THE BABANGIDA REGIME AND THE NIGERIAN ARMED FORCES
“God and the soldier all adored in time of war and no more. When war is over and the wrongs are righted, God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.”
This anonymous quotation can aptly describe the state of the Nigerian Armed Forces after the transition to civil rule. I am not in any way trying to glorify the Armed Forces nor to state that its performance was up to expectation during the era of military rule in Nigeria. Whatever the case may be, the Nigeria Armed Forces has a chapter in the history of governance in Nigeria and that history will not be complete without making mention of the various regimes in the military era. We need to know of their achievements, their failures and the propelling forces behind these regimes. The topic I am to speak upon has somehow restricted me to a particular regime and the effect of this regime on the Armed Forces of Nigeria. Nevertheless, there is no way one can speak on a particular military regime without reference to other regimes if only for analysis and comparison as the case may be. I am equally under no illusion to believe that this exercise will be a simple one taking into consideration the controversies that had attended this particular regime in the past and at present. Probably it will not be an easy task as it will touch on contentious issues which are highly political and sensitive.
Whatever I render today is purely my personal opinion and interpretation of the things I saw and guided by experience as a player in the regime. I am equally not out to indict any person or regime or whitewash any person or regime but to contribute to the discussion on the military regimes and allow history to place them rightly. I will be very factual and honest in my postulation if only to gear up healthy discussions among the participants that may be of tremendous interest to other Nigerians. In doing this one may hurt an ego here and there but in the final analysis it may provide an insight into problems that bedeviled the political landscape of Nigeria during the military transitional period and are still reverberating as a political logjam. The topic, Babangida’s Regime and the Armed Forces of Nigeria will of necessity bring to the fore the following:
- What is a military junta? What is the composition of a military junta?
- Who becomes the authentic head of a military junta?
- Who has the absolute power in a military junta?
- IBB Regime pre and post installation period and other influences.
What is a Military Junta? What is the Composition of a Military Junta?
Military coup d’etat first featured prominently in South America in the early part of this century arising from discontentment of a section of the populace in the governance of the people. The first military coup in Africa was carried out in Egypt by Abdel Gamel Nasser against the Egyptian monarchy. The first military coup in West Africa was in Togo against President Olympio led by the present head of state Gnassingbe Eyadema. The first coup in Nigeria was the 1966 coup led by Major Ifejuna and his co-actor Major Kaduna Nzeogwu. As in the old adage that one tree cannot make a forest so also a military coup cannot be carried out by a single military man but a group of military men of like mind. These men irrespective of rank that acted together under utmost secrecy to oust a regime are the members of the military junta.
In most cases these soldiers especially the officers who plan a coup and carry it out successively are normally bright and politically conscious of their environment. They are often fired by their sense of patriotism to correct in the interim the right of the people that had been violated and dispossessed by politicians or a military regime. For the uninitiated it is hard to believe that no military junta sets out for selfish reason to overthrow a regime. But personal ambition of individuals within the junta often derail their patriotic intention. This, coupled with the penetration of the junta by other-military men who were not originally part of them but joined the bandwagon at a later stage and saw the platform as an opportunity to feather their own nests which often are diametrically opposed to the stated values of the original junta.
Let us look at the first military coup in Nigeria as an example. The stated objective of the coup as announced by Nzeogwu did not put anyone in doubt about the intention of the five majors that struck on that fateful day. It was regarded by many as a patriotic move even though the blood of innocent and brilliant officers were needlessly shed. Unfortunately, the supposedly glorious intention collapsed very quickly as those who were not the original members of Nzeogwu junta penetrated and hijacked the regime from Nzeogwu and his compatriots. Individual ambition other than collective interests of Nzeogwu and his men became pronounced. Soon the whole thing assumed a tribal colouration which eventually destroyed Aguiyi Ironsi’s regime. Therefore, we can safely say that all military regimes start with good intentions but are often derailed by the inordinate ambition of some few manipulative individuals. In essence, as a military regime progresses, the composition of the junta takes on the characteristics of the good, the bad and the ugly actively supported and influenced by forces within and outside the military.
The authentic head of a Military Junta
To many of our civilian counterparts, the officer that is appointed the head of state in a military putsch is to them the alpha and omega of the junta. To them the power resides in him completely and he has no equal nor could his decisions be controverted. They may be wrong and in fact they are wrong. I have listened to comments of many people especially critics that a military head of state has the power all to himself and can do as he so wished at any given time. I’m afraid that, that is far from the reality in nearly all the military regimes that were established in Nigeria. It is true that every military regime is a dictatorship but within the junta power does not lie absolutely in one person. Normally the emergence of a military head of state is the consensus of all the junta members and never imposed. However, military absolutism is an individual achievement that takes along in its wake ruthlessness and suppression of the military junta to establish a regime of sycophants and bootlickers. It is a dictum of the revolutionary endeavour that revolution will destroy its own disciples first for an absolute leader to emerge. In this direction, I will try and analyse every established military regime that ruled Nigeria for us to get a better grasp of what this paper is all about.
