MKO Abiola, the presummed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election

Even if all the truth relating to both the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election and the sudden demise of its presumed winner, Chief MKO Abiola, were comprehensively told in different literatures, they cannot undo an event that has become a permanent feature in the evolution of the nation’s democracy, writes Shola Oyeyipo

It will not be out of place to say that issues surrounding the June 12, 1993 presidential election, presumably won by the late business mogul, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, will remain a recurring decimal in the annals of Nigerian political history, and the reasons are not farfetched.

There are still many unresolved issues, untold stories, allegations and counter-allegations, particularly concerning the roles played by some prominent Nigerians in what eventually led to the annulment of the election.

To the civil society community and lovers of democracy, for instance, the annulment was totally unacceptable because the election was a step towards entrenching democratic ethos in a country groaning under military rule at that time. To the South-west geo-political zone, it was the biggest betrayal of the bond shared by the various ethnic groups in the country.

But to the late Abiola himself, it was a mandate he needed to reclaim because of the overwhelming support he received from across Nigeria, irrespective of tribe and religion and despite fielding a Muslim/Muslim ticket with Alhaji Babagana Kingibe as his running mate. Those were some of the reasons the annulment was vehemently protested by well-meaning Nigerians.

So, whoever is caught in the processes that led to the eventual cancellation of that election certainly has left an impression in the minds of Nigerians, especially those from the South-west region, who are likely to see such persons as enemies of the region and the nation at large.

This is also why the truth about those who are really responsible for the annulment, the death of Abiola and his wife, Kudirat, have been shrouded in utmost secrecy. This regardless, some names have remained in the public domain as some of the architects of the annulment and the assumptions about their roles.

In 2014, former chairman of Nigeria’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), Professor Humphrey Nwosu, said categorically that Abiola had won the election and that by taking the result to court, it was already in public domain.

He listed several characters involved in the schemes that led to the annulment of the election, prominent among them were former military heads of state, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and the late Sani Abacha. It was in the process of protesting the annulment that Abiola and his wife Kudirat lost their lives.

Aside the protracted litigation that trailed Kudirat’s killing, where some felt justice was possible, one of the major actors in the Abiola saga, former Chief Security Officer to Abacha, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (rtd), has been raising the hope of Nigeria by vowing to make public some facts about the murder of the wife of the winner of June 12 election, Kudirat.

Last year, precisely on May 30, he said he was going to reveal how Abacha and Abiola died. It was then that he alleged that some prominent Yoruba leaders, who visited Abiola, when he was in prison, played double standards. “They will visit him in the morning and when they come back to the Villa in the evening to see Abacha, they would say a different thing entirely,” he said.

According to him, “Unknown to these notable Nigerians, particularly notable Yoruba personalities, who visited Abiola, their visits were recorded on video. I did the video recording without their knowledge. These people would visit Abiola and come back to tell government a different thing about him.

“These same people would still go and tell Abiola a different thing about government. They are on video. The agencies of government have this video evidence. These same people told M.K.O. Abiola never to accept any compromise or negotiations.”

In fact, at a point during his long trial, Al-Mustapha told the court that a group of Yoruba leaders was complicit in Abiola’s death.

But latest in his tirades is the attribution of his incarceration for 15 years to a secret tape on Abiola’s death, which has sparked criticism among prominent pro-Abiola personalities, who have contended that his incarceration was basically because of the allegation that he was involved in the death of Kudirat Abiola, and not because of any video clip as he tried to make the people believe.

Al-Mustapha said on June 3, 2017 after he delivered the third South-west annual lecture titled: ‘Developing Leadership Abilities in Youths’ organised by the Asorodayo Youth Heritage Organisation at Lafia Hotel, Ibadan, Oyo State that his plight was connected to his secret tape.

“On October 21, 1998, I was arrested because of a video cassette, not because of the late Kudirat Abiola. The family of the late Abiola was, as it is, a very close family to me. But something happened, which a particular camera in the villa captured. So, they wanted to take the video tape and burn it so that Nigerians will not know what happened. That was the beginning of my travails.

“Many people, particularly lawyers, took money from those who were looking for the cassette, who ruled Nigeria. They would go to radio and television station to rain abuses on me, rather than coming to court because they were paid to do so. But they did not know what was going on in the court of law.

