Abiola and Babangida

Ademola Adegbamigbe

By the time the late Chief MKO Abiola was fighting to retrieve his electoral mandate, the annulled 12 June 1993 presidential election, former military President, Ibrahim Babangida (who is marking his 78th birthday today, 17 August) had stepped aside. Chief Ernest Shonekan had become the Interim National Government President. Worse Still, General Sani Abacha who made it appear as if he was shoving Shonekan aside so that Abiola would step in as President, played a fast one on him and pro-democracy combatants. Abacha stepped in and stayed put, daring anyone to challenge him!

What, therefore, was the role of Babangida in these? In an interview with TheNEWS, published in the hard copy of 6 June 1994, Abiola explained: “Yes, you see, I believed and still believe that he left Abacha behind deliberately. For Abacha to take over under what I later believed was called turn-by-turn.”

How did you know that? TheNEWS probed Abiola further and he argued: “It doesn’t require an oracle to know that. If you leave a man among thirty women and you say one of the women is the head, it’s not convincing. But the man is the one with uniform; he didn’t allow the so-called head of state to address the armed forces, for once. The whole thing was a ruse. The whole idea was, well as I told you, I’ve learnt a lot. You wait for my memoir. It will be very, very interesting. Well, I don’t know how much time I will have in the next few years. I have a daily diary which I’ve been keeping in the past eleven months. Abiola, unfortunately, did not live to write that.

When this magazine asked Abiola further why he wrote some letters to General Babangida, he (Abiola) responded thus: “That is like asking me that recently I went to see Nzeribe, I went to see Ojukwu. I know. I wasn’t alone. When you’re in politics, you get all manners of conflicting advice. And depending on the balance of the advice available to you, some things really look sensible. I consulted people. The day I went to Nzeribe, I wasn’t alone. You saw the pictures, some of our governors were there. I did not drag them, and they were all smiling. It took months of persuasion for me. You see, I’ve learnt that if you really want to be President of Nigeria, you must be able to leave your door open to anybody who wants to come to you. if he wants to talk to me, why should I not talk to him? What has he done that many people have not done before? He has never been put on trial. You see, even if he were until he’s found guilty, the presumption of innocence is still there. If he wants to see me why can’t I, there are people outside there, I’ll still see them tonight.”

Below is the Abiola interview in full, entitled:

Now, I am Ready for The Worst

When the Chief of General Staff, Lt. General Oladipo Diya addressed the press last Thursday, he described the winner of 12 June as a joker. He advised him to forget his ambition to realize his mandate. In this interview with The News, M.K.O. Abiola says he is ready to realize his mandate

 In the past six months since you spoke to THENEWS,  a lot has happened: a grand coalition (NADECO) has crystallized around the 12 June mandate. How do you assess this new initiative?

I am not privileged to speak at this point on NADECO, the mandate and so on. This struggle is now structured.  Within the structure, certain things must take place. Pronouncements must be cleared within the structure and to the extent that you ask questions on matters that have been cleared, of course, I would answer them clearly. It’s not in my nature to start hiding behind my fingers, raising one finger and hiding behind it is not my own way of doing things. But you see, when you work in a team, you must be a team player. Being a team player involves a certain amount of discipline. I couldn’t have worked for South African progress all my life and be part of anything that could be construed even remotely as threatening the integrity and the sovereignty of Nigeria. Those of us who have gone round the whole world know that Nigeria means a lot, not only to those of us who are Nigerians but to all African people everywhere – all those people in the world who believe that Africans would one day be able to aspire to anything almost equal to the leadership of the world.

And if you are aware of my pronouncements on the issue of South African emancipation, on the issue of pan-African  ideals – event the support for African sports which to me are examples of means of promoting and enhancing the African personality, to me, the presidency of Nigeria must not be something I should want to attain at the expense of the sanctity of the sovereignty of Nigeria as a unit. It’s a very delicate issue. There’s something delicate about some ambitious elements who because they have done it so easily before for 24 years believe it’s business as usual. That we would all continue to be. You see, it’s blood that I’m concerned about. It’s useless shedding blood. If you want to have a baby – either by caesarian or by natural birth, there must be blood. But it is controlled in a way that it neither has to hurt the baby nor the mother in most cases.

So, you see, the NADECO  approach…like I told you when I spoke to you here, I did not vote for myself. Well, I voted for myself, unlike Tofa who could not even vote for himself! But all I had was only one vote like you had like everybody else had. So those who voted, who brought about the victory should actualize the mandate. Remember, I made that point several times. They kept on saying that why don’t you go and do it yourself? Well, I said oh! I didn’t do it myself on 12 June, we all did it. That went down and people are now ready to claim their victory. I’m ready to do all anybody in my position should do who want to see progress for this country. And there will be no progress for as long as the soldiers continue to ride roughshod over us. I will give a thank you message to the press tomorrow (26 May) about what happened on Monday (23 May).

Click to read full story here: TheNEWS

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