General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s former Head of State, has said nobody gave him credit for the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
He stated this in an exclusive interview with The Crest as he spoke of the intricacies surrounding the election, and the details of what led to the annulment.
His words: “I think people who said that have not been fair to me because when we started the transition programme, I was in the media; I said we will be doing it step by step, by learning.
“Wherever we met a hiccup, we will stop, change it and move again. On this, I was honest with Nigerians. I told them that, and they would have judged me with what I said on that particular issue. But everybody wanted the military to just leave.
“But I did say it, that in the process of implementation, we may have a hiccup or mistake. And if we do, we would pause, correct it and then move on.
“Even the transition after the June 12, we gave a time span which again nobody was patient with. But we studied, we compared to either have a non-conventional election or a general election.
“And everybody said they wanted to see the country carry out a general election. And you can’t just have a general election within seven days. You have to plan for it.
“Again, if people allowed us, we said there would be a general election in this country. I think Abacha came in November. Nobody wanted to listen. Everybody was tired. I appreciate that. I appreciate it. Yes, people were bored and we envisaged it and we said it. We warned you in advance that if this happens, this is our next step. And that led us to the famous June 12.”
He also revealed plans to release his memoir, stating that: “It is a work in progress. It is in the works. I will have time to finish it. It will be soon”.
Afterwards came the question on if he was threatened at the time by General Sani Abacha on being head of state, to which he responded: “No, he couldn’t have threatened me, to be fair to him. But I knew he wanted that job at all cost. You will be reading it.”
Speaking further on why he decided on the annulment, Babangida continued: “I have a conviction that if I get involved in building this environment, I wouldn’t like to be seen as having the environment destroyed. That’s number one. I wouldn’t be part of the destruction. So, I either make sure I remain with it, and belong there, or a circumstance will come and, eventually, I will leave. When I leave, if it gets destroyed, nobody will blame me.
“I wouldn’t declare the result if (Professor Humphrey) Nwosu declared the result. I knew deep into this that there were consequences which will not be fair to this country. I give an example: I took part in the management of PDP and I can’t disown them because I’m part of them.
“I made an input into its emergence, and if you say it is the worst thing that could ever happen to the country, I cannot in all conscience sit down and say it is because I participated in it. If the transition failed, and I knew it would have fallen down, nobody would have been bothered. They will say no. I will feel guilty like after all I spent the money but it collapsed. My conscience will never forgive me.
“It was not a threat to my life but if it was a threat to my life, I have no problem. After all I have a bullet in me; there couldn’t have been any greater threat than that. But my fear was: what would the country end up becoming. Could the country be better? This was what we sought to establish. Could it better? If the answer is no, then, I take the blame because I should have put in place certain measures that will make it good. What we wanted was an enduring legacy.
“I wouldn’t say the evil was in the person who won the election, after all he campaigned for it, people saw in him what he stood for, and therefore decided to vote for him. It was the finest hour in Nigerian political history where people voted anyhow; not ethnically, religiously and so on. That was our finest moment in our political history.
“He (Abiola) was on the verge of winning that election. From what I saw, he was on the verge of winning that election, because by the time it was assumed that he won, officially, the official thing was not done. Results were still coming in, and it wasn’t declared. So, I think I would be deceiving myself if I say he has won.
“The credit of not getting it right? You wouldn’t give me; so, I accepted that I will not be given that credit no matter what I say.”