For the first time since the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late business mogul, Bashorun MKO Abiola, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, has given a reason for the annulment.
He said he was compelled to nullify the election because of security threats to the enthronement of a democratic government at that time.
Babangida made this disclosure yesterday on a TV programme, Moments with Mo, anchored by Mo Abudu and broadcast on MNet channel of DSTV.
Babangida, who described the annulment as “unfortunate” and revealed that he would launch a book on the saga next year, said having been on the steering wheel of government at the time, he and the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) knew that the new democratic government to be installed would sooner than later be toppled through another military coup deta’t, which he said his government wanted to avoid.
According to him, his regime had decided that it would be the last administration that would ascend the seat of power through coup, adding that it would make no sense to install a democratic government that would be truncated within another six months.
He, however, admitted that the June 12 presidential election was free and fair and also the best of all elections ever conducted in Nigeria’s history. “June 12 was accepted by Nigerians as the best of elections in Nigeria. It was free and fair.”
“But unfortunately, we cancelled that election. I used the word unfortunately, for the first time. We were in government at the time and we knew the possible consequences of handing over to a democratic government.
We did well that we wanted ours to be the last military coup deta’t. To be honest with you, the situation was not ripe to hand over at the time.
“Forget about the wrong things that happened in politics. The issue of security of the nation was a threat and we would have considered ourselves to have failed, if six months after handover, there was another coup. I went through coup deta’t and I survived it.
“We knew that there would be another coup deta’t. But not many people believed what we said. They could have allowed me to go away and then they (coup plotters) would regroup and stage another coup. This is how coups are staged – one man will always come to complain. And he will try to convince you about his complaints,” Babangida said.
He said security threats to the advent of democracy at the time culminated in fresh plans to conduct another election within another six months after June 12 annulment, with better strategy, but which he said he could not achieve as a result of the hostility which accompanied the cancellation.
According to him, another election was conceived to come up in November 1993. He revealed further that he was determined to conduct another election which culminated in the constitution of an Interim National Government (ING), which he noted was eventually toppled by a military coup staged by General Sani Abacha. Babangida implied that what happened to the ING was eventually the fate that would have befallen the civil rule which his regime would have handed over to.
The former military president said the whole concept of his regime’s plan to hand over to a civil government was aimed at effecting a lasting change which could put paid to rigging. This notion, he said resulted in the decision to register only two political parties, the Social Demoratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC).
“When there are two things, you have an option – this or that or nothing. We tried to regulate the number of political parties. We knew what to do,” he said.
Babangida, who expressed fears that his revelation might put him in trouble, was not categorical about his presidential ambition come 2011. Instead, he played around it, saying he was not getting younger, adding that he would rather make himself available to make certain corrections whenever he deems fit.