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The power elite who signed away June 12

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MKO Abiola

The Federal Government, which was last week basking in the glory of its boldness in recognizing the June 12, 1993 election winner, Chief MKO Abiola spoke in tongues about the power elite who conspired against June 12 election result. Even my brother, Olusegun Adeniyi in his June 12: A Complicated Story (Thursday 14 June, 2018) referred to a tripartite committee comprising the military and representatives of the two political parties, the (defeated) National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

It should be noted that The Guardian on Sunday then had on June 11, 2000 published a list of G-34 members who signed the tripartite agreement, which nailed the coffin of June 12 presidential election result.

The exclusive (lead) story I wrote for The Guardian then as Abuja Bureau Chief was a good reference point in Professor Olatunji Dare’s (2010) book, “Diary of a Debacle: Tacking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989- 1994)”. The scoop with a headline: “Exposed: Men Who Signed Away June 12”, contained the names of the power elite in the Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army then who signed away Nigeria’s democracy and subverted Nigeria’s sovereignty expressed on June 12, 1993. This was after General IBB then operating a strange diarchy, addressed what was constituted as a National Assembly operating then at the International Conference Centre.

So, 18 years ago, The Guardian listed the following military officers and political leaders who signed on behalf of the Federal Government and their parties the document purporting to be setting up the Interim National Government (ING).
Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, Vice President under the military presidency of General Ibrahim Babangida;
Lt. Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro, Commandant, Command & Staff College, Jaji;
Lt. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, then National Security Adviser;
Brigadier-General Anthony Ukpo, former Federal Commissioner for Information and later assigned to Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna;
Brigadier-General David Mark, then serving with the National War College (now National Defence College) Has served as Senate President;
Brigadier-General John Shagaya, then serving as General Officer Commanding 1 Division Kaduna. (He died early this year);
Also, Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene, then serving as Secretary for Internal Affairs in the Transitional Council signed on behalf of the Federal Military Government;
The SDP members who signed the document setting up the ING to dismantle Abiola’s mandate were:
General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former presidential aspirant who had won the SDP presidential ticket in the primaries that were also annulled before Abiola came in. He died in Abakaliki prison where he was being detained by General Abacha;
Chief Tony Anenih, then SDP National Chairman, called Mr. Fix-it who declared that the day the ING document was signed was his happiest day. He later became Works Minister under President Obasanjo (1999-2003).

Alhaji Sule Lamido, then Secretary of the SDP, later Foreign Affairs Minister under Obasanjo and had served as Governor Jigawa State;
Chief Jim Nwobodo, former governor of old Anambra state and later Senator in this dispensation;
Chief Dapo Sarumi, former Governorship aspirant, Lagos state, served the ING as Minister of Communications;
Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, former Kano State Governor and and a regular face in Abiola’s residence in Lagos but later said, “I am not in politics because of Abiola”. He later served as Communications Minister under Sani Abacha,
Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, former “Daily Times” Managing Director, Political Strategist to Abiola, former Envoy to Brazil later served Obasanjo as Special Adviser; and
Okechukwu Odunze, then national Treasurer of the SDP
Prominent among those who signed the ING document in the then NRC were:
Dr Hamed Kusamotu, then Chairman of NRC (deceased);
Arc. Tom Ikimi, former NRC Chairman and later Abacha’s combative Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, earlier declared, “Abiola won fair an square” earlier secured party ticket as presidential aspirant but was annulled by IBB; later served as Agriculture Minister under Abacha and later as Finance minister under Obasanjo;
Okey Uzoho, then National Publicity Secretary, NRC (deceased);
Joe Nwodo who signed with unstated “reservations”;
Theo Nkire;
Professor Eyo Ita;
Dr. Bawa Salka;
Prince Bola Afonja;
Alhaji Y. Anka;
Mr. Alba Muritala;
Alhaji Halilu Maina;
Alhaji Muktari A. Mohammed;
Also in the G-34 list were Alhaji Ramalan, later a traditional ruler in Nassarawa State, and Joseph Toba who signed that infamous document that sealed the June 12 death sentence then before general IBB was forced out of power on August 26, 1993.

Some Unsung Heroes of June 12…
As I was saying here last week, no matter the tenor of debate over motives and all that stuff, President Muhammadu Buhari has stolen the thunder of June 12, 1993. We can tell it in Minna and publish it in the streets of Abeokuta, Katsina and Otueke that the spectre of June has been laid to rest. And so, the 25-year-old open wound (conscience) has been healed by some truth-and-reconciliation flash in the pan in Abuja.

Meanwhile. I agree with Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi in The Verdict that drawing up a list of heroes and champions of June 12 can be a delicate business. Those who are not too young to run may also not be old enough too to remember the role of so many other significant champions and contributors. Only the prominent ones can easily be remembered about the multidimensional June 12 debacle.

