Dr. Saidu Ahmad Dukawa is a senior lecturer with the Department of Public Administration of the Bayero University Kano (BUK).
In this interview, he speaks about the June 12 presidential election, its annulment and the subsequent declaration of the day as Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari.
What is your take on the declaration of June 12 as a public holiday by President Buhari?
The incident occurred during Nigeria’s transition from military rule to civilian administration. That was in 1993.
And the transition was in such an advanced mode that elections were completed at the state level and part of the elections was completed successfully at the national level to the extent that elections to the National Assembly were conducted successfully.
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There was a House of Representatives and a Senate in place and the presidential election was ongoing.
In fact, the voting, per se, was concluded and the counting had started and there was a sign that late MKO Abiola of SDP was leading Alhaji Bashir Tofa of NRC.
But before the final declaration of the result, the military junta under President Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election, and that truncated what was supposed to be the Third Republic.
Initially, that phenomenon was seen as a collective offence against the Nigerian populace or particularly against the Nigerian electorate, perpetrated by the military junta.
For that reason, civil societies fought collectively nationwide; fighting the junta to conclude the declaration of the result and declare the winner.
As that was going on, some Yoruba chauvinists led by NADECO, reduced the struggle to what can be termed “ethnic struggle” and they made it to appear as though it was a conflict between the Yoruba and the rest of Nigerians, especially the North.
That scattered the whole struggle and punctured the unity that emerged as a result of the annulment of that election, and since then, they continued to pressurise successive governments, insisting that the Yoruba must be given leadership of Nigeria because a Yoruba man won the election.
However, in reality it was not a Yoruba man that won the election, because late MKO Abiola was more than a Yoruba man. He was an international figure.
For the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, to recognise the June 12 election in the manner it did and at the time it did was a serious mistake; at least on two fronts: one, it is an indication that if you want to win something in Nigeria, you should be a rebel, because Buhari has awarded rebellion.
The Yoruba rebelled against the nation. And the government is setting precedence that if you insist on pressurising government, it will do what you want; even if you are wrong.
Perhaps that is why the Biafran problem is with us today, because they have seen the example of the June 12 struggle.
They have seen that the West negotiated the presidency in 1999 because of the June 12 struggle, and that is why they are insisting on Biafra so that they can be given unconditional presidency.
Two, for the government of Muhammadu Buhari to recognise only the camp of MKO Abiola and ignore Bashir Tofa and his camp is another blunder which shows that if you are humble, submissive and cooperative, you will never be recognised and rewarded in Nigeria.
This is because nobody knows who would have won the June 12 election.
How many times do political parties take initial lead and at the end, the table turns against them? So, you never know.
Yet Bashir Tofa accepted the verdict of the military because it was the constituted authority at the time; whether legally or illegally, they had to be recognised as such.
But Abiola rebelled to the extent of declaring himself president, while Bashir Tofa submitted and did not cause any discomfort to the government and to the nation.
So for the Buhari administration to ignore Bashir Tofa and his party entirely, as well as all those who stood by them, is a big blunder that reinforces the first one; that if you want the government to recognise you, then rebel.
Do you consider the June 12 election as the freest, fairest and most peaceful ever in Nigeria?
I can’t say it is the best of all time. I think the 2015 election has superseded it, because the 2015 election took place in a peaceful atmosphere.
It has united the country just as the June 12 election did, and the ethic, regional and religious barriers were held constant, and most importantly, it was successfully concluded and a change of regime occurred.
I think 2015 is the best election. Then perhaps the June 12, 1993, election may be the second in terms of uniting people across divides.
Finally, Buhari became the president, has that endeared him to the South, particularly with the recent reports that the South West has the largest chunk of appointments in his administration?
I am not sure whether the South West has the largest chunk of appointments.
From my own reading of the situation, it’s like the South West is complaining that most appointments, especially what they call in political parlance “juicy appointments” have gone to the North.
And the North is complaining that most development projects have gone to the South West. This is my reading of the situation and that puts the administration in a dilemma. It has neither satisfied the North, nor has it satisfied the South West.
The South West is complaining about appointments while the North is complaining that though they have appointments, they are nominal and don’t bring any improvement to the region. That’s the dilemma of the administration.
How do you view Buhari’s relationship with the South?
From what I read in the Lagos-Ibadan axis newspapers, they are not grateful to him. They don’t see him as any good.
With every move he makes to appease them, they are coming up with new demands.
For instance, they are the ones that are pressurising for the restructuring of Nigeria, even though they are the greatest beneficiaries of the government; projects wise.
Now that they are done with June 12, they are on restructuring, and they will continue to pressurise, and while doing that, they will perhaps demand for the presidency in 2023. And in every move, they are being even more critical of President Buhari.
I don’t see them accepting him as a Good Samaritan.
If Chief MKO Abiola had become president, would Nigeria be different by now in terms of unity and development?
Perhaps yes; that’s my candid understanding. Perhaps had Abiola won, the fact that we had overcome a lot of obstacles regarding the unity of the country, the greatest was that of a Muslim-Muslim ticket on which he was about to win, that would have held the religious divide in Nigeria constant, especially if the government performed. We might have overcome that for good,
And then, the South West (Abiola)-North East (Kingibe) marriage could have paved way for the possibility of South West-Northern alliance. From independence to 1993, it had always been North and South East. But that election showed that the North-South West ticket was possible; and that was actualised in 2015.
So perhaps if he had won, with his universal vision and identity, he was most likely to be more broadminded than many Nigerian leaders that we have ever had, and that could have solved most of the disunity factors that are bedevilling the country. Allah knows best.
In terms of development… (Cuts in)
In terms of development, Abiola was very successful in the business sector, and we have never had any businessman leading the country.
And businessmen, largely succeed in running governments. Perhaps, he would have succeeded in developing the country.
But that’s only one possibility, another possibility is that the government would have been hijacked by local and ethnic irredentists that would have brought the havoc that the people who hijacked the 2015 “revolution” election have brought to the country.
Generally, what is your message regarding June 12?
A lot of damage has been done, and any attempt to continue deliberating on it either to correct wrongs or to do anything, perhaps will aggravate the situation.
So, ignoring June 12 as a phenomenon in Nigerian politics, perhaps, is the best thing.
For those who feel they have won because June 12 has been declared as Democracy Day, let them celebrate it. And for those who don’t recognise June 12, let them just ignore it, after all, it is all about symbolism.
It doesn’t bring any tangible impact in the Nigerian body polity.
Finally, if the government can reach out to Bashir Tofa to see whether there is a way he can be pacified, so that those who supported him, by extension, can also feel pacified, it will do good PR to the government.
That way, they will feel that they are not being neglected by the Nigerian state because of their obedience to constituted authority.