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Murtala Mohammed: Remembering Originator of ‘Fellow Nigerians’ 47 Years After

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By Eric Elezuo

He is noted as the first person to use the popular military catch phrase ‘fellow Nigerians’, and popularised it among subsequent leaderss, who had used it at all coup situations. He is Murtala Ramat Muhammad GCFR, Nigeria’s third military Head of State, who was murdered in cold blood on February 13, 1976, less than eight months after he took over administration.

Born on November 8, 1938, Mohammed is believed to have led the 1966 Nigerian counter-coup in overthrowing the Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi military regime and featured prominently during the Nigerian Civil War and thereafter ruled over Nigeria from 30 July 1975 until his assassination on that fateful February 13, 1976 morning.

He was in Kano, into a ruling-class religious family, Murtala served in the Nigerian Army as a cadet in the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He later served in Congo; eventually rose through the ranks to become brigadier general in 1971, aged 33, becoming one of the youngest generals in Nigeria. Three years later Murtala became the Federal Commissioner for Communications in Lagos. As a conservative and federalist, Murtala regretted the overthrow of the First Republic and the promulgation of Aguiyi Ironsi’s unification decree of 1966. He was devastated by the assassination of Sir Ahmadu Bello, and for a time seriously considered the secession of Northern Nigeria. His career redoubled after Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and the young majors orchestrated the first military coup in Nigeria of 1966 coup empowering him to lead the mutiny of the night of 29 July 1966 in Abeokuta. Murtala was briefly considered as Supreme Commander before the appointment of Yakubu Gowon. He also masterminded the July 1966 counter coup, which evidently, sparked the Nigerian Civil War.

During the war, he commandeered Nigeria’s second infantry division which was responsible for the death of civilians and much of the rebels. His command’s use of veteran soldiers, no quarter, and scorched earth strategies led to between 10,000 and 30,000 deaths. Combined with the total wartime death toll of three million making the civil war one of the deadliest in modern history. Three years later the Federal military government declared victory which bolstered Murtala’s image over Nigeria and in particular the north as a military leader through the post-war era of “reconciliation, reconstruction, and rehabilitation”. In post-civil-war Nigeria, Murtala ruled with more power than any Nigerian leader before or since, and developed a charismatic authority and cult of personality. During the Cold War he maintained Nigerian neutrality through participation in the non-aligned movement but supported the Soviet Union — during the latter’s effort in the Angolan Civil War

Nigeria under Murtala presided over a period of rampant economic prosperity. At the same time, his regime transitioned from being authoritarian into consensus decision-making with Murtala the leader of a military triumvirate, alongside Generals Olusegun Obasanjo and Theophilus Danjuma. The dictatorship softened and Murtala unveiled plans for the demilitarization of politics. In 1976 barely seven months into his nascent rule Murtala without having time to see his plans implemented was assassinated in a failed coup d’ètat attempt, being succeeded by Olusegun Obasanjo as Head of State, who, in turn, led the Nigerian transition to democracy with the Second Nigerian Republic.

The legacy of Murtala in Nigerian history remains controversial as the nature of his rule changed over time. His reign was marked by both brutal repression, and economic prosperity, which greatly improved the quality of life in Nigeria. His dictatorial style proved highly adaptable, which enabled wide-sweeping social and economic reform, while consistent pursuits during his reign centered on highly centralised government, authoritarianism, federalism, national Federalism, and pan-Africanism.

Murtala Muhammed was born on November 8, 1938 in Kano. His father, Muhammed Riskuwa, was from the Fulani Genawa clan, who had a history of Islamic jurisprudence as both his paternal grandfather Suleman and paternal great-grandfather Mohammed Zangi served as Chief Judges in Kano Emirate and held the title of chief Alkali of Kano. His father worked in the Kano Native Authority and was related to Aminu Kano, Inuwa Wada, and Aminu Wali. He died in 1953, his mother, Uwani Rahamatu, was from the Kanuri and Fulani Jobawa clan, the Jobawa clan members include the Makama of Kano and Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila, his maternal grandfather Yakubu Soja a World War I veteran was from Dawakin Tofa while his maternal grandmother Hajiya Hauwau (Aya) was from Gezawa, he was educated at Cikin Gida Elementary School which was inside the emir’s palace.

