June 12 has come to be identified as a significant epoch in the history of Nigeria. It brings memories of unity and patriotism as Nigerians across all divides came out en masse to speak with one voice.
June 12 was the day the then military junta of General Ibrahim Babangida chose to conduct the presidential election for the transition to democracy.
There were two aspirants for the presidency in that election: Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, MKO of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC).
Local and international observers adjudged the election to be free, fair and transparent.
Unofficial results had it that the election was won by the late MKO Abiola. However, the shocker was that it was annulled by Babangida midway through the announcement.
Widespread criticisms and demonstrations followed the annulment. MKO Abiola, the presumptive winner of the election, was arrested and detained in prison on charges of treason after reportedly declaring himself as the President of Nigeria.
MKO Abiola died on 7th July 1998, the day he was due to be released from prison, Muslim News reliably gathered.
Last year, President Muhammadu Buhari posthumously bestowed a national honour reserved exclusively for presidents on Abiola, while declaring June 12 as the new Democracy Day as against May 29 which it used to be.
27 years down the line, Muslim News conducts a Vox Pop to get the views of Nigerian Muslims on June 12, the unpopular annulment and what it portends for Islamic activism in Nigeria.
Sherifah Yusuf-Ajibade, Coordinator, Social Advocacy Project, says she was at that time a final year undergraduate at the University of Lagos, adding that as a card carrying member of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), she was very active in the electoral process and took part in primaries at local and state levels.
“I cast my vote at Amuwo Odofin Estate in the then Ojo Local Government area of Lagos state. It was a strong experience, one whose memories can’t be easily erased. Alhamdulillah, I was part of that historic election. The election was very open, transparent, free and fair. Nigerians across the board voted their conscience irrespective of creed, tribe or class,” she said.
Speaking on the annulment, she said it was a rape on the collective good of Nigerians, adding that, “The trials, errors and failures we are having today are due to that annulment. Democratic ideals were trampled upon and since then, our efforts as a people are being taken for granted and thrown in the trash by a few individuals for their selfish reasons. We leave those who annulled the elections to their Creator to give them their due”.
Hajiah Sherifah further noted that Islamic activism would have been taken to a top-notch because majority of the players in the process were Muslims. She said that the annulment has brought a setback for Islam activism in Nigeria.
Abu Umar Al-Faruq
Also confirming the effect of annulment of June 12 results on Islamic activism in Nigeria, veteran broadcaster, Alhaji Abdur Razaq Abdus Salam (Abu Umar Al-Faruq) said all religious programmes were shut down.
According to the Director of Public/Corporate Affairs, Voice of Nigeria (VON), “The incident affected Islamic activism just as it affected every other thing in Nigeria. There were sporadic reactions, thugs took over, especially in Lagos State.
“Almost all Islamic programmes were shut down, soldiers ran down everywhere. I experienced where the soldiers had to negotiate with the thugs that they don’t want blood shed but want roads kept open, they left when the soldiers came and returned when the soldiers departed,” he added.
Abu Umar Al-Faruq, who was a young reporter with the VON in 1993, covered the late MKO Abiola’s campaign at presidential hotel where the SDP flagbearer addressed the Nigerian Business Community.
“His style of speech delivery was unique which made me respect him. His victory was also different, it was the best in Nigeria and we’ve had nothing close. We also should give kudos to the military who supervised the election. As a journalist, I was recording polls just like other journalists,” he noted.
Describing the annulment, the renowned Muslim scholar and author said, “Well, to me as an individual, it was another failed attempt among Nigerian politicians and the military. It was not a problem of just the military but including the politicians. It wasn’t even because of the North but immaturity of the big men we looked up to.
“They’ve not learnt the principle of give and take. It was a shame to Nigeria, we couldn’t even explain how the election went. As a journalist, trying to present the news was difficult as we had the task to present the country in good light. However, it was impossible.
“Everything happening after that got worse. After the election, Nigeria became a pariah nation, not respected and irrelevant,” he added.
Alhaji Abideen Olaiya also shared his experience with Muslim News, saying that he was in Ibadan with his family when the elections held.
The Associate Professor of Crop Ecology at Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta added that he had to return to Ibadan from Enugu where he was about to round off his National Youth Service in order to partake in the electoral process.
