June 12 was Annulled to Save Abiola; Groups Blast Ibrahim Babangida

Former military president Ibrahim Babangida was chastised yesterday by prominent pro-democracy crusaders and rights campaigners following his new assertions that he invalidated the June 12, 1993 presidential election because there would have been a coup in the country.

Chief Moshood Abiola, the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) candidate, won the election and later died in captivity after declaring himself the president.

Babangida who spoke on Arise Television said there would have been a violent change of government if the election had ‘materialsed’.

Between August 27, 1985, until August 23, 1993, he ruled Nigeria.

Later this month, he will turn 80 years old.

“If that happened, there would have been a coup d’etat — which may have been violent,” he said. That’s all I have to say about it.

It didn’t happen thanks to the engineering and the ‘maradonic’ way we handled you guys in the society. But that could’ve given room for more instability in the country.

He alleged massive  pressure  from within and outside the military to cause trouble on account of the outcome of the election.

“The military can do it because they have the weapons to do it, and others (civil society groups) can use agitation,” he said.

Afenifere and NADECO leaders reacted angrily to Babangida’s assertions, saying the former military ruler was rewriting history.

Babangida never wanted to leave power in the first place, according to Afenifere leader Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and had a preset purpose.

He bemoaned the fact that such bravado was typical of ambitious northern military monarchs who despised democratic transition and achievement.

The annulment, according to Adebanjo, contributed to division and suspicions that one ethnic group was bent on subjugating others.

He insisted that the military drivers of the transformation program would go down in history as people’s adversaries.

Adebanjo said:”Babangida never wanted to go. He was changing the goal post during the game.

“They only want unity according to their terms. They want to dictate the conditions for unity. We should sit down and agree. Otherwise, the deceit will continue.”

An Afenifere chieftain, Senator Olabiyi Durojaye, lamented that the historic poll results were cancelled after Nigeria held a free and fair exercise.

He described the annulment as “annoying” since Nigerians were looking forward to a new beginning in the post-military era.

If Ibrahim Babangida had any intelligence about an impending coup, there was no proof that he communicated it with his colleagues in the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) and other key stakeholders, according to Durojaye, who was arrested by the military over the pro-democracy campaign.

“History will take care of all the actors,” he said, noting that many had yet to recover from the shock of the annulment.

Olawale Oshun, a NADECO chieftain and the Chief Whip of the Third Republic House of Representatives, accused Babangida of deliberately lying.

No one would believe spurious justification and deception, he said.

Babangida has God to cope with, according to Oshun, the head of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), because his actions resulted in the deaths of many young people along Ikorodu Road in Lagos when Abacha’s troops opened fire during a protest.

He claimed that IBB’s account contrasted that of his AFRC colleagues, who were equally surprised by the popular will’s annulment.

Babangida, according to Oshun, never wanted to leave government, and Gen. Sani Abacha was the smarter man in that scheme to keep the military going.

He also bemoaned the former military President’s attempt to maintain power by polarizing the country.

Oshun said:”He did not want to go. I was in the House of Representatives at that time. I knew the efforts he made to compromise the House to remain in office. The House was polarized.

“Of course, there were some ambitious men around him: people like Mark, who were not pleased with an Abiola presidency. But, officers like Col. Umar stood their ground on the election.”

He continued, “He should explain that to the marines,” while maintaining that IBB lied during the television interview. Nigerians cast their ballots. He should have just let it go.

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“ Abiola won in the barracks. He said soldiers wanted to stage a coup. Are the soldiers more than millions of Nigerians who voted? IBB ruined our country. “

Babangida described his rationale for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election as his “honest reason” for the move in an interview in which he also spoke about different national issues.

“If that happened, there would have been a coup d’etat — which may have been violent,” he said. That’s all I have to say about it.

“It didn’t happen thanks to the engineering and the ‘maradonic’ way we handled you guys in the society. But that could’ve given room for more instability in the country.

“The military can do it because they have the weapons to do it, and others (civil society groups) can use agitation.”

During his tenure, he claimed to have made “deft political manoeuvres.”

He was given the moniker “Maradona” after the later Argentine footballer Diego Maradona, who was known for his dribbling abilities.

“The characterization of Maradona I got from the media is due to smart political moves,” he explained. That’s how the media portrayed it.

“That’s the very good thing about the Nigerian media and Nigerian people, you have to anticipate them. If you anticipate them, then you live well with them. They call me ‘evil genius’, I marvel at that. The contradiction — you can’t be evil and then a genius.”

Ibrahim Babangida said that his administration did a better job fighting corruption than the present Buhari administration.

He highlighted the case of a military governor who he claimed he sacked for alleged corruption involving N300,000 at the time.

He contrasted this with what he claims presently occurs when governors who allegedly stole billions of naira are free to roam the streets.

In terms of handling the country’s wealth, he said Nigeria’s military rulers are saints compared to citizens.

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“You cannot compare what we did with what is on the ground now in terms of corruption. Corruption is more now. We are saints when compared to what is happening in the democratic era,” he said.

“When I was in leadership, I sacked a governor for misappropriating less than N313,000 but today, billions are being stolen and misappropriated, a lot of them are in court but still parade themselves in the streets. So tell me, who else is better at fighting corruption?”

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