He then transferred to Gidan Makama primary school in Kano which was just outside the palace. He then proceeded to Kano Middle School (now Rumfa College, Kano) in 1949, before attending the famous Government College (now Barewa College) in Zaria, where he obtained his school certificate in 1957. At Barewa College, Muhammed was a member of the Cadet Corps and was captain of shooting in his final year. In 1957, he obtained a school leaving certificate and applied to join the Nigerian army later in the year.

Murtala Muhammed joined the Nigerian Army in 1958. He spent short training stints in Nigeria and Ghana and then was trained as an officer cadet at Sandhurst Royal Military Academy in England. After his training, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1961 and assigned to the Nigerian Army Signals that same year, later spending a short stint with the No. 3 Brigade Signals Troop in Congo In 1962, Muhammed was appointed aide-de-camp to M. A. Majekodunmi, the federally-appointed administrator of the Western Region.

In 1963, he became the officer-in-charge of the First Brigade Signal Troop in Kaduna, Nigeria. That year he traveled to the Royal Corps of Signals at Catterick Garrison, England for a course on advanced telecommunications techniques. On his return to Nigeria in 1964, he was promoted to major and appointed officer-commanding, 1st Signal Squadron in Apapa, Lagos. In November 1965, he was made acting Chief of Signals of the Army, while his paternal uncle, Inuwa Wada had recently been appointed Defense Minister.

Mohammed’s coup in 1966 led to the installation of Lieutenant-Colonel Yakubu Gowon as Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Armed Forces, despite the intransigence of Muhammed who wanted the role of Supreme Commander for himself. However, as Gowon was militarily his senior, and finding a lack of support from the British and American advisors, he caved in. Gowon rewarded him by confirming his ranking (he had been an acting Lt. Colonel until then) and his appointment (Inspector of Signals).

In June 1968, he relinquished his commanding position and was posted to Lagos and appointed Inspector of Signals. In April 1968, he was promoted to colonel. The actions of the division during this period, mostly in Asaba became a subject of speculation. In a book published in 2017, S. Elizabeth Bird and Fraser Ottanelli document the 1967 mass murder of civilians by troops of the 2 Division under General Muhammed’s command. They also discuss the events leading up to the massacre, and its impact on Asaba and on the progress of the war, as well as other civilian massacres carried out by soldiers of the 2nd Division at Onitsha and Isheagu.

Between 1970 and 1971, he attended the Joint Service Staff College in England, his supervisor’s report attributed him to having ”a quick agile mind, considerable ability and common sense. He holds strong views which he puts forward in a forthright manner. He is a strong character and determined. However, he finds it difficult to moderate his opinions and finds it difficult to enter into debate with others whose views he may not share”.After the war, he was promoted to brigadier-general in October 1971. Between 1971 and 1974, Muhammed was involved in routine activities within the signals unit of the army. However, he also disagreed with some of the policies being pursued by Gowon.

On 7 August 1974, the head of state, General Yakubu Gowon appointed him as the new Federal Commissioner for Communications, which he combined with his military duties as Inspector of Signals at the Army Signals Headquarters in Apapa, Lagos. On 7 August 1974, General Yakubu Gowon appointed Muhammed as the Federal commissioner (position now called Minister) for communications to oversee and facilitate the nation’s development of cost effective communication infrastructures during the oil boom. After the war and after he took power as head of state, Muhammed started the reorganization and demobilization of 100,000 troops from the armed forces. The number of troops in the armed forces decreased from 250,000 to 150,000.

On 29 July 1975, General Yakubu Gowon was overthrown while attending the 12th summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Kampala, Uganda. Muhammed took power as the new Military Head of State. Brigadiers Obasanjo (later Lt. General) and Danjuma (later Lt. General) were appointed as Chief of Staff, Supreme HQ and Chief of Army Staff, respectively.

In the coup d’état that brought him to power he introduced the phrases “Fellow Nigerians” and “with immediate effect” to the national lexicon. In a short time, Murtala Muhammed’s policies won him broad popular support, and his decisiveness elevated him to the status of a folk hero.