A simple desk research from some institutional memories on the June 12 peculiar mess could have produced a more comprehensive guide on honours’ list including NADECO, Campaign for Democracy chieftains such as Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, General Alani Akinrinade, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Amos Akingba, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ayo Opadokun, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, etc who were quite bruised for singing redemption songs for June 12.
A little diligence could have included foremost civil rights activists such as Olisa Agbakoba who founded Civil Liberty’s Organisation (CLO), Clement Nwankwo, Chima Ubani, Festus Iyayi, Shehu Sani (Kaduna) among other civil rights activists then.

Who remembered Col. Abubakar Umar Dangiwa who lost his commission for weeping on the grave of Abiola? What of Bagauda Kaltho, a The News/Tempo journalist who was killed in Kaduna? Who would remember Mohammed Adamu, of the then African Concord who was detained for one year by Major Al Mustapha’s deadly squad who alleged that he (Adamu) a literary stylist, wrote a cover story (without a byline) titled, “Al Mustapha, The Ruthless Man Behind Abacha?
Did anyone remember Alhaji Bukar Zarma, publisher of the premier newspaper in Abuja then, The Abuja Newsday, which the IBB military regime also closed down in the wake of the June 12 crisis? Alhaji Zarma was arrested by security agents in his farm in Kaduna after the closure of his newspaper.

I was the Editor of the newspaper in Abuja at the time. I escaped from Abuja to Lagos under very dangerous circumstances in July 1993. Our trouble began when we didn’t know the hidden agenda of those who didn’t want Abiola in power despite the result of the June 12 election everyone already had and we started reporting the results and consequences including setting up of the transition committees.
Our first sin was a scoop we ran on the romance between MKO’s Abiola’s son, Deji and IBB’s daughter, Aisha while the June 12 crisis was raging. We saw them together in many places inside Abuja while NADECO and other democratic forces were stoking wild fires for the actualisation of June 12 election result.

Then the last straw was another exclusive story we ran on a secret night meeting between MKO Abiola and General Ibrahim Babangida, inside Aso Villa. The headline was, “IBB, Abiola in Secret Meeting”. The scoop contained details of the nocturnal meeting Abiola attended with his wife, Simbiat and his first son, Kola without the knowledge of the grieving Party (SDP) officials who were meeting in Benin over the June 12 crisis at the time.

I recall as if it were yesterday that when an aggrieved June 12 election result fighter could not get a copy The Abuja Newsday (which carried the scoop) in Lagos, he called to inquire if he could get a copy should he send a person to collect it in our Wuse Zone 6, Abuja Office. Unknown to us, the angry supporter in Lagos asked his office assistant to fly the Nigeria Airways then just to collect a copy of the newspaper and read the incredible story: that Abiola and IBB actually met secretly in Abuja while June 12 supporters were being harassed in the streets all over the country? The man called to thank us for ‘opening his eyes’ to what he called Abiola’s hypocrisy at the time for meeting IBB secretly with only members of his family’.

Who would remember those who suffered under the despotic General Abacha after consolidating powers in 1993-1994 through 1995? Who would remember The Guardian, which was shut down for publishing a Sunday lead story, “Inside Aso Rock: The raging battle to rule Nigeria (Sunday August 14, 1994)?
The remarkable scoop was anchored by the newspaper’s Editor then, Mr. Kingsley Osadolor.
I can also recall that The Guardian coined the June-12 crisis reporting terms then such as “MKO, Abiola, the man generally believed to have won…, “the presumed winner”, the acclaimed winner of…” for the Nigerian press.

Who would remember The Guardian members of staff who suffered 11 months closure in those days? Who would remember that The Guardian publisher Dr. Alex Ibru was also targeted and shut at as Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane and other heroes who didn’t survive the gunmen of the perilous time?

Did anyone remember the significant roles of Joe Igbokwe and S.M.O. Aka who were writing letters daily to all Nigerian newspaper editors then on June 12?
Specifically, Joe Igbokwe, who introduced himself then as an engineer who was writing from Surulere, Lagos (now APC Publicity Secretary in Lagos state) was so prolific that all media houses and activists knew him in the country. Joe insulted me on Facebook the other day for writing about “three years of excuses and 19 years of anomie”. He is now in partisan politics I can understand. But despite that, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, who later compiled his historic Letters to the Editors into a book, deserves a place in “June 12 Hall of Fame”.

Did anyone remember last week, Mr. Alex Kabba, a journalist with The News/Tempo who fled (without his family) to the United States at the time through the NADECO routes? Alex, a fiery reporter then, got a tip-off that he was no longer safe. He fled. He is still in New York City where he publishes “Africans Abroad”. There are more unsung heroes.

All of the heroes of June 12 cannot be identified and honoured now. But the only honour that will touch all of us is this: there should be more attention to security and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government.


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