“I appeared before 14 judges in Lagos. As soon as the matter is about to finish, they would stop it and take us to another court. For 15 years, I was in that state. Out of the 15 years, five years and two months I served in detention with torture. The remaining was between Ikoyi Prisons, Kirikiri Prisons and Jos Prisons.”

According to him, Sergeant Barnabas Jabila Mshiela, also known as Sergeant Rogers, one of the alleged members of the Abacha killer squad, confessed that he was paid to do what he did.

“For 15 years, I hadn’t the chance to defend myself in newspaper, radio and television. So, the belief was Al-Mustapha has committed an offence, even before my arrest. But the actual thing is what happened to the late MKO Abiola that is in that cassette, that they want to see, that is why Mustapha was subjected to punishment and I was called names.

“They want to know the whereabouts of that tape in the last 17 years. Rogers confessed he was told to do so. He was given money. He was given a house. He was given car every six month, and he was promised to be taken outside Nigeria,” he alleged.

He even boasted his innocence and confidence when he said: “If I am guilty, there is no way I can talk, there is no way I can get the confidence to look into their eyes because they are the bigger ones above the law in Nigeria”, Al-Mustapha claimed, adding: “I am doing so. I have done it yesterday, I am doing it now and I will do it tomorrow. If I am dishonest, I can’t do that.

“So, let us get to know the story right and understand the game. The game is for people to pronounce Al-Mustapha guilty. I thank God, those that entered the contract with inducement not to say what they should say in the court of law later on when the game was exposed, they came to the court, crying and exposing what happened.

“That is why the matter is before the Supreme Court now for appeal. We are begging them since 2013 for the matter to be heard so that everybody can hear what happened. Up till now, Lagos State government ran away from it. We are begging them to come to the matter. We have nothing to hide. My teaching is that if I am wrong, I will tell you. If I am right, I will tell you”.

A Lagos High Court presided over by Justice Mojisola Dada had sentenced Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and former personal assistant to Kudirat, Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan, to death by hanging for the 1994 murder.

In a statement read before that court, Al-Mustapha admitted responsibility for supplying the guns used in the murder of Kudirat. The presiding judge then ruled that the prosecution, which was led by the then Attorney-General of Lagos State, Lawal Pedro, could cross-examine Mustapha on the statement.

It was the Court of Appeal in Lagos that eventually discharged and acquitted Al-Mustapha of Kudirat’s murder. The judge accused the lower court of being “stroked to secure a conviction by all means”. Now, the Lagos State Government has asked the Supreme Court to set aside the July 12, 2013 judgment of the Court of Appeal, which discharged and acquitted Al-Mustapha of the murder of Alhaja Kudirat.

Thus, as the issues continue to take new shapes, even as the nation marks the 24 years anniversary of the June 12 annulment, the latest revelation by Al-Mustapha is already generating bad blood between some Northern youths under the auspices of Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), who condemned some close associates of Abiola for allegedly trying to subvert what they called the truth by Al-Mustapha.

Describing the video clip information as the truth “Nigerians have been eagerly waiting to hear or watch, the AYCF President, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said the position taken by pro-Abiola group was “shameful”, alleging that it was an attempt to subvert the truth.

But reacting to Shettima’s allegations, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who is the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, said the AYCF claim as stated by Shettima was not logical.

“It is an illogical position by a hired boy. I never said he should not show his video clip. Remember, when he was being tried, he said he had a video. We waited but his cinema never opened. The issue of the video is different from the murder of Kudirat.

“He cannot say he was tried for being in possession of a video clip. He was not tried for the video. He was tried for the murder of the late Kudirat Abiola. Like every other Nigerian, we are interested in watching it. So, I think Shettima who is a hired goon of Al-Mustapha should be more logical,” Odumakin said.

There is no doubting the fact that the totality of the events that sculpted the June 12 experience is evidently inexhaustible. Indeed, generations after this are sure going to uncover “own truth” about the annulment of June 12 as much as generations after theirs. But one thing is certain, no matter how hard anyone tries, the June 12 agitation cannot be reduced as a sectional agitation event.

Much as some elements in some sections of the country have tried to retell the narratives, ultimately to suit whatever mindset they intended to paint, the correct narration of the June 12 events cannot be isolated from what eventually culminated in the return to civil rule with 18 years unbroken experience already in the bag. It is a watershed and one that should make the country stronger, when experiences of the past are put into account.