actions by the result they produced for our country and the current state of poverty and division in Nigeria?
Ghanaians will remember Jerry Rawlings for magnifying the works of Kwame Nkrumah. The people of Singapore will be glad to see the name of Harry Lee Kuan Yew on their towers for taking the right calls that led to the development of a rejected small nation and its transformation into a service superpower.
History will be happy with Nelson Mandela for his forgiveness that united South Africa after his victory. How much can we say or write about leaders who have been decisive and did things that advance their countries?
June 12, no matter how the military junta explained it, magnified our love for Nigeria as a country. That love was on the platform of the late MKO Abiola. A personality that all Nigerians and voters widely accepted in that election except for a few groups of sectionalism, cruel, blood-thirsty decision-makers in uniforms. As savvy as the group was, they refused to deviation from the damages the military had done by its incursion into politics with the coups and countercoups.
The annulment, on the other hand, magnified our differences which have been hitherto suppressed by the military decisions to replace democratic negotiations with their decrees, thereby making our unity coerced and a wound with no healing. June 12 would have been the last Plastic of Paris; Nigeria needed to fortify the marriage of convenience instituted by the British.
In his annulment message, IBB claimed the election was adjudged free and fair but with malpractices in all the states. A statement he had not repented from by claiming he annulled the election in the national interest. Happily, the 16th President of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu, who almost lost his life in the struggle to actualise the annulled mandate, described the annulment as callous.
MKO Abiola’s candidacy in the June 12 election proved a point. Nigeria can vote without considering religion. His running mate, Babagana Kindigbe, who later ran away from the struggle, is a Muslim. Nigerians from the East, West and Middle Belt who are Christians never agitated for a Christian vice-presidential candidate.
The Christians in the North never felt unsecured. The Christian Association of Nigeria never demanded any assurance from MKO Abiola. We all voted for a man we believed could eradicate poverty and unite the country.
Rather than moving the country forward, Babangida and his team are predominately not northerners (but a selfish team of rulers), as we often use the word northerners loosely, dashed our hopes. I am sure the unacceptability of MKO Abiola to the military council was not on a religious basis but purely on tribal and ethnic sentiments on the surface and for personal interests raised above the country’s unity.
The consequences of the selfish decision were the loss of lives in the first instance. There were lots of people of Igbo extractions who fled Lagos, and an innumerable number flew from the North but met their end along the way. Thus, Babangida’s annulment opened our tribal fault line and resonated with the memory of the civil war.
Today, we mentioned a few known names who lost their lives in the struggle to actualise June 12. We are not remembering the unknown traders and family men and women, including children, who were running to safety in their country because of the decision of a military cabal. We are battling with the aftermaths of the annulment in every election, and our political calculations as to whether someone is a Muslim or a Christian or the region, they are from expanding our political calculus beyond competency, personality and character. Our religious fault line became wide open after the annulment. That’s the reason the Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC generated more controversy than the election itself.
MKO Abiola would have reduced poverty or not; we cannot say. But he would have laid a foundation for politics with fewer tribal and religious fault lines. His administration could have been a foundation for equality and equilibrium in how the North and South see things. The annulment galvanised the North against the South. It is on record that June 12 was a southern ritual until Buhari made it a national holiday in a gimmick to seek a second time in office and not in total loyalty to the principles behind the election and its annulment. That was the same display by the recent nation’s damaging words of Nasir El-Rufai.
Nigeria’s fault lines of religion, ethnicity and youth restlessness arising from lousy leadership are still broad. No thanks to the annulment of June 12 and Babangida’s unrepentant comments that Nigeria has yet to learn the lessons of his destructive setback to nation-building. Babangida in his comment on June 12, 2023, also noted voters’ apathy in our elections since June 12, 1993. IBB, tell us who’s to blame if not the annulment of June 12 that made people lose interest in the country and the leadership, QED.
And to IBB, a great ruler with poor succession. Who among his protégés is still relevant to Nigeria? Thus, the annulment of June 12, the emergence of Ernest Shonekan, Abacha and other leaders had created leadership selection and succession problems for us. We have yet to get things right since the mistake of the annulment.
In closing, I want to refer our leaders to read about Turkey and Kemal Ataturk. The Ataturk Olympic Stadium recently hosted the Champions’ league finals between Inter Milan and Manchester United. Unlike IBB and our leaders, Kemal Ataturk was decisive and took decisions based on the national interest. His choices were against his religion and the sultanate system, yet they advanced Turkey scientifically, technologically, economically and developmentally among nations. He laid his life for his country and did not take the easy options.
The annulment of June 12 was an easy option for a ruler despite its damaging consequences, and that’s different from what a leader with national interests will do. MKO Abiola had taken the difficult route, and we cherish him in death more than the excuses of the annulment.
Nigeria will soon become a country of accountability, and we will want leaders to account for their decisions. Imperatively, some decisions will be a mistake, and we will wish for leaders who can reflect and admit to making mistakes, not those who feel untouchable.