However his highly popular, often televised “with immediate effect” style of governing, also gained some criticism amongst the countries top civil servants – some of which were Nigeria’s top intellectuals. His ad-hoc Presidential proclamations left his civil service often unprepared, lacking details or even funding to implement his ideas, and his administration led to the dismissal of thousands of civil servants. Over 10,000 civil servants, government employees were dismissed without benefits; reasons stated were age, health, incompetence, or malpractice. The removal of such a large amount of public officials affected the public service, the judiciary, the police and armed forces, the diplomatic service, public corporations, and university officials. Quite a few officials were tried on corruption charges, and an ex-military state governor was executed for gross office misconduct.

Muhammed took federal control of the country’s two largest newspapers – Daily Times and New Nigerian; all media in Nigeria was now under federal control. He also took federal control of the remaining state-run universities. On February 3, 1976, the Military Government of Murtala Muhammed created new states and renamed others, the states he created include: Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Imo, Niger, Ogun, and Ondo. This brought the total number of states in Nigeria to nineteen in 1976.

As head of state, Muhammed put in place plans to build a new Federal Capital Territory due to Lagos being overcrowded. He set up a panel headed by Justice Akinola Aguda, which chose the Abuja area as the new capital ahead of other proposed locations. On February 3, 1976, Muhammed announced that the Federal Capital would in the future move to a federal territory location of about 8,000 square kilometres in the central part of the country.

Towards the end of 1975, the administration implemented a mass purge in the Nigerian civil service. The civil service was viewed as undisciplined and lacking a sense of purpose. A retrenchment exercise was implemented as part of a strategy to refocus the service.

Source: Wikipedia

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Tinubu’s 50k Bazaar: Govt Weaponizing Poverty – Dele Momodu

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By Eric Elezuo

Following the announcement of the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government of Nigeria of its intention to distribute N50,000 to 3.7 million homes/persons across the country among other cash induced benefits to cushion the effects of the over one year hardship that erupted on the first day of the administration, most prominent Nigerians have risen to condemn the move.

Among the loudest of voices against of the voices is the celebrated journalist and former presidential aspirant, Aare Dele Momodu, who described the move as the latest bazaar of the Tinubu administration, adding that it is subject to weaponizing poverty among the already very poor and anguished Nigerians.

The Chairman of Ovation Media Group took to his Instagram handle to caution the government against throwing money at anything and everything, stressing that it’s never the way to go,  in an article he titled ‘Tinubu’s Latest Bazaar’. He took a swipe at successive administrations, tracing back to the days of former President Goodluck Jonathan of presidents, whose stock and trade has remain doling out money to to people as if it is confetti, without enabling environment of utilisation.

The revered community leader, who has been honoured with various titles across the Nigerian traditional and ethnic divide, analyzed the length 50,000 can go in the present economic dispensation, informing that the amount is just an equivalent of US$30, and cannot, on its own, buy a small quantity of tomatoes, rice, beans, garlic, elubo, yam, fish or any other stable food. He therefore, queried how the government expect the money to go a long way.

Proposing a way forward however, Momodu advised the government as matter of urgency to produce a million millionaire entrepreneurs with one trillion Naira, who in turn will churn out more entrepreneurs through employment and training, and so the circle will continue.

He further suggested that the measure can be achieved through a setting up of a non partisan committee, who will conduct a meticulous screening of presentations from applicants.

“Each applicant would be expected to employ minimum of 5 others in their chosen vocations. Another trillion can go into vocational trainings. Nigeria must focus aggressively on vocational revolution. Our youths are extremely gifted and hardworking. Throwing peanuts at them is only an extension of hopelessness. We can do much better,” the media entrepreneur said.

Below is Momodu’s detailed statement:

TINUBU’s LATEST BAZAAR…

For anyone who knows how to weaponize poverty, throwing money at anything and everything becomes an addiction. It is so disheartening seeing how government after government in Nigeria continues to spend money as if it is mere confetti. This is not the first time I’m complaining before the defenders of bad policies descend to accuse us of anti-Tinubu criticism. My position has been consistent since President Goodluck Jonathan started distributing telephones to farmers. Not that it was a totally bad idea, but knowing my country well enough, it was an invitation to free food. The logistics of it alone was dizzying. The originators had fantastic ideas but the executors were, majorly, artful Dodgers.

When PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI came, the principalities managed to convince him to spray cash in parts of the country, even if it will ultimately get to less than one percent of the populace. The BUHARI bazaar was so obscenely bizarre that Nigerians queued in public places to collect raw cash. I have never seen anything so demeaning…

It is now the turn of PRESIDENT TINUBU. Just in case he is not aware, let me break it down. N50k is approximately 30 USD today. A scanty basket of tomatoes the last time my wife checked in Ibadan was N140k. We are not talking of pepper, onions and vegetable oil yet. Oh, we are yet to add gaari, elubo, rice, beans, yam, semovita, meat, fish and sundries. In my view, distributing 50k in many homes will only create further frustrations, big in title but useless in the market place.

So, my humble suggestion is that we can produce a million millionaire entrepreneurs with one trillion Naira. A non partisan committee can achieve this through meticulous screening of presentations from applicants. Each applicant would be expected to employ minimum of 5 others in their chosen vocations… Another trillion can go into vocational trainings. Nigeria must focus aggressively on vocational revolution. Our youths are extremely gifted and hardworking. Throwing peanuts at them is only an extension of hopelessness. We can do much better…

It would be recalled that President Tinubu on Thursday, gave the directive at the 142nd National Economic Council meeting attended by state governors and some deputies at the State House, Abuja, announcing a National Construction and Household Support Programme which will see 100,000 families in each state getting ₦50,000 federal government grant for three months, ₦155,000,000,000 to be disbursed for assorted foods, ₦540,000,000,000 for household grants even as 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory will get ₦10,000,000,000 allocations each for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses.

The ₦50,000 federal government grant planned for 3,700,000 households across the 36 states and the FCT, the ₦10,000,000,000 allocation each for CNG buses in the 36 states and the FCT, as well as the ₦155,000,000,000 spending on assorted foods, are estimated to cost over ₦1,000,000,000,000.

While emphasising the urgency of boosting food production in the country, Tinubu urged state governors to work together to meet the needs of Nigerians, stating his willingness to provide the needed support to ensure that Nigerians are relieved of hardship.

“We must deliver on our targets at all levels. Please report back following your consultations and submit it to my office within seven days.

“How much support do you need from me and in what form? I am prepared to provide it. But we must achieve the result.

“There is nothing we are doing that is more important than producing high-quality food for our people to consume, buy, and sell. We create jobs in the production of it. And that is before we generate wealth by exporting the excess. It is not beyond us to achieve this for Nigerians,” President Bola Ahmed Tinubu said.

In recent times, multiple economic challenges have bedeviled the country with high inflation driven by the removal of fuel subsidies and exchange rate depreciation reached 27% year-on-year in October 2023.

This price surge, coupled with high food insecurity has increased the cost-of-living crisis, leaving Nigerians struggling to afford necessities, and languishing in abje t poverty, and increasing the rate of crimes.

In spite of certain policy reforms like fuel subsidy removal and exchange rate unification adopted by the Tinubu government, the challenges of poverty, stalled per-capita growth, and a weak business environment persist.

Also in July 2023, Tinubu announced the sharing of eight thousand Naira to 12 million vulnerable families for six months.

Again in October 2023, Tinubu announced another conditional cash transfer to 15 million households. The announcement coincided with the celebration of World Poverty Eradication Day.

There had been more and more cash  intervention programmes since the May 29, 2023 ‘Subsidy is Gone’ infamous declaration, and none is yet to lift Nigerians out poverty as economic realities continue to bite harder, and the Nigerian public coming out worst on a daily basis.

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Peter Obi Right to Condemn Planned Purchase of New Aircraft, Says Dele Momodu

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By Eric Elezuo

Veteran journalist and Chairman, Ovation Media Group, Aare Dele Momodu, has exonerated Labour Party Presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, on his description of the planned purchase of Presidential jets for President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kasheem Shettima as insensitive and unacceptable.

