Regardless of its historio-moral contestations, the controversial May 29 1999 marked a day when for the second time in its post-independence history, Nigeria transited from Military to the Civilian rule. This day remains historically significant due to some momentous, yet, tumultuous developments that trailed its dawn. The most significant of these developments were the challenges that evolved as a result of the cancellation of June 12 elections. How our response to these challenges, relative the evolution of May 29 constitutes the reason why we have failed is what this article sets out to interrogate.
The journey to May 29 had begun with the cancellation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the most credible election ever in Nigeria’s history, which, for vested reasons, was cancelled by the despotic IBB’s regime. The cancellation of the election that was overwhelmingly won by the Social Democratic Party presidential flag bearers, Bashorun M.K.O Abiola and Amb. Baba Gana Kingibe was as result of some intrigues which involved some military gangsters and civilian bigots. These civilian chauvinists include, from different parts of the country, a cross section of individuals, and “Royal” fathers who are still playing critical roles in the affairs of our nation. Why did this people conspire against Abiola and the masses that elected him, one may wish to know? There are many ways this could be explained but for the purpose of clarity, it seems more logical to intricate a concise response by first explaining why Abiola won the elections with a landslide margin and later, spell out why this worked against his mandate?
One of the major reasons why Abiola won was his extraordinary philanthropic spirit. Abiola’s large heartedness benefitted Muslims and non-Muslims of diverse tribal spread across different geo-political zones of the country. This endeared him to the Nigerian masses who felt he was a special creature of God, who had been anointed and entrusted with the custodianship of ever replenishing warehouse of wealth for which humanity is to benefit without any inhibition. He neither betrayed the trust nor the impoverished, thus, his unequalled popularity as a house hold name in Nigeria.
Also, Abiola was all through his life, known to be a detribalized Nigerian. Unlike most Nigerian politicians, particularly those of the Yoruba extraction from which Abiola hailed, he lived and practised the project and politics, Truly Nigeria. This was to work in his favour when he chose to contest the presidency as there was no controversy about his established federating personality. In other words, all regions of the country, minority and the majority saw him as an able representation of their interests. Thus, this was why his ticket could not be interpreted subject to neither Yoruba nor Southern dichotomies. For related reasons, the electorates were not bugged by the Muslim-Muslim ticket on which he vied for the number one post in the land.
Besides, the delightful ability of Abiola to analyze issues using the tool of logic, and intellectual persuasion, reeling off-hand, hard and genuine facts to back up his claim, placed him far and above other millionaire and political colleagues of his. This was a great asset which won Bahorun Abiola the hearts of intellectuals during the presidential debate between him and Alhaji Bashir Tofa, his National Republican Convention’s counterpart.
The highlighted factors, combined with the clout which Abiola wielded among those that matters coupled with his financial chest made him a toast of the electorate who had no misgiving that he, Abiola, the Saviour of the Masses, would truly bail the country out of its perennial problems. In the consequence, he emerged victorious by dwarfing Tofa with a mouth agaping margin. This victory meant different things to different people, therefore, the grand conspiracy that led to the election’s eventual annulment.
The hard fact is that most people that pretended to be protagonist of the restoration of Abiola’s mandate were hypocrites who were either playing the vengeance card or driven by aggrandizing obsession. To those whose voice dominates the South-West politics, especially the core Awoist, Abiola’s emergence made them develop cold feet. His, they perceived, would encroach on their political foothold and possibly, banish them to the fringe of the Southwestern political map. This reaction has its historical root in the Abiola-Awolowo’s political face-off of the first and second Republic. Another justification for this claim is that with Abiola’s overwhelming acceptance by the Yorubas, it would have been easier for him to redraw the Yoruba map of political alliance by creating a more viable, and inclusive alternative political as opposed to the largely ethicized and exclusivist Awoist camp. My intention should not be mistaken as comparing or ridiculing the higly revered Pa Awo, rather, I am making a bold attempt to deconstruct how the core Awoist reacted to Abiola’s victory based on its implication on the political future of their camp. There is also the need to clarify that Abiola’s acceptance by the Yorubas was in fact not because his candidature was sold to them by the Yoruba leaders. Rather, it was based on the earlier enumerated factors that he won the hearts of the Yorubas as it was with the case with the people of other tribal extraction. However, little did Abiola know that those whose political fortunes are threatened by his phenomena political rise will never sleep until their perceived his political fall is achieved.
