JUNE 12 SPECIAL
24th ANNIVERSARY OF JUNE 12 ANNULMENT
Intrigue, Power Play Between IBB, Abacha Which Sustained Annulment
By Late Prof. Omo Omoruyi in his book “The Tale of June 12” published in 1999 but blocked from circulation by military authorities…
IBB Unburdens His Heart
The venue was the Presidential Villa (Residence and Office) and the subject was to explore options in the face of the annulment of the election that was in the offing; the main actors were General Babangida, General Dogonyaro and myself (Omoruyi). This was not the first time General Babangida and I would meet like this. We met in Minna in early August 1985 to review how he was to proceed with a transition programme should the coup contemplated in August succeed; we met in Lagos in August/September 1985 after he had succeeded and had become the President over the steps he should take to evolve a transition programme; we met in Lagos over the Political Bureau Report and worked out what to do with the report; we met in Lagos over the steps he should take to get a transition programme put together from the report from the White Paper Committee.
General Babangida and I met at other times over the following issues; the evolution of two-party system and the creation of the Center for Democratic Studies; the setting up of the Constitution Review Committee; the composition of and charge to the Constituent Assembly; the production of the White Paper on the Report of the Constituent Assembly; the drafting of the arguments for the Creation of States; the Banning or Disqualification of Persons; the Inauguration of the National Assembly; the setting up of the National Defence and Security Council and the Transitional Council among other major policy issues in 1993 concerning the Presidential Election. In all these issues, our meetings and the papers produced formed the basis of the policies of his government.
It was not therefore unusual for the President to invite me to think with him on how to get out of the dilemma in which he found himself after the suspension of the election process and the injunctions on the NEC by the various courts in the South-west and Abuja and the decision of NEC to appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal. I also thought that he wanted to discuss the diplomatic impasse he might have created by not seeing the British High Commissioner to accept the letter from Mr. John Major, the British Prime Minister. I could not think of the US reacting to the impasse because the US seemed to have faded away after the incident of June 11. My mind also went to the possibility nevertheless of a fresh, threatening message from the US. I could not rule out the US.
My mind went to the memorandum of June 20 (See Chapter 4) in which I raised many issues bordering on the President’s inability to assume moral leadership in the face of the apparent derailment of the transition programme and the sliding of the country into chaos. This turned out to be the subject of the meeting.
No Longer in Command/Control of Situation
It was clear when I entered his office that he had lost command/control of the situation. He, in fact, confessed this to me, the first time he was making such a confession since I knew him. He pleaded that he needed help to find a solution to a complex problem, which he did not quite understand. It was also clear to me but, unfortunately not to my fellow Nigerians, that the country was without a President that had authority either over the military or over the civilians. One wondered what would have happened if the political class had been united and pressed for the conclusion of the transition programme. But the political class was part of the problem. It was also not clear to the International Community that Nigeria had no effective government at this time.
Why did the International community not issue statements supporting the June 12 election even though they had the results? General Babangida knew he could purchase the political class, but he knew that the International Community was not purchasable. The President had no moral courage to call his “boys” to order having lied to them about Chief Abiola at the onset. These “boys” had now by-passed him and formally linked up with the anti-democratic elements in the North working in concert with some Igbo leaders who felt that the time had come for them to avenge what they thought the Yoruba had done to them during the civil war. General Babangida was now a victim of this web of intrigue and he thought he needed help to take control of the situation, not to reverse it since he could not.
Once Inside His Office, Babangida Locked the Door
Once inside his office, he locked the door. He welcomed me with a strong appeal to my loyalty, which I assured him was constant. I assured him that my loyalty to him as a friend should never be in doubt. He looked very worried; he removed his shoes and caps and confessed that his wife did not know where he was at that time and that he drove himself from Minna that morning just to talk to me; thus he expected me to be frank with him as I had always been. He went on: “I have not seen my wife or briefed her of what I had been going through in the past three days”. I urged him to unburden his heart to me and assured him that I would be as frank as possible but that he would have to be open with me. For a few minutes he remained speechless and looked morose. The situation in which I saw him could only be compared with the situation in which I found him in 1985 when he was agonising over what to do during the days preceding his decision to overthrow Muhammadu Buhari’s military regime.