The former Presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who was speaking via his social media handles, said “there’s nothing wrong with what Peter Obi said and suggested”, and called on the Tinubu-led administration to demonstrate the sacrifice he preaches by using his own jets and downsize his retinue of hangers-on during traveling.

He maintained that acquiring new aircraft at these hard times is an overindulgence, and urged Tinubu to stay away from the outlandishly flamboyant lifestyle of politicians.

He wrote: “In these hard times, there’s no compulsory reason for a country to own Presidential jets. In fact, it is an overindulgence. ASIWAJU BOLA AHMED TINUBU owned private jets ever before he was declared President. He can demonstrate the SACRIFICE he preaches by downsizing and returning to them and requesting his retinue to go commercial when absolutely necessary. AIR PEACE has a fleet of Boeing 777 that can be hired for long haul flights and this will keep them in business. Trouble is our politicians are outlandishly flamboyant… There’s nothing wrong with what PETER OBI said and suggested…”

Recall that a House Committee on National Security and Intelligence had recommended new aircraft for the president and his vice. The recommendation was approved by its sister Senate Committee. The decision has since raised just among Nigerians as regards the gain at a time Nigeria is battling with serious economic downturn and outright hunger in the land.

However, a spokesperson of President Tinubu, who is the special adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, defended the planned purchase asking Nigerians if they want Tinubu to die like the former president of Iran and former Vice President of Malawi, both of whom died recently in a plane crash.

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ICYMI – June 12: The Heroes, the Villains

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By Eric Elezuo

June 12 has become an official national day, after many years of the agitation to recognize it. It was the day that Nigerians set aside tribal and religious sentiment to vote massively for MKO Abiola and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe in an election everyone described as the freest and fairest.

But the presumed winner never took office because nidway into the release of the results, the then President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida annulled the process, and there began a crisis.

While many agitated for the restoration of Abiola’s mandate, many sold out, and joined the Babangida, Shonekan and Abacha oppressors.

Below is an abridged list of those in support and against the June 12 mandate. You can add more names if there are:

MKO Abiola

The story of Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola is better compared to the beautiful bride, so beloved and cherished all because of how she distinguished herself. MKO, as he is popularly called, was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party in the disputed June 12 1993 Presidential election – an election acclaimed by not a few persons as the freest and fairest the country has ever had. The Ogun state born billionaire entrepreneur was leading handsomely when the Babangida junta suddenly annulled the election.

Abiola will not easily let go of his mandate, and with the people solidly behind him, he fought the Babangida and later Abacha junta to a standstill, and finally paid the supreme price when he died in detention on July 7, 1998, a day he was supposedly to be released, in the presence of notable world leaders. His death was a great blow to democratic and June 12 struggle.

One striking thing about Abiola’s democratic struggle was the fact that he didn’t actually need it. He was stupendously rich, and could have let go but he didn’t. He died fighting for the masses. He died a selfless democrat at 60.

Gani Fawehinmi

One of Nigeria’s finest lawyers, late Abdul-Ganiyu Fawehinmi was a human rights activist, who defended the masses without equivocation. He was fearless in his approach to matters so long as it provides succor to a citizen. Before he was recognised and awarded the coveted Senior Advocate of Nigeria, his followers had ‘honoured’ him with the ‘Senior Advocate of the Masses.’

Late Fawehinmi reported that he was arrested, detained and incarcerated a total of 32 times by successive military regimes, including those of Gen. Yakubu Gowon (six times), Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo (three times), Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (17 times) and Gen. Sani Abacha (six times).

Babangida said of him, “I appreciate you that you have a strong conviction and fight for it consistently. This is the context in which I see Gani.” He added that the arrest of Gani is ‘all in a day’s work. It’s just part of the job description’. Today, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has posthumously honoured him with the GCON award.

Frank Kokori

As the Secretary-General of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) at the time, Kokori singlehandedly paralysed the country’s economy by calling out workers in the petroleum sector to go on strike. The mass action significantly paralysed the economy, and gave the government a wake up call.

