By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Ayo Opadokun was the Secretary of the defunct National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). In this interview, he relives the experience of the annulled June 12 1993 presidential election and also chastises the then National Security Officer to the late Gen Sani Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, over his recent disclosure of his possession of a video clip of how MKO Abiola died.
As the secretary of NADECO, how would you relive the imbroglio of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election?
That is a difficult task you are asking me to undertake. What I can relate with in reminding the leaders is about how we arrived at June 12. First, when Gen Babangida toppled his boss, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, on 29th of July 1985, he presented himself as a military ruler with some measure of democratic credentials and freed some detainees. He then came up with an idea of a transition programme. In that programme, it was spelt out as to when his military government will terminate. Lo and behold, it didn’t take time for us to realise the snippets of the disturbing agenda for self succession. What he did with the formation of political parties was ingenuously ungodly, mischievous and dubious. He asked all interested persons to go and form their political parties. We thought he was well-meaning. Those of us of the same mind, the same philosophy and attitude to governance gathered ourselves together all over the country and we formed what was called Peoples Solidarity Party. Gen Shehu Musa Yar’Adua formed his own Peoples Forum. The old NPC and NPN formed the Republican Party. There were other people who formed other parties. Then, we were asked to make presentation to the then electoral umpire. We did. At the end of it all, Babangida said none of us met the requirements of the INEC. We were not told the yardstick of the requirement. Thereafter, he decided to form two political parties.
One a little to the left, the other a little to the right. It was the government that formulated the name, the manifesto and constitution of each of the two parties. And he saw to it that they manipulated the two groups in ensuring that those who emerged as chairmen of the two political parties, which were nothing more than parastatals. That was the beginning. It didn’t take long before we realized that we were being used as guinea pigs to test ground. He had asked some of the young officers in his kitchen cabinet to go to Latin America to go and understudy how military dictators there had succeeded in remaining in power. So, he was already plotting how to succeed himself, while he put us on a wild goose chase. When election of the executives of the two political parties was to be done, he schemed the popular parties out by ensuring that the elections did not hold, providing room for the big pocket leaders of the Peoples Front, the Yar’Adua group, Olusola Saraki, and Arthur Nzeribe. Because the election did not hold the day it was supposed to be held, they succeeded in enticing most of our members who came from across various parts of the country. They were taken to Kaduna and Jos and hosted in Hamdala and Durbar Hotels free of charge. They even gave them handsome money. They made sure that those people didn’t return to us until the election took place and they plotted to ensure that they voted for their candidates. So, from day one, IBB didn’t want to go. He plotted an agenda of self succession. That was why his transition programme became endless. He banned and unbanned politicians severally but he met his waterloo when the political class decided that the military must go. By that time, the military itself as an institution had been perverted. The security and intelligence report were giving him the kind of things he wanted. Three or four days before the June 12 presidential election, the correct intelligence report was available but they gave him the one he wanted.
We knew what he wanted to do was to divide the Yoruba nation by ensuring that MKO who was the choice of our people did not win the election. And, of course, the election took place. But he (Babangida) and his immediate constituency were divided. In particular, his closest assistant did not want that election to hold at all. After the announcement of 16 states, Babangida secured a court order that the election should be stopped. The second day, the director of legal services, Buhari Bello, was going to court to challenge that court’s authority and get the order lifted only for him to hear that the INEC had been dissolved. He didn’t allow the announcement of the conclusion of the election results. That was the end of the matter and how they got what they wanted.
Up till now, the June 12 presidential election which is still regarded as the fairest and freest election took place on the platform of two major political parties. What is the relevance of that two-party system to the present democratic dispensation especially now that the nation is tending towards a two-party system?
Multiparty democracy has been the conventional practice in Nigeria’s political history. As at the time the military struck in January 15, 1966, there were more than 76 political parties in Nigeria. But only a few of them were known to most Nigerians. The three known political parties were NPC, Action Group and NCNC. So, it is not right to decree a two-political party system because it will over regulate the right of the people to associate. The idea that a party must be registered by the INEC is a military imposition, which was a ploy by them to have over all control of the political process. In the First Republic, the electoral umpire didn’t register political parties. The fact that we had the freest and fairest election in June 1993 was not because of the two-party system the military introduced. Rather, it was the painstaking efforts of Nigerians to see the back of the military. It was the result of the determined efforts of the activists, the international community and development partners that ensure that Nigeria returned to democracy. The NADECO struggle succeeded to the point that they noted that the international community could not stand by any longer. The idea of a two-political party system is not a thing that could be recommended or legislated upon. It could come after a lot of test-run of our electoral system. Unfortunately, the Nigerian state is not interested in organizing a free, fair and credible election.
We have a wonderful recommendation from Justice Uwais electoral reform panel as to how Nigeria can really get a free and credible election. But the Nigerian state has refused to utilize those recommendations. One of the key recommendations is that no sitting president should appoint any electoral umpire. That panel equally recommended that anyone who wants to be the chairman of the electoral umpire should apply to the National Judicial Council who will then sort out three names of the position and make recommendation to the National Council of State presided over by the president of the country. It is in that council that they will decide the best person for the job and then the nomination sent to the National Assembly for confirmation. Up till today, the sitting president appoints chairman of the electoral umpire. Is that not rigging from the source?
Major Hamza Al-Mustapha was a major actor during your struggle for the enthronement of the present democratic dispensation. In his recent public statement, he said he went through all the travail he had passed through because he has the video clip of how MKO Abiola died. How would you react to this?
You are asking me to react to something that is in the realm of conjecture. I have refused to grant interview on this matter to several media houses. But for you, let me put it on record, I am granting it for once. Al-Mustapha is a pathological liar. He is obsessed with too much money he acquired as chief security officer to the late Gen Sani Abacha. He misused that position not only to torment Abacha himself but to acquire excessive gains for himself. And he was such a disaster as a military officer. We have it on record, intelligence report of his struggles as to how to be able to pass his exams from the rank of Captain to Major. He is not an intelligent fellow but crafty, selfish and ungodly. He says things he cannot defend. Don’t you remember that while he was being prosecuted for the murder of Kudirat Abiola, maybe he was in a trance, he claimed that he saw NADECO leaders frowning when they were going to visit General Abdulsalami Abubakar but they were smiling while coming out because their hands were full. And when I reacted and lambasted him, he recounted.
How do you take such a fellow serious? He is just seeking for attention. He wants to be heard. He has mesmerized the Jonathan administration to the extent that he was going to be fielded as governorship candidate of his area. Can you imagine somebody of that character being a governor? Ignore him, he is seeking for attention, he wants to be noticed. As soon as Abacha died, he was sacked as the chief security officer and moved out of the state house. He has been lying to the public that his agents recorded something. Who are his agents? He has not told you anything. Which one has he shown you? There are characters like that; evil men, they torment the world. And this one has money to induce the media to carry his stories. I should remind you, the Lagos State Government has gone to the Supreme Court over his murder case. A responsible person still facing prosecution for murder on an amazon like Kudirat ought not to be gallivanting about, presenting himself as the best thing that has ever happened to our country.