MKO Abiola's running mate in 1993, Babagana Kingibe, says Obasanjo was one of those who annulled the June 12 election.

Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Amb Babagana Kingibe, has alleged that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was “one of the architects of the annulment” of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

The June 12, 1993 election is widely regarded as Nigeria's freest and fairest to this day.

Kingibe was MKO Abiola’s running mate in the election on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The annulment

The Chairman of the then National Electoral Commission (NEC), Prof Humphrey Nwosu, had declared the results from 14 out of the nation’s then 30 states, with Abiola running away with majority of votes cast, when he stalled.

A couple of days later, then military Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) took to the airwaves and announced the annulment of the entire election.

IBB continuously says even though the “buck stopped at his desk”, he didn’t take the decision to annul the vote all by himself.

Former military presidents Abubakar, IBB and Obasanjo (Premium Times) Former military presidents Abubakar, IBB and Obasanjo (Premium Times)

Now Kingibe has alleged that Obasanjo, who became Nigeria’s first democratically elected president in the 4th republic that followed the tense annulment period, was one of those who helped IBB make that decision.

The Nation quotes Kingibe as saying on an NTA program: “In the aftermath of the annulment, one of the architects of the annulment, former President Olusegun Obasanjo tried to get some elder statesmen (former presidents and so on); I think at the African Leadership Forum to see how the aftermath of the annulment could be addressed or to see how the problems arising from the annulment could be addressed”.

Buhari and the annulment

Obasanjo and Abiola were not the best of friends in the years leading up to the June 12, 1993 election, even though they both hail from the same Yoruba Egba clan in Ogun State.

Kingibe also said even though Buhari attended one of the damage control post annulment meetings, he always insisted that annulling the election was an injustice. “And I think President Muhammadu Buhari did attend the meeting once, the inaugural meeting. I understood that when he (Buhari) saw the direction of the meeting, he decided not to attend again.

“Every time the issue of the annulment came up over the years, his position was very clear; it was very firm that the election was free, fair and there was a clear winner. And that the annulment was unjustified.

President Muhammadu Buhari receives the report of the Presidential Review Panel on National Intelligence Agency (NIA) from former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 (Presidency) President Muhammadu Buhari receives the report of the Presidential Review Panel on National Intelligence Agency (NIA) from former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe at the Presidential Villa on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 (Presidency)

“So, having had the opportunity, perhaps, to right the wrong, I won’t be surprised he did so because it is in his character to try and do justice, however, belated and under whatever the circumstances.”

Obasanjo was not keen on June 12

Pro-democracy activists and advocates of the June 12 struggle expected Obasanjo, who had been dusted from Abacha’s prison cell and summoned to contest the 1999 election which he won, to recognize the significance of June 12, 1993 and posthumously honour Abiola.

But they had to wait forever, though, as Obasanjo never mentioned Abiola and June 12 publicly until his tenure elapsed in 2007. He never looked keen when the subject was broached, either.

The civilian administrations that came after Obasanjo’s also did little to recognize the significance of June 12 or Abiola’s place in it, save for President Goodluck Jonathan’s abrupt renaming of the University of Lagos in 2012 (he would reverse the declaration after it was brought to his attention that he didn’t follow the required procedure for renaming a national institution after a late politician or icon).

In 2018, President Buhari bestowed Kingibe and Abiola with national honours, before setting aside the day as a national holiday and renaming the national stadium in Abuja after the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 election.

Obasanjo has avoided the June 12 celebrations altogether; and was nowhere near the Eagle Square venue in Abuja last Wednesday.

Kingibe says he wasn’t exactly surprised that it took a Buhari presidency to recognize the national significance of June 12.

Late Chief Abiola was posthumously honoured by President Buhari. Abiola is presumed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election (Punch) Late Chief Abiola was posthumously honoured by President Buhari. Abiola is presumed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election (Punch)

“Every time the issue of the annulment came up over the years, Buhari’s position was very clear; it was very firm that the election was free, fair and there was a clear winner. And that the annulment was unjustified.

“So, having had the opportunity, perhaps, to right the wrong, I won’t be surprised he did so because it is in his character to try and do justice, however, belated and under whatever the circumstances”, Kingibe was quoted as saying.

Asked if he was surprised by the declaration of June 12 as Nigeria's new Democracy Day, Kingibe said: “In a way, yes. I was surprised more by the timing of it than that it happened.

“I was actually on lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia when the announcement was made. I was not surprised that it was made because I knew President Buhari felt strongly about June 12”.

Is Kingibe a traitor?

Kingibe has been accused of betraying Abiola after taking up an appointment in the General Sani Abacha government immediately after.

Kingibe served as Abacha’s Foreign Minister from 1993 to 1995 and remained in the corridors of power through successive administrations.

The Nation reports that Kingibe avoided the question of whether he should be regarded as a traitor, but offered the following by way of a response: “I think we are now going to celebrate the first of the June 12 being a Democracy Day. It is an opportunity to recall all the positive takeaways of the June 12 experience, what it represented and how we can learn lessons for the future.

“I don’t think it as an occasion for recriminations, who betrayed who, abandoned what. The whole process leading to June 12 was a unique experience in Nigerian political journey towards democracy.

Obasanjo once accused Abacha of being responsible for the deaths of Yar'Adua and Abiola (Guardian) Obasanjo once accused Abacha of being responsible for the deaths of Yar'Adua and Abiola (Guardian)

“The facts of June 12, the elections that took place on that day, were unique. We have held many elections but the elections of June 12 were unique.

“The annulment of the elections was unique in the life of all Nigerians and being unique and novel, I think everybody reacted accordingly to their understanding of what reaction was required.

“I do not think that we have the time to go through who played what role, who did what on this occasion. All I said, let us celebrate the event of June 12.”

Kingibe also said he fought from within the system to ensure that the June 12 election was accorded some official national recognition someday.

“Suffice it to say that there are many ways of pursuing a goal. To me, the immediate goal was to make sure that the annulment did not stand. That I had a very strong opinion about. Don’t forget, from the annulment and the enthronement of Interim National Government (ING), there were 82 to 84 days or so.

“During those days, we all worked together to make sure the ING did not stand. And it did not stand.  Thereafter, we all had our reflections collectively and individually as to the way forward, and we moved on," he said.

Responding to a question on why he never said anything about the election, Kingibe said: “Indeed, I never.

“This is the first time that I am addressing the issue. Sometimes, I am bemused; I am saddened, perhaps sometimes I am not surprised about the comments that people were making about June 12; the claims on June 12, those who stood on June 12 and so on.

M.K.O Abiola died in Abacha's prison in 1998 in his fight to actualize his mandate (Punch) M.K.O Abiola died in Abacha's prison in 1998 in his fight to actualize his mandate (Punch)

“I know every detail of what happened and there is no way that one can tell the truth about June 12 without perhaps diminishing some people’s own; without taking away from the significance and the solemnity of that day.

“I have actually recorded my recollections of those days and those events. I hope that I will have the opportunity to air my recording one day. It is in video recording, not audio recording.”

Obasanjo is yet to react to Kingibe’s claims. When The Nation reached the former president for a response, he reportedly said: “No comment…I have no comment.”

Kingibe was Internal Affairs Minister, Power and Steel Minister and Ambassador to Greece and Pakistan at various times. 

Kingibe was appointed Secretary to the Government of the Federation in June of 2007 under the late President Umaru Yar’adua.