Speaking on the effect on the annulment, he said, “I was in Ibadan monitoring the official release of results by NEC Area 10 office when the annulment was announced. It shook the country to its foundation. In fact, many of us up north were already relocating, fearing an outbreak of war. It was because of the annulment that I had to forgo two employment offers, one in Abuja and another in Lapai, Niger State.
Olaiya, who took active part in the activities of MSSN in the Southwest, also confirmed that the annulment affected Islamic activities with the outright suspension of religious activities.
“It affected generally everything, the National conference of MSSN slated for that year in Sokoto was cancelled. It created a level of distrust amongst Muslims in Nigeria. Cross movement, Da’wah and educational activities, marriages were postponed or cancelled,” he said.
Media and Marketing Expert, Alhaji Kayode Awobadejo said that, 1993 when the election took place was particularly a unique year for him, simply because it was the year he performed Hajj.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of DICOLI Nigeria Limited recalled how he quickly returned home to partake in the electoral process, saying that in all his years of participating in elections, none has been peaceful and orderly as that of June 12.
Nojeem Olasubomi Jimoh, Yusuf Jimoh Aweda and Samsudeen Muhammad told Muslim News that they were all in different primary schools during the June 12, 1993 presidential election, adding that they observed that riots and demonstrations trailed the annulment.
According to Nojeem, who is now a financial expert;
“I was in Primary 2 in a school in Ilupeju and we lived in Ikorodu, both in Lagos, back then. We moved to Ikorodu a few months before the election. I remember a few days after the election, when there was riot everywhere and serious crisis. Our driver couldn’t take us home from school through the usual route. We had to go through VI, Epe then back to Ikorodu to avoid being trapped.
On his part, Aweda, an IT consultant, said: “I was in primary 3 at Makoko Anglican Primary School, Lagos. Of course, the riot was violent after the annulment. It was the era of bread and ewa agonyin (for commoners in Lagos suburb). Some of us kept eating without feeling the heat of the crisis that had already consumed almost the whole of Nigeria.
“We also had kite to play with, and many new babies were named Abiola at that time. It was also the same year of the Under 17 World Cup, Japan 93 that brought in Nwankwo Kanu, Wilson Oruma and others. We won the cup anyway. Splendid memory!,” he added.
Abdul Qudus Abiola Ojomo was one of the children named after the great philanthropist in Africa. In a chat with Muslim News, Abdul Qudus said, “I was a year old at the time. Oblivious of the political atmosphere in the country, aside from the fact that my name resonates several times than usual, Abiola. Of course, my parents named me after MKO a year earlier. I was in Egbeda, Lagos by then.
Sharing his view on the annulment, he wrote that it was a clog in the wheel of progress of the country, stating that, “Abiola sought to make Nigeria poverty free, today Nigeria is arguably the poverty capital of the world. This definitely affects me as an individual and the country at large.”
He asserted that Islamic activism has suffered a huge setback in the demise of the philanthropic Abiola because he supported the Islamic cause throughout the country especially in the East. Till this day, thousands of Igbos are still outside the fold of Islam.
“Similarly, Abiola’s Concord newspaper would by now gather sufficient authority like the Punch, and it would have been fairer when reporting events in the country,” he added.
Muhammad, who is now based in Edo, described the June 12 as the most peaceful election in the history of Nigeria that saw all tribes, religions voted for one man, MKO Abiola.
Hear him, “I remembered the option A4 that was used during the election. Electorates lined up behind their candidates. I can still remember the build up to the election, the campaign jingles, the flyers, and a whole lot. It was a beautiful experience. The most peaceful election in the history of this country.”
Musliudeen Abiola Adeyemi, in his emotion-laden comment, was worried about the hopelessness in Nigeria with the annulment and travails of Abiola, saying that there has been a major vacuum in Islamic activism in Nigeria since the death of the philantrophist.
“The annulment and the subsequent demise of Chief Moshood Olawale Abiola is nostalgic. It always makes one depressed, worried and hopeless about this nation’s affairs. Wallahi, I am close to tears now.
“Islamic activism in Southwest hasn’t gotten a replica of MKO Abiola in terms of his benevolence, philanthropic gestures and championing the course of the common man as Islam dictates. MKO’s vacuum hasn’t been filled,” he concluded.
By Rasheed Abubakar and Abdullahi Abdulganiy
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