Just as he did on that occasion, he pleaded with me to advise him on how to free himself from the dilemma in which he found himself. On both occasions he used the same choice of words: “I see disaster for myself and my family. Where do I go now?” he asked. “Professor, we must find a solution here and now or else I am finished,” he concluded. The operative clause is “we must find a solution” meaning that he wanted me to work with him or he was relying on me for a solution. I did this with him in the past and he expected me to do it again with him in June 1993.
General Babangida proceeded to recount all that we did together in the past and pleaded that I should see him through this stage. I urged him again to unburden his heart and speak as freely as he always did so that we could discuss the issue. I assured him that there was no political problem that had no solution. He cut in to say that the issue facing him was not political, but had to do with his life, his family’s life and even the life of his close friends including me. Still, he was hesitant in addressing the question. Suddenly he got up and reached for the door, making sure that he was self-secured; he unhooked his telephones and some security equipment except the security line, which linked him to his service chiefs. I was surprised with this kind of behavior; I had gone through this with him before. It was clear to me that he was in trouble more serious than I imagined. I was deeply concerned for my own safety. This was a new angle, which he had brought in. I narrowly missed the Orkar Coup in 1990. I asked myself, “Was a blood thirsty coup maker around”? But the coups that occurred in the past did not happen in the broad daylight. He again kept quiet for some time and I pleaded with him for the third time to speak his mind to me. He then gave me pad from his table to take notes. Of course, I thanked him and pointed out that I had a pad and my memory to cope with the issues that would arise from the meeting.
They Will Kill Me; They Will Kill the President-Elect, Chief MKO Abiola
General Babangida opened with the following words, which I jotted down as closely as possible, word for word: “They will kill me; they will kill the President-Elect, Chief MKO Abiola, if I went ahead with the election and announced the winner of the elections, which we all know to be Bashorun, Chief MKO Abiola. I know so; I am not daft. He won; he tried. I feel bad about the whole matter. Professor, I do not see how they will spare you because they know you are my principal confidant. You think they do not know you? They know; they know you are with me now. They saw you coming in and they know you are with me now. He then paused and asked for my views. I started by saying that I sympathized with him. I assured him that I would be the last person to see him or his family dead in the hands of these unknown “they”. I then asked, “Who these ‘they’ are and what are your crimes? Is a coup imminent?” Before he could reply I spoke again, “if a coup is imminent and you cannot stop it, then don’t resist,” I counseled. “Call them and hand over and spare your life, if this is what they want”! I pleaded, “Is that what they want?” I asked.
It was at this stage that he confessed that he had misled his “boys”. He had assured them that he would be able to stop Chief MKO Abiola before the process reached the stage of election. He had also assured Chief MKO Abiola that the road was clear for him to seek the presidential election. He was now in a severe difficulty as to what to do. He was sitting on the sharp point of dilemma; it was either his life or his honour as an officer and a gentlemen. He was inclined to settle for the former (his life) and to let go of the latter (his honour). I cut in to say that it would involve the whole country and that we might not be lucky; the same life that we were trying to save could still be threatened and lost. He agreed with me looking most concerned.
Then he said: “This whole problem was caused by men” and blamed those who pressured him to lift the ban on certain persons in December 1991, which opened the way for Chief Abiola and Alhaji Tofa to enter the presidential race. He also blamed his intelligence officers who told him that Chief Abiola would not get the nomination and that Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe would defeat him at the Jos Convention. According to him: “They then turned round to tell me the story of how Chief Abiola bought the nomination with millions of naira”. He thought these were the sources of the problem he now faced.
At this stage, I had to cut in to remind the President that the report I brought from Jos Convention did not say that money was spent by Chief Abiola. In fact, that report said that money was spent by most of the SDP Governors, as well as Chief Arthur Nzeribe, Dr. Olusola Saraki, Chief Emeka Ojukwu and others to promote the candidacy of Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe and work against Chief Abiola. My report also confirmed that Chief Abiola spent money to avoid being humiliated by the combined forces of SDP Governors and the disqualified presidential aspirants of 1992. In that report, I said that for one man in the person of Chief MKO Abiola to withstand these money men and the state governments should be the sufficient reason why I thought the process should be allowed to go forward.
I also reminded the President that that was one of the subjects the Sultan raised with me in Sokoto in May 1993 when he counseled that the process should be abandoned. I asked him to recall that we both agreed on my return from Sokoto that it was