For similar or related reasons, other tiny but powerful civilian political cabals saw the man’s emergence as a doom that should be averted. The Northern pro-June 12 cancellation cabal which though centrifuged round the influence of IBB was coordinated by Sultan Dasuki, while Arthuz Nzeribe and Emmanuel Iwuanyawu combined to coordinate the pro- June 12 forces which comprised those who were from the South-East and South-South. It was these Lazarus who constitute the known and hidden hidden hands who gave IBB the moral backing needed to announce the cancellation of the June 12 elections. Some of these individuals were quick to lead protests that were to take place after the IBB infamous stepping aside speech.
The true identity of some of these betrayals of the June 12 election was to soon manifest when they mandated some of their trusted and refined minds to work with the late despot, General Sani Abacha. Among these were those whose membership of the Abacha’s regime had the approval of those who has constituted themselves as the Yoruba’s tinny political gods. This was also the case with those groups from other regions who had earlier joined hands with IBB to act the ignoble cancelation script as they also had their inputs into the illegal administration of Abacha. Some of these betrayals who are still active in the political process have earned themselves the nomenclature, Abacha politicians.
After destiny dwelled a decisive blow on Abacha when he succumbed to the cold hands of death, it was much anticipated that Abiola’s mandate would be restored. One would have expected those active players who were known to have been canvassing for the restoration of the June 12 mandate to have ceased this opportunity to force the AbduSalam Abubakar’s regime to reinstate Abiola’s mandate. This was never the case. Though one cannot make a generalizing claim, the bitter truth is that the activism tempo decreased. Instead, moral supports was covertly or overtly offered for those who were pressurizing Abiola to relinquish his mandate. It was while this was going on, to balance the equation and clear the way, Abiola was eliminated following a well planned conspiracy known to have international blessing. After this happened, there was neither any sustained demonstration nor any tangible effort to seek redress especially from the active layers who wer
e ahead in leading “pro-June 12” rallies. A good student of politics with a background experience of revolutionary or barricade struggle may be in a better position to know that something had gone wrong. This raises big question about the personalities of those within the active layer and their real motive.
Shape of things to come was to follow the politics of realignment and convergence as General AbduSalam Abubakar unveiled his transition agenda. This ushered in a democratic era which produced Obasanjo as the president. Those who determined Obasanjo’s mandate where those who annulled the June 12 elections. It was well thought that one of them, Obasanjo should be allowed to rule, more so that he hails from the South-West as it was with the late Abiola. It was this group and those with similar background that, directly or indirectly also determined to a reasonable extent, and in one form or the other, those who were to rule in various states as governors, local government chairpersons and counselors. So, it can be said that we only continued with those group of individuals who not only sabotaged the June 12 elections but are known to have failed the nation. The new entrants who rode on the back of these groups can in no way be divorced from the ways of these tinny lords, therefore, one reason why those who have been ruling us until now cannot be said to be responsible and responsive leaders laden with the visionary instinct that is required to rule us.
On a specific note, if a stock is to be taken of those who in various capacities emerged victorious in the 1999 elections, it will be realized that just few among them obtained their party’s ticket based on merit. In other words, between 90 and 90% of those in elected positions obtained their tickets through questionable and skewed process. For those within this significant brace from the South-West, money and loyalty to the AD party hierarchy, and Afenifere, especially Pa Abraham Adesanya determined who got what. Although few got their tickets based on proven track records, neither substance, manifestorial package nor the people were allowed to decide via the primaries, those who were to flag the party’s ticket. In the north, money, religious, godfatherism were also the deciding factors that determined who got what. Others were those who benefited from the large heart of those who scuttled the June 12 elections as their anointed candidates merely worked over the primaries, which in most instances as it was with the South-West, candidates were handpicked and imposed on the party and people by the godfathers. Money and godfatherism contoured the terrain in the South-South and South-East. So, the 1999 elections was that which pitched against one another, products of money, godfathering, and religious politics, therefore leaving the masses with no real credible action from which leaders were to be selected from.
