Chief M.K.O. Abiola, I can vouch authoritatively, met all the constitutional and legal requirements for becoming a candidate and he met the two conditions for winning the election. What did he do wrong? He did not do anything wrong as far as I know. What I discovered was that Chief Abiola did not meet certain conditions that were unilaterally set by the “geo-ethno-military-ruling clique.”
First, I would not have written if the (Gen. Sani) Abacha regime had deannulled the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections. Second, I might still not have written if the regime had taken some steps to address the factors in the real reasons for the annulment. My decision to write arose from the simple reason that General Sani Abacha was not only privy and party to the annulment, he turned out to be its major beneficiary. And his intention was to keep it that way while the country decayed. (Annulment arose) from the change in orientation from a professional military… to a highly politicized and ethnicised military. This change grew out of the highly organized recruitment and indoctrination practice by the successive Northern political leaders. The new recruits into the military from the North are made to believe that the mission of Northerners in the Nigerian military must be to ensure that political leadership in Nigeria, military or civilian, must reside in the North.
The Southerners in the Nigerian military join and are recruited as individuals with no political agenda as individuals or on behalf of their ethnic groups or their states of origin as the case may be. The Southern officers know that they are not under any illusion as to where power resides in the country and in the army. They must accept the leadership of Northern leaders, civilian or military. As a Captain who was involved in a failed coup attempt in 1990 said, “By the time you (meaning Southern cadets) finish military academy, you already have in mind that you have to make friends with an Alhaji (a Northern leader) because power belongs to the North…”
In my long association with the military, I saw situations where a Southern General had to adopt a young Northern officer as his go-between for plum posting and to make sure his name did not get into the retirement list. This is at the root of the protest in the oil producing areas of the Niger Delta whose sons are not in the ruling group either in the military or in the civilian political leadership. For them, oil is a “doom” whereas for the North and the Northern military officers, oil is a “boom.”…That is why in the politics of exclusion and inclusion, Southerners see the proceeds from oil as being used to finance the military control of the country and the perpetration of human rights misery in the country in the name of Nigeria. As long as oil is flowing, the use of the military by the North to control the country will continue. … The coalition government in 1959-64 between the NPC and the NCNC and the accord in 1979 between the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) were in furtherance of the “husband” and “wife” relationship with the Northerner, the husband, and the Southerners, the wife, in the language of Lord Harcourt….And according to Alhaji Gambo Jimeta, the Northern (husband) “will go to war over oil.”
“…Southerners are not only denied leadership in the Army, they are also denied their democratic rights. They are made to serve the North in a support position (military and civilian) on a permanent basis. A Southerner cannot be a Military Head of State or a Military President because no Southerners command the strategic sections in the Army to be able to lead a coup. A Southerner can only be a tool in the hand of the highly politicized and ethnicised Nigerian Army. We saw in 1976, after the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed on Februatry 13, 1976, how the succession of General Obasanjo from the South was organized by the Northern leadership of the Armed Forces. General Obasanjo was made to rule Nigeria in the name of the North between February1976 and September 1979.
Hardly can a Southerner be President through election because the politicized and ethnicised military would not allow it. We saw this in 1993 under General Babangida. This was the main real reason for the annulment of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election; and the intervention of General Abacha on November 17, 1993 became necessary when it was obvious to the ethno-military clique that the annulment of June 12 election might be reversed through the interplay of political forces which the ethno-military clique strongly believed could overpower the Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, an appointee of General Babangida.
Harcourt’s injunction of a permanent Northern ruling class seemed to have been bought by successive Northern leaders. Many Southern politicians are unwittingly reconciled to the idea and are working for it. In addition to the husband and wife analogy in the Harcourt injunction which was repeated by the NPN in dismissing Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s party in July 1981, the Northern leaders have since introduced the fatalistic religious element to explain the permanent Northern ruling class in Nigeria. Three instances are worth introducing.
First was the reply Alhaji Shehu Shagatri (the elected President of Nigeria 1979-1983) gave to Chief MKO Abiola in 1982 when the chief wanted to seek the Presidential nomination of the NPN in accordance with the original understanding within the leadership of the party that the Northern zone would retain the office of the President for one term of four years (1979-1983) The original plan, according to Chief Abiola, was that the position should be made to rotate to the three zones in the South in 1983. But the Northern leaders’ interpretation was that zoning did not imply rotation. According to Alhaji Shagari,
‘Well, Chief, you know it is all in the natural order of things. A country is just … like a farm where everyone has his functions. Allah has willed it that someone must hold the cow by the horns while another does the milking.’
President Shagari’s men asked Chief Abiola to name his price in terms of oil lifting and other perquisites. What this means was that Chief Abiola could be “a cheerful rogue” of the kind of Chief Okotie Eboh who was destined by Allah “to hold the cow by the horns” and the likes of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Alhaji Shehu Shagari who were destined by Allah “to do the milking and sharing. Southerners have been holding “the cow by the horns” and the Northerners have been doing the “milking and sharing” since 1960. The second incident was the statement attributed to… Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule that Allah knew what he was doing when he gave different talents to different groups in Nigeria. The Igbo are destined to be businessmen and the Yoruba, excellent administrators; and the Hausa-Fulani, political leaders. Alhaji Yusuf then pleaded with his fellow Nigerians to allow the will of Allah to stand, for after all, if Allah wanted all Nigerians to be of the same stock, language and talent, Allah would have done it. Election cannot change Allah’s plan for the people of Nigeria. The third incident was the plea of the former Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, and many Islamic leaders in the North to Chief MKO Abiola to allow the will of Allah to hold; that if Allah wanted him to be the President of Nigeria, no mortal would stop him. This, in effect, meant that it was Allah that denied him the verdict of the electorate.
Excerpts from The Tale of June 12, the Betrayal of the Democratic Rights of Nigerians (1993) By Prof. Omoruyi. Omoruyi was President Babangida’s confidant, and the Director-General of the Centre for Democratic Studies, Abuja. He was an intimate observer and policy consultant throughout the abortive transition to civil rule programme. He escaped death by whiskers through an assassionation in 1996.