Saturday, June 12, 1993, changed Nigeria forever as millions stood long hours to vote in a presidential election widely acclaimed as free, fair and credible. Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of Social Democratic Party vied against Alhaji Bashir Tofa of National Republican Convention.
And the undeclared result recorded 8,341,309 votes for Abiola (58.36 %), against Tofa’s 5,952,087 votes (41.64%).
Total votes was 14,293,396.
Abiola was never declared winner…and he was eventually killed on July 7, 1998, in detention in Abuja.
Even before the elections, it was clear that General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, head of government at the time, didn’t want to relinquish power. The maximum dictator annulled the election on Wednesday, June 23, 1993.
The repercussions of the election and its annullment changed Nigeria’s political landscape forever.
And here are 7 ways the polity changed for good as compiled by encomium.ng:
(1) A new wave of pro-democracy groups emerged
Existing groups of agitators for democracy and good governance, and new associations, became more fearless and merged.
From National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) to Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), all activists united to fight for the actualisation of June 12 mandate.
From North, East, West and South, all fought to end military rule, and enthrone democracy.
For years, in spite of intimidation, harassment, detention, murder and more, the fight never ceased.
A new political consciousness and fervour for democracy and its elements were planted in millions of minds.
(2) Elder statesmen and leaders of thought joined the fray
Elder statesmen from across the nation ditched political leanings to fight with one voice for the enthromment of democracy as they were joined by leaders of thought.
Ailing and aged, frail and weak, they marched for democracy alongside the best and the brightest.
They became more interested in the future of Nigeria. And their intervention paid off as they drew attention to the ills of dictatorship and military regimes.
(3) Political awareness among Nigerians grew
With agitations for the actualisation of June 12 mandate on top of the agenda, interest in governance by the governed grew.
Political awareness of ordinary Nigerians in their future became more intensified as many reports drew attention of plebians and high society.
How does governance affect us? How does those in government affect our fortunes?
Different questions agitated the minds of Nigerians who became aware of their political power.
(4) Military rule lost its lustre
It was clear that all military regimes are evil and self-serving, no matter their postulations.
The soldiers, all of them, are thieves and thugs with guns and ill-motives.
By checking coup broadcast, claims for seizing power and performance, it became clear that the worst democracy is far better than the seemingly best military regime.
Nigerians wanted a quick end to military rule, and demanded a short transition which was eventually achieved in 1999.
(5) International community came to our aid
Foreign countries and international agencies supported the move to actualise the mandate of Bashorun MKO Abiola.
And did the right things to ensure democracy was quickly restored after Babangida’s 8 year plaque and General Sani Abacha’s 5 year pestilence.
It was clear that General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s regime should be very short.
Initially set for 6 months, it eventually lasted 11 months (June 9, 1998 – May 29, 1999).
And from then on, all the elements that promote democracy, good governance and more are supported in cash and kind by foreign nations and international agencies.
(6) It set the foundation for the Fourth Republic
The groundswell of protests and agitations made it impossible to elongate another military regime.
And pronto, the foundation of a new republic was dug and laid.
The constitution was drafted and political parties formed.
Elections were held, and later on May 29, 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as the President of Nigeria.
With 36 governors across Nigeria, 36 Houses of Assembly and a bicameral National Assembly, democracy was restored.
(7) Longest reign of democracy enthroned
For the first time since independence, Nigeria is enjoying 18 years of uninterrupted democracy.
It was made clear during the agitations that only democracy is supported by Nigerians, and so far, in spite of the bad governance and pillage, we are better off as a nation with representative government.
The First Republic lasted only 6 years (1960 – 1966), Second Republic was for 4 years (1979 – 1983), Third Republic ended after one year (1992 – 1993), but now we have had 18 years, and we are learning and perfecting our democracy.