And so, here goes: a Thread on MKO Abiola and June 12.
And MKO Abiola was a complicated man
The common thread though is Abiola himself.
Some say he’d been an NCNC member in the First Republic but I haven’t checked this yet.
Anyway, MKO Abiola was with NPN as at 1979.
And Abiola and his money went home quietly.
But every coup needs one other thing to succeed: media support and it got it overwhelming from the SW media.
Abiola had founded Concord newspapers in 1980 (or so) to counter the media strength of UPN but was now anti-NPN.
The Concord openly celebrated his ouster at this time.
Following this, political activities were resumed and politicians began to regroup as Humphrey Nwosu announced party registration.
13 or so political associations applied for registration, all were summarily rejected and Govt announced two parties.
Ige summarised both as “2 sides of 1 coin” and said “Parties form Governments, Governments don’t form Parties”.
God bless his memory.
So it was almost certain that the SDP would field a Southern presidential candidate while the NRC would field a Northerner but politics is a game of numbers.
Babangida didn’t like any of them and soon cancelled the primaries of both parties.
This was how Abiola got into the race with SDP to inherit the Falae bloc, while Yar’Adua drafted Atiku Abubakar as the one he would back in the SDP.
He also became a champion for Repatriation - that America should pay African countries for slavery - a campaign he took across the continent and the world.
Back home, nothing indicates he had any particular fondness for the Yorubas except that he himself as a Nigerian, had to come from somewhere and he came from he SW.
In fact, kings were scrambling to give him honours - the Olubadan of Ibadan at the time, Oba Asanike, gave him the Basorun title and as soon as he got home, the Alaafin called him.
Meanwhile: I wasn’t there o, these are things I read and many elders also swear by.
Erudite Lawyer Afe Babalola was briefed by the Alaafin and he headed to court to be joined in the matter.
Back to politics...
SDP in truth, won only one seat in the SE - Anambra through Chukwuemeka Ezeife.
Take Imo for instance: Arthur Nzeribe was the be-all and end-all of Imo politics at the time and he was in SDP but there was a political problem.
And it happens in politics, in fact, it is how NRC won Lagos due to the SDP infighting between Dapo Sarumi and Femi Agbalajobi with Yomi Edu emerging.
Atiku Abubakar, backed by the Yar’Adua machinery;
Babagana Kingibe, backed by the Governors;
MKO Abiola, backed by himself mainly and the Yoruba minority who were still in SDP.
He and his sons had walkie-talkies for communication all over the grounds, he bought hotel rooms in Abuja for all delegates for weeks before the convention in fact.
Abiola then aligned with Yar’Adua to consider him as second-choice candidate, promising to give the VP slot to Atiku.
Kingibe as chairman had helped most of them into office. He has relinquished the seat then however for Tony Anenih.
The erudite Ugoh had been governor of the Central Bank of Biafra with a very intimidating academic profile.
So the stage was set: Abiola/Kingibe for SDP, Tofa/Ugoh for NRC.
The story that Abiola sunk a shipload of Bibles is entirely a political invention.
Abiola had the misfortune of clashing with him.
Nzeribe rejected the position.
When Nzeribe asked him to return, Abiola is said to have said that he doesn’t need the votes of those who will stone him to win the presidency.
Nzeribe also set up a group called Association for a Better Nigeria to frustrate Abiola’s presidential bid.
IBB himself wasn’t too keen to handover power and assumed Abiola would never win.
For Tofa meanwhile, the regime had a plan to disqualify him if he won, on the basis that he wasn’t a duly registered member of the NRC in the first place.
But Abiola was winning
In the Kano axis, SDP also had Sule Lamido as Secretary from Jigawa and Abubakar Rimi was onground in Kano, losing the gubernatorial contest to NRC by the Santsi/Tabo issue.
So June 11, Sunbo Onitiri and Richard Adejumo filed another case in Lagos before Justice Moshood Olugbani.
Humphrey Nwosu began announcing results: Abiola was winning
Justice Dahiru Saleh granted the order, NEC under Nwosu complied but appealed to the same court and on June 21, Saleh ruled that the elections was null and void.
Babangida addressed Nigerians on June 26 to pronounce the June 12 elections annulled and a fresh election to be held by the end of July.
Noteworthy: those in the SDP stood by Abiola at this time, insisting on victory. NRC was understandably less enthusiastic about June 12 though.
Abiola himself didn’t react publicly until July 5 - still hoping to appeal to IBB.