He allegedly refused carrots dangled by the Abacha regime all because of the democratic struggle.

Wole Soyinka

An intellectual of repute, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, was not left out in post-June 12 struggle. It is on record that the literary icon used his international connection to draw the attention of the international community to events in Nigeria.

He was one of the brains and voices behind the much talked about Radio Kudirat, which was set up at a time when the military had their foot on media organisations and journalists. He was also a strong pillar of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) made up of pro-democracy fighters.

Kudirat Abiola

She was the second wife of MKO Abiola, who stood stoutly behind her husband. While Abiola was in detention, Kudirat took up the mantle, and was in the forefront of the fight for his release. Joining forces with other activists and civil rights giants, she became a painful thorn to the Abacha led regime.

Her fearless journey was cut short when she was brutally murdered at the Oregun area of Lagos on June 4, 1996. She was only 44.

A partaker in her assassination, Mr. Mohammed Abdul, aka Katako, in 2007, confessed that Kudirat’s murder was state sponsored.

He said: “On the day of the attack, we followed Kudirat Abiola’s white Mercedez Benz from Ikeja to Allen Avenue and then to the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. When we got to the Toll Gate area, (Sgt. Barnabas) Rogers asked me to get close to the Benz and I did. Then, he (Rogers) leaned out of the window and started spraying the victim with bullets with the P90 rifle. After that, we immediately drove to Dodan Barracks.”

Anthony Enahoro

Also a leader of NADECO, Enahoro led the coalition in the Diaspora while on exile. He was the Chairman of NADECO; the Chairman of the Movement for National Reformation and was the leader of Pro-National Conference Organisation (PRONACO).

The statesman, known for moving a motion for Nigeria’s self-rule, never relented in his call for the recognition of the June 12, 1993, presidential election won by Abiola.

On many occasions, he escaped assassination. He died on December 15, 2010, at 87.

Beko Ransome-Kuti

Beko formed what has been described as Nigeria’s first human rights organisation, the Campaign for Democracy, which was used to tackle Abacha’s dictatorship in the post-June 12 struggle. The CHDR is also Beko’s brainchild.

Under the regime, a military tribunal in 1995 sentenced Beko to life in prison for bringing the mock trial of Obasanjo to the attention of the world. His freedom came with the death of Abacha in 1998.

He died on February 10, 2006.

Ndubuisi Kanu

He is one of the few Igbo men who fought ceaseless for the restoration of the June 12-Abiola mandate.

After his retirement from the military, Kanu joined the pro-democracy movement and was one of the leaders of NADECO during the period; he later became chairman of the coalition in 2013.

Kanu also had his share of the bitter experiences like other pro-democracy activists like him. During the struggle, he reportedly escaped assassination by a stroke of luck

Alfred Rewane

Rewane was a successful businessman, a major financier of NADECO in the post-June 12 struggle. He used his means to support his compatriots in the opposition to the Abacha regime.

He was murdered on October 6, 1995, in his Ikeja residence, at the age of 78.

Abubakar Umar

Umar was another soldier, like Kanu who opposed to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election.

He masterminded Abiola’s installation as president, and was caught, but was lucky to get away. He left the Nigerian Army in the heat of the struggle in 1993, and became a social critic and founded a political party called the Movement for Unity and Progress.

Ayo Opadokun

Chief Ayo Opadokun spent a sizable part of his life behind bars in the battle to actaulise June 12.

Alao Aka-Basorun

A former President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Aka-Basorun was one of the pioneers of legal activism. Fondly referred to as ‘The Lion of the Bar,’ he was said to be one of the earliest proponents of national conference and restructuring of Nigeria’s federation.

He was one of the leading lawyers who defended Abiola during his “treason” trial, aftermath of his ‘Epetedo Declaration.’

He suffered a memory failure at the assassination of Kudirat Abiola and never recovered.

Abraham Adesanya

Adesanya, as  the leader of the Afenifere and deputy leader of NADECO remained at home with the likes of the late Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and a host of others while many fled the country.

He mysteriously escaped the assassins’ bullets in 1997. It was during the trial of those suspected to have attacked him that revelations were made that he was marked for assassination for being a member of NADECO, a group already outlawed by the military regime.

