Nigerian Media Celebrate June 12

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Nigerian Media Celebrate June 12

The biggest story in the Nigerian media this week was the anniversary of the annulment of the result of the presidential election which f eatured the presumed winner, Chief M.K.O. Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Dawakin Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC).

Friday, 12 June, 16 years ago, the election, regarded as the freest and fairest in Nigeria's political history, was held but the then military government of General Ibrahim Babangida cancelled the results.

Following this development, "Nigeria went up in flames" as the people across the length and breadth of the country protested violently against the decision.

Pro-democracy organisations and individuals came together and fought the military to a standstill although Abiola died in the process of trying to claim his mandate.

"A nation remembers....June 12", was the headline of the Guardian newspaper on Friday.

The paper said: "16 years have passed and June 12 has remained a recurring phenomenon in Nigerian politics, a permanence in her history.

"Today (Friday), Nigerians from across all divides, will assemble in various parts of the country, to celebrate the epochal event.

"And if the late Abiola, the presumed winner of that presidential election in 1993 annulled by the military, had the privilege to peep into today's activities, he would certainly rejoice in his spirit that he did not die in vain."

According to the paper: "Ahead of the anniversary, some state governments declared Friday a work-free day in honour of the business mogul, who died in detention on 8 June, 1997, for refusing to renounce his unofficial mandate."

The day was also used by some eminent Nigerians and groups to remember other martyrs of the struggle such as Kudirat, Abiola's slain wife, businessman Alfred Rewane and journalist Bagauda Kaltho, among others.

In its editorial, titled "16 June 12s Ago", the Vanguard said: "JUNE 12 is at the verge of receding to the memory of a few. Dubious politicians, with a flair for speaking from both sides of their mouths, have applauded and condemned June 12, depending on whether it could buy the next political meal or not.

"For them, June 12 was an opportunity – they used it, they abused it, now they disabuse it – all in their chase for a slice of the national pie. Many politician smarked their ascendancy to something, politically speaking, latching on some ba r e thread strung to June 12.

"June 12, 16 years ago, gave birth to the most memorable election that changed political platforms in Nigeria. Chief Abiola, who should be a conservative, ran on a socialist platform to win the most credible election in Nigeria to date.

"There was more to June 12. Chief Abiola's running mate was a Muslim, as was Abiola, the only time two people of the same faith ran on the same ticket, and they won, or were winning until the military authorities stopped the announcement of the results, a move that threw Nigeria into years of turmoil."

Nigerians hit the streets in protests, many lost their lives. Chief Abiola went into exile and on his return declared himself President. The military went after him and he was incarcerated for four years, during which every anniversary of June 12 was an occasion to rally support for him, more riots, more loss of lives an d further descent of the country into mayhem.

The paper wrote that the people were unrelenting, the military authorities would not yield any grounds, until the death of General Sani Abacha created an opening for dialogue, but Chief Abiola had also died.

General Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over executed a fast one to democratic rule under which many self-acclaimed supporters of June 12 prospered, wearing their June 12 credentials on their foreheads.

The Daily Trust celebrated the story with the headline, "Why IBB failed to hand over", disclosing that the main reason behind the failure of Babangida to hand over leadership to Chief Abiola was Abiola's perceived closeness to the top class of the nation's military which was too close for comfort.

The paper quoted a former governor of the South West Oyo State, Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, as saying this at a public lecture in Ibadan, capital of the State.

Olunloyo posited that Abiola's albatross was his close relationship with the military men, saying he (Abiola) would never have been allowed to be president of Nigeria.

“Abiola moved too close with the military. He operated contracts with them. He transacted businesses with them and helped them to transfer money to their foreig n bank accounts,” he revealed, explaining that he knew the foreign bank accounts of the high hierarchy of the nation's military men.

He said: “He (Abiola) knows their accounts. How would they have allowed him to now come around and be their president? Somebody who was more or less a 'super SSS', who knew every secret in the military and of military men, they knew that if someone like him became their president, they would have been in (hot) soup because of their secrets.”

Olunloyo submitted that these, among others, had compelled Babangida not to hand over power to Abiola.

This Day newspaper wrote "16 Yrs After, Nigerians Remember June 12", while the Daily Independent headlined the story "Nigerians Mark June 12 Today".

This Day reported: "Today has been declared a public holiday by the Lagos and Ogun state governments to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the annulled June 12 , 1993, presidential election widely believed to have been won by Chief Abiola.”

It said, however, that there had been varied reactions from politicians on the place of Abiola who died in custody while seeking validation of his mandate by the military regime.

As a yearly routine since 1999, Ogun and Lagos state governments have continued to observe the day as work-free day in commemoration of Abiola's 'martyrdom' and the June 12 presidential election adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the political annals of Nigeria.

The paper quoted the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola, as saying that the annulled election would continue to haunt Nigerians and remind the country that it has not crossed the “finish line”.

"Nigeria has to cross the finish line and clean up the polity in order to have real democracy. Nigeria is merely struggling to produce acceptable leadership," Fashola said.

The Daily Independent reported that plenty of regret is on the plate today as democracy agitators mark June 12, the anniversary of the freest and fairest Presidential election held in 1993, won by Moshood Abiola, but nullified by Ibrahim Babangida who was then military President. Nigeria is still groping for true democracy.

The paper said activists had been filing out in the past couple of days, but Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Rotimi Akeredolu, predicted that the country faced a bleak future without a credible electoral process.

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