Some 13 years ago, exactly on the 12th June 1993, Nigerians queued nationwide, to democratically select a new President who would run the affairs of the state. The two contenders for the top job were Bashir Tofa and M.K.O. Abiola. The election on this fafeful saturday was later declared the freest and fairest election in Nigeria.
It so happened that weeks later, the military regime lead by General Ibrahim Babangida would not release the results of the June 12 election and later annulled the election. M.K.O. Abiola who was strongly convinced that he won the election declared himself President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was arrested by the military, detained without a trial.
Due to the heavy pressure that came to bear on Ibrahim Babangida, he hurriedly vacated Aso Rock* and handed-over to an interim government lead by Ernest Solekan. Three months later, General Sani Abacha took over the reins of state as the Head of Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
Abiola was still in detention and was to later die on 7th July 1998, days after General Abacha died. Abiola’s suporters contend that he was murdered by the western powers, in a bid to level the playing field in the politics of Nigeria.
Abacha’s death saw the formation of a new government with General Abdulsalami Abubakar who later organized a fresh election which brought the current President Obasanjo to power.
Today, it seems Nigerians have forgetten about how far the country has come to the democratic government the country enjoys today. June 12 was a big deal, just 10 years ago. Only Lagos state declared June 12th a statutory holiday while the Obasanjo-led government preferred May 29th as Democracy Day. President Obasanjo was sworn into office on the 29th May 1999.
A line in Nigeria’s national anthem is “…The labours of our heroes past, shall never be in vain…” Amen to that.
*Aso Rock is the seat of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Think of it as the Nigeria’s equivalent of America’s White House or Britain’s 10 Downing Street.