MKO Abiola story: Crisis of the late 90’s in Nigeria’s history

In 1993, after series of agitation to the military government led by Major General Ibrahim Babangida to hand over to a democratic government, he then decided to hand over to a democratic government and on June 12, 1993 there was an election.

MKO Abiola flag bearer of SDP casting his vote

It was a tug of war between Chief Moshood Kahimawo Abiola of the Social Democratic Party(SDP) and his opposition Bahir Othma Tofa from the National Republican Convention(NRC). Nigerians conducted themselves in an orderly manner in a bid to send the military government back to their barracks. The results of the election clearly showed Abiola as the winner of the election with a majority of 19 out of 36 states and it was the first time both the North and East will vote massively for a Yoruba indigene. But Gen. Babaginda who had promised to hand over power to a democratic government, wishing to remain in power petitioned the high court to delay the announcement of the result and the announcement was postponed further.

The media also threatened the government by announcing the results on the radio, Tv stations, Newspapers and other media outlet with criticism against the government. In a little time Gen. Babangida used his veto power to shut down media. As a result of all these there was total unrest in the country especially in the southwest, both the US and Great Britain reacted to this violation of Democratic principles by restricting aid to Nigeria. Many political leaders and bureaucrats from the country and all around the world had even pleaded with the to hand over power to the civilian government. Abiola rallied domestic and international support in claiming presidency that he appeared to have won.

Throughout 1993, Nigeria was paralyzed by strikes and unrest and came, crisis that almost tore the country apart. Gen. Babangida later stepped down for an illegitimate national government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan and he was once again sacked by a military government, led by Major General Sanni Abacha. Gen. Abacha crippled the country furthermore, and made life miserable for the citizens of the country.

Abiola’s arrest in 1994

On June 11, 1994 after declaring himself to be president before a group of about 3,000 in Lagos was declared wanted by the military government, Abiola went into hiding and after a national search, Abiola was arrested on June 23, and was charged of treason by Gen. Abacha.

During his imprisonment Abiola was deprived of outside news and visit from his family and subjected to solidary confinement and abuse that included negligence of medical care for 4 years. His second wife Kudirat Abiola was assassinated weeks after declaring public support for her husband on June 4, 1996. Abacha also died in 1998 which led to celebration and jubilation all over the country.

Prior to his release on June 7, 1998, Abiola was called to a meeting in Abuja with some high officials from all around the globe were he later died, the cause of his death is unknown, some say he died of heart attack, some say he was poisened, and some say he was beaten to death.

Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar came into power after the death of Abacha on the 9th of June,1998. Gen. Abubakar after coming into power promised to conduct an election and transfer power to an elected president. Though he wasn’t believed by many because of the previous experience the country had with Gen. Babaginda back in 1993, but to everyone’s surprise, especially, the country’s military, in May 29, 1999, Gen. Abubakar handed over to the newly elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

MKO Abiola Statue in Ojota, Lagos State

Many areas in southwestern Nigeria now observe June 12 as a day which to commemorate Abiola as well as remember the election that was held on that day in 1993. In 2018, June 12 was later declared as a the new date for democracy day replacing may 29.

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