By Muyiwa Olayinka
June 12 1993 was recreated 25 years later at the old banquet hall of Nigerian’s seat of power, Aso Rock Abuja.
Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola lost his life in the struggle to actualize the mandate given to him by Nigerians in one of the freest and fairest election in the history of Nigeria. It was a watershed in the nation’s quest to civil rule after many years of military dictatorship..
The former military President General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election in a nationwide broadcast, citing sharp practices and alleged security concerns, setting a chain reaction that eventually removed him from office.
Babangida hurriedly put a lame duck interim government led by Chief Shonekan, a board room guru, that was summarily shoved aside, after three months in office, by late General Sani Abacha.
Abacha pretended and deceived Nigerians including MKO that his mandate will be restored but reneged after his government stabilized
It was a day of jubilation on June 12 2018, when President Buhari put an end to one of the sordid pasts of our history by honoring MKO posthumously with the highest award of the land, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). Grand Commander Of Nigeria (GCON) was bestowed on his running mate Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, and the late human right crusader, Chief Gani Fawehinmi.
The hall was packed full of family members of the honoree, and many actors in the struggle for the actualization of June 12. There was palpable nostalgia marked by the reunion of old political and associates and comrades in the June 12 movement. Praises were showered on President Buhari, the man of the moment, who pulled this political master stroke.
The image of Buhari’s government received a boost with this singular act, whose image has plummeted among Nigerian in recent times, over his poor handling of Fulani herdsmen crisis and the parlous state of the economy.
Successive governments have jettisoned this noble idea of honoring Abiola despite persistent demand from broad spectrum of Nigerians. The 16 years of PDP government of Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan vehemently rejected the idea.
It is even more curious that former President Obasanjo, a kinsman and a direct beneficiary of MKO’s death blatantly rejected the idea. He once said Abiola was not the messiah Nigerians were looking for.
Obasanjo was however an object of ridicule at the investiture ceremony. Obasanjo was conspicuously absent, so also General Babangida that annulled the election.
Obasanjo sent his apologies that he was far away in Norway, while Babangida cited medical reasons
As expected, Nigerian politicians did not miss the opportunity of the event to feather their political interests. The national leader of the ruling party, APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu used the occasion to assure President Buhari of winning the upcoming presidential election
Former Governor Adams Oshiomhole directly attacked Obasanjo wishing if he were Buhari, he would have arrested Obasanjo for some crimes committed against Nigerians
But Professor Wole Soyinka, a Nobel price winner and an activist took a cautionary approach. In his speech, he said and I quote: ‘ Mr President since we are honoring heroes of democracy today, I will like to request that you manage to stop creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians’
‘It is not possible to honor MKO Abiola in one breadth and admire his tormentor in another breadth. Loyalty is all very well but loyalty can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual who if he were alive today would be before the international court of crimes against humanity.
He continued: ‘The one who broke the laws of Niger, international laws, pauperized this nation, it is confusing if professional loyalty is carried so far as to be accorded such an individual’
Soyinka was referring to late General Abacha,that put the final nail on the coffin of June 12!
President Buhari, a retired army general had at different times sent wrong signals. He said Abacha did not steal giving Abacha a clean bill of integrity. Buhari made this unfortunate remark, some years ago at the 10th anniversary of Abacha’s death in Kano. This is inconsistent with a man who made fight against corruption the corner stone of his administration Buhari’s government has, thus received the sum of $322 million of Abacha’s loot from Switzerland.
Furthermore, the nation’s Attorney General and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, in a press statement intimated the public that, another tranche of $500 million is being expected from abroad from the late Abacha’s estate.
Just as Professor Soyinka succinctly puts it, going down memory lane, General Buhari owes Abacha’s loyalty.
It was Brigadier Sani Abacha that announced the military coup of 1983. This coup threw the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari into the dust bin of history. Major General Buhari became the fulcrum of that history as Nigeria’s head of state.
It was another pay back time when Abacha became head of state after easing out the interim government of Chief Ernest Shonekan. He appointed his former boss, Buhari, the Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), a multi billion Naira parallel agency.
Buhari got this appointment when the likes of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola ( wife of MKO), Pa Alfred Rewane, were murdered in cold blood, over June 12 crisis, General Buhari was busy wining and dining with the tormentors, when Late Chief Abraham Adesanya was shot at but miraculously escaped assassin’s bullet. Senator Shehu Sani, Chima Ubani, Clement Nwankwo,, late Gani Fawehimi and Femi Falana and others were summarily jailed our dear Buhari did not see evil nor heard evil. He had never spoken privately or publicly against the injustice of denying MKO and actualization of June 12.
PTF was formed in the wake of subsidy crisis of 1994.The agency’s mandate was to intervene in critical sectors of the economy such as road construction and waterways, provision and equipping of medical facilities, provision of education materials , food supply, water supply and so on.
PTF was given a blank cheque with awesome powers. Buhari appointed a consortium management structure , Afri Project Consortium(APC) led by a 42 year old Salihijo Ahmad, an in law to Buhari. This consortium was the sole manager of the PTF projects. Most Nigerians had no idea of how the PTF was run.
It was when President Olusegun Obasanjo took over in 1999 and set up an interim management committee headed by Dr Haroun Adamu to wind down the PTF that worms of malfeasance started crawling out to the public
The panel submitted a damning report of loss of about $2 billion in questionable and under hand shady deals. In the final report, the panel submitted that Buhari was incompetent as the Executive Chairman by surrendering the operational powers of PTF to APC without diligent supervision.
Unfortunately Sahihijo died of cardiac arrest in Abuja in 1999. One wonders why President Obasanjo that set up corruption agencies of ICPC and EFCC did not implement and prosecute successfully those that were indicted.
Curiously during the build up to the general election of 2015, Obasanjo publicly cleared Buhari of any wrongdoing in the PTF saga, paving the way for Buhari to contest election in 2015. Obasanjo became the prosecutor, the defendant and the judge in a case that did not go to trial in any law court. It could only support an act of loyalty to a fellow general in the army, espoused by Professor Soyinka.
It seems the act of loyalty is being threatened among the three generals that played critical role in June 12 crisis a result of power games. Obasanjo is back in the trenches with opposition figures to ease Buhari out of power. Babangida and Obasanjo have teamed up to work against the re election of Buhari in 2019. The chord of loyalty have snapped over jostling for power and its appurtenances.. Buhari in his corner, seems to be winning with the master stroke of bringing back June 12 into nation’s consciousness and honoring the heroes Chief Obasanjo has been criss crossing around the country looking for allies and gathering foot soldiers in subverting the plans and aspirations of Buhari.
Who will blink first in this political drama?