Tunji Braithwaite

Braithwaite was one of the brains behind the ‘June 12 Coalition of Democratic Formations,’ another pro-democracy advocacy group. Unlike some of his contemporaries, he rejected offers by successive military juntas and remained in the country even as a good number of activists fled the country.

Olusegun Osoba

One of the finest journalists Nigeria has ever produced, Chief Olusegun Osoba, was the Editor and Managing Director of government-owned Daily Times Nigeria Ltd under Babangida’s regime. He had bitter experiences like his compatriots.

Osoba revealed that Babangida sacked him three times while Abacha made attempts on his life three times due to his alignment with NADECO.

Osoba said in parts, “I will call him by his name. Three times Babangida sacked me. Three times he re-instated me. At last, he converted my sack to resignation. Three times Abacha wanted to kill me. I was in hiding for one year,” he said.

Other notable activists in the June 12 struggle are Frederick Faseun, Ibrahim Tahir, Balarabe Musa, Bola Tinubu, Ebitu Ukiwe, Walter Carrington, Bolaji Akinyemi, Bola Ige, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba, Yinka and Joe-Okei-Odumakin, Dele Momodu, late Chima Ubani, Debo Adeniran, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, Omoyele Sowore, Segun Maiyegun, Segun Okeowo, Femi Aborisade, Tokunboh Afikuyomi, Ademola Adeniji-Adele, Joe Igbokwe, Solanke Onasanya, Kayode Fayemi, Shehu Sani, among a host of many others.

 

The Villains

Ibrahim Babangida

Perhaps there is no greater villain of the June 12 struggle that Babangida. He will be remembered for his infamous annulment of the June 12, 1993 election. In fact, he started the imbroglio when on June 23, 1993, in a nationwide broadcast, he annulled the election.

Though he took full responsibility for the annulment of the election he claims it was a collective decision.

Sani Abacha

Abacha had the opportunity to right the wrongs of IBB, but failed to do so, instead he constituted himself as a terror, and planned to perpetuate himself in power.

During his regime, many lives of activists were cut short, and he caused others to flee the country. He did not stop at denying Abiola his mandate, he arrested him and held him inncustody until his death in 1998.

In his quest to kill June 12, and democracy in general, he lured and lobbied friends and associates of Abiola to serve in his government. Many of them such as the running mate to Abiola, Babagana Kingibe, Ebernezer Babatope, Lateef Jakande among others, withdrew their loyalty to the presumed president-elect.

Tony Anenih

Chief Tony Anenih was the National Chairman of the SDP, on which platform Abiola contested the 1993 election. Anenih, alias ‘Mr. Fix It,’ He practically failed to fix the people’s mandate, and forced forces with the oppressors.

Babagana Kingibe

Many see Babagana Kingibe as the greatest let down of the June 12 struggle. He was Abiola’s running mate in the 1993 contest, and common sense assumed he will stick with his principal to the end, but he became a turncoat and sold the mandate when he joined Abacha’s regime with the likes of Tony Anenih.

A lot of people have said that he does not in any way deserve the honours of GCON bestowed on him by Buhari. He didn’t fight at all before giving up. He never believed in June 12.

Uche Chukwumerije

The late Sen. Uche Chukwumerije became Babangida and Shonekan’s Information Minister while activists were fighting to reclaim the June 12 mandate. His propaganda theory was so potent that many wondered where he gets them from. He fought activists to a standstill.

In later interview, he supported the annulment based, according to him, on ‘security report…at the time’. He eventually benefitted from the democratic process as elected senator.he died on April 19, 2015,

Daniel Kanu

Kanu came from nowhere to become Abacha’s henchman and perpetrated serious anti-democratic activities, including organizing the infamous one million march for Abacha with his ‘Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha’ group. He basically dined and wined with the autocratic government.

Kanu was reported as saying, “The destiny of this nation and the transition to democracy under the present dispensation can only achieve its viable potential if handled by prudent, purposeful, and transparent leadership of General Abacha.”

