Op-ed: Where Were You on June 12, 1993?
By Tony Momoh
Happy June 12, 2020. On June 12, 1993, I was in Lagos. I was looking forward to voting at my polling unit on Sylvia Crescent, Anthony Village, Lagos. I couldn’t find my voter’s card where I kept it in my safe. But after the election, I saw the card where I had searched for it in vain.
I travelled to London immediately thereafter. There had been a lot of massive celebration of the success of the election. It was free, it was fair, it was transparent. Most important, it was peaceful!
About a week after the election, the results were still being awaited. I was frantically calling Nigeria to ask what was happening. Then on June 23, the ruling military government of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida announced the annulment of the election. They even published a decree cancelling the election. The National Electoral Commission that conducted the election was suspended.
So there was even no commission to announce results! The SDP (Social Democratic Party) had results of the election just as the NRC (National Republican Convention) had figures they claimed were the results of the election.
The trouble with Nigeria had started and would continue after the departure of IBB from office on August 27, 1993. I therefore decided immediately after the annulment of the election to document the story for posterity. I did, and in November 1993, I published a 132-paged book entitled Experiment With Disintegration. The circulation was restricted.
My younger brother, Prof C.S Momoh who was Head of Department of Philosophy, University of Lagos, told my wife he would not attend the presentation of the book because the material therein was so “terrible and seditious” that the security agents of government would invade the venue, which was my law office at Sylvia Crescent in Anthony Village , and arrest everybody in attendance.
He did not attend the presentation but it was fully attended by many colleagues in the media and legal profession.
The book was dedicated to “Nigeria’s children born on November 1, 1993. By November 1, 2024, they would have attained the age of 30, and therefore be ready, willing and able to judge those of us today, dead or alive, who have worked with such profound narrow-minded dedication for the break-up of the world’s most populous Black country. The youngest of the culprits will be in their late 50s.”
The book was in five parts, beginning with a review of Nigeria’s political journey from independence in 1960 through 1993 and beyond.
In part two, I kept a daily report and my analysis of events from June 23 when the election was annulled to August 27, 1993 when President Babangida left Abuja unsung and uncelebrated.
It was obvious that there had been a problem in the house that resulted in an annulment sent to the media by the press secretary of Vice President Aikhomu and not by Duro Onabolu, President Babangida’s chief press secretary who would have relayed such earth-shaking information to the world outside.
Some information filtered out of the the Villa later that the President asked his very close associate, Prof Omo Omoruyi, to draft a speech to cancel the annulment! A serving senior officer was reported to have walked uninvited into IBB’s office and escorted Omoruyi out of the office. He told him, “Don’t come here to confuse Mr President”!
That there was trouble in the house attests to the kmanner of his departure from the Villa wearing a faftan, not his full uniform as a military general who was leaving office as head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In part two of the book, I kept a diary of what was happening, with comments and postulations, from June 24, a day after the election was annulled, until August 27 when IBB left unsung.
Many people had left Nigeria, hoping to return after August 27 when IBB was expected to have left office. I said it was a miscalculation to predict the end of the crisis on the departure of IBB. That would be the beginning! And it indeed was.
In part three of the book, I published a copy of the letter I had written to General Sanni Abacha, being the most senior minister in, and most powerful support base of, the interim government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan.
The letter was dated September 13, 1993. I told Abacha to recall how for four years as minister of information in the government in which Abacha himself played a highly visible and key role, I was known to be brutally level-headed frank in the contributions I had to make verbally or in writing in addressing and resolving problems.
I advised him to give the letter as much thought as he PRAYERFULLY could “so that in years to come, you would look back to it and be then in a position to decide for yourself if your reaction to it was right or wrong…”
I warned, “What you do with it therefore will make or mar this country in the years ahead “
I told him that those telling him tuhere was no trouble were telling lies. “There is fire on the mountain. It is building up to a conflagration, and I am surprised that many people even fail to listen to the rumblings in the bowels of the earth.”
In the part of the letter which addressed what should be done, I asked for full investigation of what was said to be wrong that led to cancelling the election. In the event that no unpardonable crime was committed by either Abiola or Tofa,the two candidates, whoever was declared winner should be called to form a national government…
I said, and this is part of what worried my brother Prof C.S. Momoh, “…the FOUR years we will tolerate someone outside the dominant power group in the North may well ensure a non-controversial return of leadership to that part of of Nigeria. If they insist on writing June 12 out of existence, I want to say, General, that this country will find no peace this century. . .
“Whoever emerges as president will not have the enthusiastic support that he may merit. Even many won’t vote because there is very active mobilisation of pro-democracy groups whose activities government does not seem to have answers to..”
Part five, the appendix, was a letter I addressed to our children born in 1993. I post marked it 2024, that would be 30 years after it was written. I didn’t blame them for what happened in 1993 but called on them to judge those who were of voting age and above. In 2034. The youngest of those to be judged would be in their early 50s.
I reported what happened and named our leaders in the nation’s organs , both executives and lawmakers at the national and state levels.
I closed the presentation with these words, “By the publication of the book, Experiment with Disintegration, I was able to reach out to everybody who was anybody in Nigeria in 1993 and no one should therefore plead ignorance of the issues when you and your generation do carpet us of this time for our unwillingness to learn the lessons of history. Everyone will have to plead their own case to show what they did to make or mar Nigeria. This letter is my plea and the little book I have written is my proof of evidence. ..”
Today is June 12, by the grace of God, now being celebrated nationally as Democracy Day since 2018.
The march to 2024 continues and I am all smiles, knowing that all my fears, all my proposals for us to build a country we all should live FOR, not insist on living . ON, are being fulfilled in the experiencing.
God bless June 12, God bless those who gave us June 12, God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
*Tony Momoh, Minister of Information of Nigeria (1986-1990), Chairman of the Board of Nigeria Airways (1991-1993), Pro Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council, University of Jos.