After 25 years of cancelled presidential elections, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola who supposedly won the June 12 general elections has been posthumously declared Nigeria’s presumed winner.
On Wednesday, the Federal Government conferred on him a posthumous award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), the highest Honour in the land usually conferred on Nigeria’s Head of State or elected President.
In a press release issued Wednesday in his Twitter account, President Muhammadu Buhari stated “June 12th, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our Independence.
“Therefore, Government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to late Chief MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12th 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as Vice President, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON.”
Abiola, a one-time holder of CFR was born on August 14, 1937 and died under suspicious circumstances on July 7, 1998. Popularly known as M. K. O. Abiola, he was a Nigerian businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Yoruba Egba clan.
He ran for the presidency in 1993, and was widely regarded as the presumed winner of the inconclusive election since no official final results were announced.
At least ix states in the Southwest had declared June 12 as public holiday and have been holding ceremonies in his honour.
Abiola Vs Tofa’s Votes
Abiola was said to have scored 58.36% of the 14 million votes cast. His rival, Tofa polled 5,952,087 votes, representing 41.64%. Only three states each returned more than 1 million votes, all Southern: Lagos, Rivers (now Rivers and Bayelsa) and Ondo. Abiola received the highest votes from Lagos state. He smiled home with 883,965. Ondo state (now Ondo and Ekiti) delivered a total of 883,024 votes, which gave Lagos a good run for its money. Abiola scored more than 80% in each of the five south-western states: Lagos, Ondo, Oyo, Osun and Ogun state. Osun’s 87% was his highest percentage nationwide. His 78% in Kwara was his highest outside of the south-west.
His rival scored poorly Bashir Tofa did not score up to 80% in any state. He came close to that in Sokoto where he got 79%. Incidentally, Abiola scored his worst percentage in Sokoto (20%). Tofa, however, did not score up to 70% in any other state after Rivers.
In 1994, Abiola declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos island, an area mainly dominated by Lagos Indigenes, after he returned from a trip to solicit the support of the international community for his mandate.
After declaring himself president he was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of the late military leader, President General Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody.
The election was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida, because of alleged evidence that they were corrupt and unfair, a development that ushered in a political crisis that led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.
Harvests Of Death
It was one election that several deaths trailed after the then military junta had nullified it. First, MKO Abiola died in detention on July 7, 1998. Abiola died on July 7, 1998 on the day he was due to be released from incarceration under suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of General Abacha. The official autopsy stated that Abiola died of natural causes, but Abacha’s chief security officer, Al-Mustapha alleged he was beaten to death.
Justice Bassey Ikpeme, who gave the controversial order stopping the election, followed in 1997. Mr Clement Akpamgbo, the Attorney-general and minister of justice who was involved in the legal tussles, died in 2006. Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, the then second-in-command to General Ibrahim Babangida, who famously said Abiola could not be sworn in as president because government was owing him a lot of money, died in 2011.
No Hausa or Fulani politicians featured on the tickets. Strangely, the 1993 elections had no person of Hausa or Fulani blood picked as presidential or vice-presidential candidate. Alhaji Bashir Tofa is a Kanuri from Kano. Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, a Kanuri from Borno State, was Abiola’s running mate. However, after the annulment, the Hausa/Fulani bore the brunt.