When he contested and won PDP’s ticket for the House of Representatives in AMAC/Bwari Federal Constituency in 2002, he was paid back in his own coin as his was ‘annulled’ over “unverifiable certificates” and “unclear antecedents.”

Arthur Nzeribe

He was Babangida’s own henchman, and was in the forefront of truncating the June 12 election with his infamous Association for Better Nigeria.

The ABN had made taken a major step to ensure the junta remained in power by approaching a court to prevent the conduct of the June 1993 presidential election. Its argument: leader of the NRC and the SDP were corrupt politicians.

The Campaign for Democracy challenged them and won.

Nzeribe’s association, again, went to court after the poll to prevent the release of the election results. Babangida listened and the political crisis ensued.

Nzeribe later boasted of his role in the cancellation of the June 12 election.

Abimbola Davies

He was one of the directors of the Nzeribe-led pro-Abacha ABN, among several others. He has been criticised for his links with the anti-democratic forces. Davies made a u-turn shortly after, and exposed the ABN motives.

Ernest Shonekan

A kinsman of Abiola, Shonekan happily accepted the interim leadership role. He could have used the opportunity to cause, but he never did. He revolved round the presidency until Abacha sacked him three months later.

Abdul-Azeez Arisekola-Alao

The late Ibadan-based billionaire businessman pitched his tent with Babangida in as much as he was Abiola’s friend and Yoruba Islamic leader. He spoke vehemently against the June 12 mandate.

He said, “Wallahi tallahi billahillazi la’ila ha illahuwa – and we are in the month of Ramadan; that is what happened at that time. It was after the election that members of the Armed Forces Ruling Council threatened to kill both MKO Abiola and IBB, if he insisted on releasing the result of the election. They threatened to kill both IBB and Abiola.”

Lamidi Adedibu

The late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, was said to have ‘arranged’ the infamous conditional bail to be granted to Abiola while in incarceration, a move that would have denied Abiola his mandate if he accepted the offer.

IBB was later quoted as saying that Adedibu supported the June 12 annulment.

Jerry Gana

Prof. Jerry Gana was one of the civilians co-opted into Abacha’s transition and being the Minister of Information, he was one of earliest people to sing the dirge of June 12.

Gana had in May 1994, almost the first year anniversary of June 12, reportedly said, “The military administration (Abacha’s regime) did not actualise the June 12 election, in spite of its opposition to the annulment, for fear that certain sections of the country could rise against it. If they actualised June 12 when they came in, another section would rise.

“The annulment is a painful one but we cannot because of it allow the people of Nigeria to be destroyed. Somebody has made a mistake like somebody made in 1966, like somebody made in 1984, like somebody made a mistake by stopping Jerry Gana from becoming a president by annulling my own primaries.”

Al-Mustapha, Sofolahan, Others

Abacha’s former Chief Security Officer, Maj. Hamza Al-Mustapha; Kudirat’s former Personal Assistant, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan; a son of late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Mohammed Abacha; and Rabo Lawal were in December 1999 charged with conspiracy and murder over their alleged involvement in the assassination of Kudirat Abiola.

After 13 years of instituting the case, which was presided over by five successive judges and during which the accused persons were in prison custody, Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan were sentenced to death by a Lagos High Court on January 30, 2012.

Lawal Pedro, who led the prosecution, had accused Al-Mustapha of ordering Barnabas Rogers, (alias Sgt. Rogers), a member of Abacha’s Strike Force, to kill Kudirat. However, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Friday, July 12, 2013, discharged and acquitted al-Mustapha and Shofolahan, saying there was not enough evidence to incriminate him in the murder of Kudirat. The verdict overturned the death sentence passed on al-Mustapha by the Lagos High Court.

Similarly, the likes of Bashir Tofa, the candidate of the NRC, who has yet to openly admit that Abiola won the election; Chief Tom Ikimi, the chairman of NRC, who defected to Abacha’s camp; Humphrey Nwosu, who couldn’t muster the courage to release the remaining results and others.

The Five political parties that adopted Abacha as their sole candidate for the election are also great enemies of the June 12 struggle. Someone had described them as the ‘five leprous fingers of Abacha’.

Additional Info from The Punch

First published on June 10, 2018

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