Pro-democracy groups have criticized a former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babaginda, for his claim that his regime canceled the June 12, 1993 general election to avoid a violent coup.
The election, which was hotly contested by the Social Democratic Party candidate, the late MKO Abiola; and the Republican National Convention’s Bashir Tofa, and which was reportedly won by Abiola, was deemed the most transparent election in Nigeria’s political history.
But the poll was declared invalid by the military regime led by Babangida.
In honor of the late acclaimed winner of the election, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retired), humorously honored him with the highest national honor of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic and announced June 12 as Democracy Day.
However, Babangida explained on Friday that allowing the 1993 presidential election would have led to a violent coup.
He also said he was under pressure from inside and outside the military.
“If that had happened, there would have been a coup, which could have been violent. That’s all I can confirm. It didn’t happen, thanks to engineering, the “maradonic” way we treated you in society.
“But that could have given way to more instability in the country. The military can do it because they have the weapon to do it; the other part of society, the turmoil,” Babangida said during an interview with Arise TV on Friday.
But the pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organization, Afenifere, called Babangida’s claim an insult to Nigerians, adding that the former head of state had lost the opportunity to become Nigeria’s democracy hero after his “acts of treason” consisting in annulling the election.
In a statement by its Secretary General, Mr. Sola Ebiseni, titled “The That Babangida Interview: A Bitter Taste in the Mouth”, said: “Babangida has not said anything new worthy of a reaction to the regard to his acts of treason towards the cancellation of the election deemed the freest and fairest in the political history of the country. Nigerians are not interested in any excuse currently given by BWI.
“It is even very absurd that IBB, whose regime hands were stained with the blood of dynamic mid-level officers who were slaughtered in a clearly staged plane crash on suspicion of plotting a coup of State, who led a regime that killed his colleagues, including intellectuals like his friend, Maman Vatsa, on the allegation of a phantom coup, would only now insult the intelligence of Nigerians that ‘he canceled their warrant to prevent a violent coup, of which, by reasonable inference, he was aware.
“He lost the opportunity to be the hero of democracy and the father of a new Nigeria, an eternal regret that no amount of television whitewashing can redeem.”
The pan-Yoruba group also accused the regime of President Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Retired) of making saints of previous administrations in all aspects of governance.
“The Buhari government has failed even in the areas of its promises to Nigerians on security, economy and the fight against corruption. Nigeria has become a failed state due to its evident inability to protect life and property.
“The Babangida administration cannot be accused of sectional and sectarian disposition which is the hallmark of the Buhari government. Rather than indulge in comparing any government with the present, those who still have faith in the unity of Nigeria are only praying earnestly and counting the days for this evil cut to pass,” he said. -he adds.
Also reacting, a human rights activist and President of Women Arise and Center for Change, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, said Babangida’s claim was only admissible in his imagination and the conscience of those who have conspired with him to nullify the election.
She said that rather than blaming his decision on pressure, he should honorably apologize for overturning the exercise by which Nigerians chose who they preferred as president.
“The unrepentant posture of the former military dictator is not only an insult to the memory of the June 12 presidential election and its winner, Chief MKO Abiola, but also an assault on the sacrifices of those who paid the supreme price , in the struggle for the actualization of the mandate General Babangida’s claim is admissible only in his imagination and the conscience of those who conspired with him to annul the election, and not of anyone who witnessed the election and fought for its realization, as the freest and fairest election in our country,” said Okei-dit Odumakine.
“He should be ashamed to still associate himself with the infamous code name of treason, which was the hallmark of his reign as a military dictator. As we have always insisted, the magnitude of the pressures, wherever they come from, should not have been sufficient to nullify the sovereign mandate of the Nigerian people, as expressed in the June 12 elections. I also think that instead of these endless shameful justifications from BWI, he should honorably apologize for nullifying the June 12 presidential election,”
For its part, a socio-political organization under the aegis of Southern Nigeria Frontier criticized the reasons given by the ex-dictator, adding that despite global recognition of the election won by Abiola as the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria, “Babangida still lives in his lies of the past”.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Olufemi Lawson, titled “June 12 will forever be your archenemy, Southern Nigeria border slams IBB,” he said: “We insist that if there had been violence after the June 12, 1993 presidential election, it had to be an election that would have been orchestrated by the evil genius himself, and not by any well-meaning group of Nigerians, including the Nigerian army, whom Babangida uses his old age to blackmail.
“While we concede that it is within Babangida’s right to speak out through the media, we will not watch the former military dictator shamelessly insult the sensibilities of our people continually, especially the memory of those who have paid the ultimate price, for the update of the June 12 mandate.
Meanwhile, the former military chief said Nigeria should drop the idea of zoning the president’s office to a particular region.
He also blamed the wave of insecurity on the leadership, adding that contrary to what many Nigerians believe, the army was not overwhelmed by security concerns but “perhaps overwhelmed”.
While speaking about the clamor for the transfer of power to the Southeast in the 2023 general elections, Babangida added, “We have to make a choice. We want to practice democracy as it should be practiced or as it is practiced, or we define democracy according to our whims. If we are going to do it like it is done all over the world, you allow the process to continue, but it is through the process that you will be able to propose a candidate who will lead the country; his qualifications, his beliefs should be known to Nigerians before anyone throws his name in the ring no matter where he is from.
The Middle Belt Forum criticized the reason given by the former military leader, adding that the election would have deepened Nigerian democracy.
Forum chair Dr Pogus Bitrus said: ‘We believe that for some reason the cancellation was not a good decision and should have allowed the process to continue to deepen our democracy. Some distortions in our political system, like the coups that happened later and earlier, are signs that until today people feel they shouldn’t have happened.
Moreover, the publicity secretary of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Alex Ogboannaya, said: “This cancellation created more problems, more insecurity and since then references to June 12 are always made against him.
“I let him judge if he did the right thing or the wrong thing. As far as I’m concerned, he started very well with a two-party system but unfortunately he lost it at the end. There was no pressure; I don’t see a general under pressure. When you say you are a general, it means that you have the ability to work under pressure.
For his part, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said the reason given by Bagangida would not erase the terrible consequences of his act.
Ozekhome said, “He should give better reasons, please. But the coup was still played by Abacha who overthrew the interim Shonekan government. BWI cannot justify nullifying the will expressed by the Nigerian people through popular ballot for the supposed fear of a military coup.
“His expected ‘Maradonic’ solution, rather than accomplishing its goal, actually plunged the nation into violent chaos, upheaval, anarchy and bloodshed, leading to the cold-blooded murder at Aso Villa. of Chief MKO Abiola, the elected president. No historical revisionism can erase the terrible consequences of its act. I think, in my humble opinion, that BWI should rather apologize to a bleeding nation, ask for forgiveness and allow wounds to heal. He shouldn’t open them.
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