In any case, IBB wasn’t picking Abiola’s call and was practically avoiding him all over Nigeria.
On July 12, Augustus Aikhomu was sent to meet with both parties and told them that the military had decided to set up an ING and handover to them on August 27.
Anenih and the SDP leaders were furious and staged a walkout.
Footage from news reports that night show that the SDP leaders were clearly miffed.
So, where was Abiola?
July 14: Aikhomu addressed the nation on the outcome of the meeting with political parties and made clear that SDP was being adamant while NRC had capitulated.
To be fair to someone like Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, he stood by the SDP position and Abiola - which was only commonsensical because it was obvious the military didn’t want to handover power to anyone.
So why do many say otherwise?
He was invited to the meeting of SDP leaders in Edo State but he couldn’t to attend, he was shuttling between Lagos and Abuja, trying to get a sitdown with IBB in the hope that they could resolve issues directly.
And Abiola was increasingly meeting with them and listening to them, not his party.
They had even expected Tofa to win.
SDP had Anenih, Sule Lamido, Shehu Yar’Adua, Dele Cole, Okechukwu Odunze, Abubakar Rimi, Amos Idakula and so on as their representatives.
SDP tried to push Abiola to head the ING but the military rejected it.
Secretary of State (as the SFG was to be designated), Secretary for Defence and Secretary for Foreign Affairs.
Meanwhile, massive protests were still ongoing in the SW against IBB.
In a sly manner, Shonekan was only named as President and Head of States of the ING, not Commander in Chief.
IBB and his service chiefs dated their resignation from the army - August 27.
On November 18, 1993, the ING was overthrown and Abacha took power.
Abacha’s palace coup and Shonekan’s resignation was hailed by the SW media (as usual) and by Abiola’s newspaper especially - Abiola had been dealing with Abacha to takeover and handover to him all along, without telling his SDP associates.
He removed all the Governors too.
“THE RETURN OF TYRANNY: ABACHA BARES HIS FANGS”.
Abacha goons seized 30,000 copies of their magazine.
Again, this is an address that was delivered publicly like he did to GEJ and Buhari.
Abiola at this time was moving freely.
Soon after this declaration, he flew out of Nigeria but again heroically, he returned.
And this is a good place to hang this story honestly: my phone is hanging (it’s an iPhone but it still hangs) and I’ve been on this thread for hours.
I’ll pick it up from here very early tomorrow pls.
(I’m chuckling now to myself, thinking of friends who usually wait till I finish a thread before they read: they’ll wake up tomorrow morning and see a half-thread 😂😂).
Thanks to everyone who has read so far, everyone who has shared by RT and especially to those chipping in salient corrections, additions and subtractions - openly and in DM.
Thread resumes now:
Street protests and the usual crackdown from the military also followed but it was mostly restricted to the SW and few other places down South.
The bail conditions forbade Abiola from holding any political discussion.
Abacha meanwhile began to make plans for a new political order
This wasn’t wicked on their part, just how they saw it
From the SE, you had Ralph Obioha, Zik’s cousin Bobo Nwosisi, Rtd. Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu.
From the SS, you had:
A small digression to handle the various acronyms that came up at the time from civil society and various groups:
It wasn’t until the IBB regime that independent or non-professional union groups started to come up, especially with Beko Ransome-Kuti’s arrest.
On these ones, those who were insiders will know more.
So by the time Abacha took over power, many civil rights groups were active and virulent and Abacha tried to put them down with very brutal methods of arrest, random shootings and outright assassinations.
First you had the core activist groups which were pro-Democracy, anti-military, pro-human/civil rights but not necessarily pro-Abiola except that June 12 was now their major issue
Third, you had politicians who had hoped to get into office but were now confused.
To be fair though, their position made things difficult for Abacha and much of the looting info from the regime was got through them.
At various points in the struggle, efforts were made to bring them all together under a single umbrella group but those too also had factions.
Abroad, the umbrella group was the United Democratic Front of Nigeria (UDFN), I think.
Anyway, Gani was dogged in the fight against the military and for Abiola’s release.
Actually, many of those who went into exile all claimed to be NADECO-abroad but truth is: some were just lounging abroad.
It is said, I wasn’t there, but those who were there swear by it and I’m inclined.
He managed to write letters and I remember a particular one he wrote to Gani in which he started by addressing Gani as “my dearest Gani”.
Gani wept on TV reading it.
