Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A former Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Justice Dahiru Saleh who annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election, presumed to be won by late Moshood Abiola is dead.
According to a family source, the late jurist died on Thursday in Bauchi and would be burried in Azare, his hometown today.
“He died today. We lost father and role model, Justice Saleh today. Already, his funeral prayers will soon be conducted according Muslim rites.
Until his death, he held the title of “Mutawallen” of Katagum emirate in Bauchi.
The late jurist had while taking responsibility for the annulment in an interview in 2016, faulted the failure of MKO Abiola to appeal his decision.
According to the late judge, he hinged his decision on a midnight ruling on June 11, 1993 by Justice Bassey Ikpeme, which held that the election should not have taken place, to annul the exercise.
Chief MKO Abiola, who was recognised as an elected President posthumously by President Muhammadu Buhari, of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was leading Bashir Tofa, his National Republican Convention rival, by margin wide before Saleh ruled to cancel the final announcement.
What followed was months of protests, which forced Military President Ibrahim Babangida, to finally “step aside”.
Abiola was later incarcerated and died in detention on July 7, 1998.
Justice Saleh had in June 1993 ordered the then National Electoral Commission, NEC, to stop further release of the results of the election upon the claim that the election itself should not have been conducted in the first place.
He had cited the mid-night ruling on June 11, 1993, by Justice Bassey Ikpeme that the election should not hold.
The Prof. Humphrey Nwosu-led NEC had upon the provisions of Decree 13 of 1993 which ousted the courts from derailing the transition programme, gone ahead to conduct the election on June 12 which turned out to be one of the best organised elections in the history of the country.
Speaking to The Interview, a magazine publication, the former jurist fully absolved Babangida of any role in the issue, even as he expressed no regrets over the ruling which led to a five-year impasse in the march towards democracy.
Besides, several lives were lost in the agitation for the manifestation of the mandate.
Babangida had in his address to the nation cancelling the June 12 election had noted the failure of the judiciary, which he said behaved less than satisfactorily and alleged the use of money in the election as he said as much as N2.1 billion was expended by the two presidential candidates, Chief Moshood Abiola and Alhaji Bashir Tofa.
Babangida also alleged that the election should not have been held on June 12 following dissonances that preceded the election.
On whether he was pressurized by Babangida to annull the election, he said: “The former President did nothing of the sort. There were so many cases, and I cannot remember all the cases off-hand.
There was the case against MKO Abiola, and it was before one of my judges; she was Igbo, but I can’t remember her name. She started the case, then fell sick and was flown out of the country for treatment.
Then there was another case against him (MKO Abiola), and I had to transfer the case from the other judge’s court to my court. During that time, it turned out that Abiola didn’t even finish the case before he disappeared. Later, I learned he had been arrested by authorities.”
He noted that Abiola, the candidate of Social Democratic Party, SDP, should have appealed the ruling if he was not satisfied.
He said: “The judicial system was still open, but he chose not to follow it. Why no one followed up the annulment of the election in the higher courts is best known to members of Abiola’s party at that time.
“If he, as an individual, was not interested, there must have been other people who would be interested to see the end of the story, but they didn’t appeal.
“They were very close, and there were so many assumptions regarding the relationship between the two of them.
But the point is, in those days, the Yorubas wanted Abiola to become president; he was seen as a kind and considerate man to every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
“Unfortunately, he wanted to be the president, but he couldn’t be. While the political blame must be on President Babangida, he (Babangida) did nothing of the sort to stop him, using my court.
“I think I was in service when I first came to know him. I can’t remember the time. But I only came to know him well after his retirement.
“I was already Chief Judge when he was President. He came and met me there, and he left me there. But while he was in office, we had no personal relationship. He was my boss; I was his subject.
“Anybody not satisfied with what I was doing as Chief Judge could appeal to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, simple. And I have no regrets, none whatever. No regrets. I would repeat the same thing now.”