As a fall out, those who emerged through this flawed democratic process abandoned the masses interest by pursuing vested agenda. Pursuance to this, most of these individuals wasted no time in rescuing themselves from the bondage of their godfathers, therefore, the major reason why in the fourth republic, political gangstersism, and party in-fighting, caused by the fall out between political sons and their godfathers were a recurrent and dominant trend among all the political parties that won elective posts. This was one of the major factors that led to the collapse of AD, and the split of the Afenifere into dissenting rows and columns, consequently, making its once mighty political powers to be dwarfed. The South-East and South-South as well as the North had their own share of such upheavals. This merely consumed some political actors and dissident political sons but did not herald the demise of any major visible regional political party.
It is these intervening factors that explain the level of wealth plundering and abandonment of the onerous state building responsibilities that were witnessed between 1999 and 2003. The worst of pillaging was to take place at the local government levels where local government chairpersons and counselors whose emergence in the first instance, were dominantly at the mercy of their state governors, were mainly conduit pipes through which the latter were siphoning money. At the state level, going by the role played by money in obtaining tickets, the need to fulfill the contractual terms signed with the godfathers, through oiling their political machinery with stolen money and by awarding them juicy contracts, corruption rose to a record high. The investors needed to make whopping profit, and the only way this could be done was to loot the treasury, an act which the godfathers and political sons got enmeshed in. More than the godfathers, the political sons needed the financial chest to free themselves from the godfathers’ domineering influences, so, the estrangement that was to take place between the duo.
This pathetic scenario was to sustain itself in the 2003 elections as primaries conducted by most political parties were, on a more notorious scale, fraught with the aforementioned factors. However, one must highlight that the 2003 electoral process was worse than that of the 1999. So, the disaster that was to befall the electorate after the 2003 elections was of greater disillusion. The Awoist lost the South-West to the exception of Lagos as they were outflanked by Obasanjo, one of the anti-June 12 elements. Gangesterism became definitive of the political leadership, hence, the reasons why some bastards held their states to ransom because of self-vested pledges that were not fulfilled. Adedibu and Chris Uba make a good example of the post-2003 election case study while the Sarakites-Lawalites fratricidal tussle exemplifies the example of how gangstersim took over the 2003 electoral process.
Since victory in 2003 elections cost more resources than in 1999, so, one is less perturbed by the level of treasury looting that was to subsequently take place both at the national and state level. While Obasanjo led the national pillaging efforts, the state governors were in charge of liquidating their state resources. Developmental efforts became summarily halted, hence, the near collapse of basic amenities in virtually all the states of the federation. With the fallout between Obasanjo and Atiku, coupled with a host of other factors, the infamous do-or-die electoral method was resorted to by Obasanjo and the PDP as a means of sustaining their wish at all costs. Other major political parties followed suit, so, the level of barbarity that trailed the conduct of 2007 elections, the worst in Nigeria’s political history. The aftermath of this is the increasing state of depravity in the land, although, two or three one-eyed individuals can be considered as kings among the blinds.
It may at this point be categorically stated, that, the factors which orchestrated the cancelation of the June 12 elections, our immediate reaction and how the post-June challenges were taken over and exploited to achieve vested political interests by tinny groups of powerful cabals laid down the foundation of why democracy has failed in solving our perennial problems. With the ongoing trend within the opposition and ruling parties, the hope is dim that democracy will usher in those dividends that are much expected. Like a wild dog, the godfathers are on the loose; menacingly transversing the political landscape and plotting to see their political machinations for the forth coming 2011elections land them the much anticipated victory. These self perpetuating reasons which explain in part why we have failed will need to be attended to if we are to experience a reversal of the travails which our nation is experiencing now. More than ever, the masses need to determine those that lead them at all stages of the electoral process and must evolve credible opposition unlike the diabolic ones that are presently playing this role. How to do this, is an issue that will be addressed in one of my f
orth coming articles.