He quoted deeply from the Holy books and advanced democratic principles, chipping in his usual proverbs - that June 12 was a baby that had been born and could no longer be aborted.
To understand why the Yorubas cannot place Abiola on the same pedestal as Awolowo, you’ve got to understand the Christian concept of resurrection.
Abiola went through trial and death.
Some Yoruba ideologues say that it shows Abiola up as a sort of villain who became a hero.
But back to the story: the political class, bereft of direction with an Abiola/June 12 struggle that was now ethnic/ideological started to waver on what to do.
Abacha meanwhile was dangling the carrot of another transition programme before them and it looked really edible.
Trust politicians though.
For one like Olu Onagoruwa though, it was a dilemma: Abiola had nominated him to serve Abacha, now he was being called a traitor, Abiola was in detention.
Gani though was unsympathetic but History should be kind to Onagoruwa without lowering the standard and importance of ideology and clearheadedness.
Alex Ibru was shot and consequently half-paralysed.
The Ijebu man got down and walked on his feet with his driver to his office afterwards.
The next day, the driver resigned and Papa wondered why😂
Anyway, the killings were very serious and dastardly at the time.
Onyearugbulam is said to have gone into Pa Ajasin’s house in Owo and threatened Baba until the old man cried.
He got his though.
SMY was a very great man of blue blood and much wisdom.
SMY was killed in detention - many accounts say he was injected with a deadly substance meant for him and OBJ but Ebora Owu resisted.
In my mind, The Turn was in 1997 when 9 men decided to meet and align.
Old time politicians majorly abstained because they knew Abacha wasn’t ready to go but new politicians joined and started political activities
See why I love Ige? He was the only Yoruba
Many of his associates in Afenifere could never understand this and felt he was a traitor for that reason but Ige was dogged.
Rimi of course was as caustic of tongue as Ige and he also countered back quite strongly.
This was done and a meeting of Northern Leaders G19, one from each state of the North was convened.
By a twist of fate, what should have been G36 however became G34.
So G36 became G34 but had 36 members, 2 in detention.
I woke up angrily, ready to insult him but he shouted urgently “Abacha don die”.
I pulled on my cloths and we rushed outside.
We will do it again in 2019, insha Allah.
Calls for his release were ignored.
Abiola asked to first be released to consult with his associates.
So isolated had the man been that he didn’t know the new UN SecGen and asked “what of the Egyptian?” Referring to Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali.
Some say he had tea with them and died, some say he suddenly felt hot and asked for a tea break then collapsed and died.
An autopsy revealed Cardiac Arrest as probable cause
Anyway, some still believe Abiola was killed to resolve a political situation - I believe this too but I am too sure that anyone who was involved with his death will never speak up.
MKO Abiola Dead???!!!!!
Oro p’esi je (which means a matter upon which it is too difficult to comment but one that demands a reaction nonetheless.)
Senator Anthony Adefuye (I remember vividly) was stripped of his clothes with only his underwear left.
Gani was in tears and I’m not sure he attended, Falana was the only one who could save anybody.
If Falana said “ara wa ni!” - you could escape with a few slaps.
Many of them were accused of being traitors to the cause all along and even leaking secrets of NADECO-abroad to the regime.
The conundrum however remained: to participate in Abubakar’s transition or not?
Gani and JACON which he led, insisted on total abstention from it.
Ige and others were pragmatic
Abacha politicians - rejected in many places soon swamped into the All Peoples Party aka Abacha Peoples Party.
Ige and co joined both initially but soon formed Alliance for Democracy
Some powermongers were so stained by association with Abacha though that they were avoided - e.g. Your MCM Abuja.
What happened to Gani though?
I believe his ultra-radical posture as at 1998 was a huge and terrible mistake of the left.
I’m not particularly enamoured with Abiola, but he is a Hero.
Is it not possible, that Nnamdi Kanu was another Abiola in detention and would my reaction to him be the same as if one were (or not) of the same ethnicity as he?
The true leaders of Afenifere could never do that and they didn’t - they stand firm till date.
History is important - it is our guide, but many fail to listen and they fall.
We know how these things end - we know how tyranny ended and we know how the man who trusted the tyrant ended - quite sadly.
But we dey watch...
Isn’t Tinubu feeling he will outwit Buhari?
I say we’re watching - but we’re also actors in this movie and will play our parts.
However it turns out, we’ll be prepared to learn the lessons again and take the test again in future.
Strangely, I’m still fired up - feeding off the mental energies of many who read - so thank you for reading.