The first established military regime in Nigeria was that of late Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi. Even though those who hijacked the power from Nzeogwu and his cohorts handed over to him an enormous power but he never was an absolute ruler, even though he was the Supreme Commander and not the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces. It may be argued that in those early days the military boys themselves did not know what to do with state power. However, what is very important is that Gen. Ironsi ruled by consensus and the decisions he made were the reflections and promptings of the officers that surrounded him. It was glaring that their views of the political situation at that time was very narrow and this helped to accelerate the crisis that consumed the general and some other fine officers.
It is true to assert that Gen. Yakubu Gowon’s regime stood out clearly as the most benevolent military dictatorship that had ever been established in Africa. The General ruled with the fear of God and even when under severe pressure from his junta members, he never failed to care about whose ox was being gored. It is not necessary to repeat here how Gen. Gowon came to power. That has been well documented in many books. He was the consensus leader of the military at that trying time. Not only was he the choice of the military junta, he was also very popular and liked by the rank and file at that time. It was this posture that made the choice of Gen. Gowon as head of state possible in view of the fact that the authentic leader of the July 1966 coup was Gen. Murtala Mohammed. It is also worthy of note that throughout his period, the conduct of state affairs was handled with a lot of consultations. In fact one of the points against him when he was removed from power was that he was too soft for the liking of some of his junta members. So, we can conveniently say that Gen. Gowon was not an absolute dictator.
Next in line was the regime of Gen. Murtala Mohammed. Even though Gen. Mohammed was a shadow power in the regime of Gen. Gowon, he never plotted his way to power as one might have thought. He was a critic of the regime no doubt but he never fought a war of attrition against Gowon’s regime in order to replace him. He was like any other senior officer of his time during the days of Gowon’s rule and the civil war. The recently released book on the Nigerian Civil War by the Nigerian Army captured the image appropriately of the Army senior commanders in those days. They were lords to themselves and their commander in-chief gave in to them on many occasions that critics believed that they were above his control. Despite this negative military posture, there was nothing to suggest that there was a planned move by those officers to remove Gen. Gowon at any time out of dissatisfaction of his rule. That would have been impossible anyway, because of the seeming rivalry among those senior officers. Gen. Gowon was removed through a palace coup prompted mostly by the junior members of his junta. Again Gen.Murtala like Gen. Gowon was their consensus leader and was never an absolute leader. Even though his regime started with an upbeat tune, it was more of a reflection of the general mood of the public at that time other than his desire to– be ruthless. However, I agree that this had remained very contentious among many commentators but the fact remains that he took the total cleansing of the nation’s polity as a matter of policy which he started by purging himself of ill-gotten wealth as an example. Death sealed any further assessment of his regime as he was cut down too early.
The regime of Gen. Obasanjo was a regime of circumstance. He simply had power thrust upon him by the circumstance of the death of Gen. Murtala Mohammed. Throughout his tenure of office there was nothing to suggest any tendency to be absolute. He carried on the same spirit of consensus approach as it was with Gen. Murtala Mohammed. The junta did not make a coup and chose him as the leader but accepted him as a successor to the junta’s choice. He therefore had a more difficult ground to tread in carrying the junta members along. I do not know how much the public understood the military junta politics which was there right from the beginning and. became more complex and intriguing during the Abacha era. Credit must be given to Gen. Obasanjo that he navigated the labyrinth of military junta politics and did the near impossible by handing over power to a democratically elected government as and when promised.
After the civilian interregnum, came the Buhari regime. That regime’s period was the shortest of all established military regimes. There was no doubt that General Buhari was a consensus choice of the military junta at that time. However, no sooner the regime became operational than it ran into a whirl wind. The regime tried to cut its own image as opposed to the consensus approach by the military junta. This approach culminated into loss of identity and it became the first regime that was dubbed with a compound name Buhari-Idiagbon regime. That was a frustration the junta had to contend with and that coupled with the agitation of the public against the regime in many of its decisions, its fate was sealed prematurely. We should also not forget that any change of government by the military would to some extent have been prepared by the peoples’ reaction. In effect, no coup in Nigeria had been successful without the military capitalising on the mood of the public. General Buhari was never an absolute dictator. His fate was similar to that which led to General Gowon’s removal. It was a palace coup that replaced him with a choice of the same junta that installed him.
For ease of reference and comparison, I’ll like to jump to Gen. Abdusalaam Abubakar’s regime. His regime had the same texture like General Obasanjo’s regime. It was a regime born out of circumstance which is very well known by all. Like General Obasanjo, he knew he had a mandate after the demise of General Abacha and the inglorious manipulation of the transition to civil rule. He did his best and the result is the nascent democracy we are practising today.
Like the old adage which says that morning shows the day, the road to absolutism by military leaders will have emanated ever before they got to the position of authority where they finally consolidated their plan. For better understanding of what I am getting at I will give a preamble to a crawl to absolute power to see which of the next two military regimes actually crawled to absolute power.
Let us look at the case in Ethiopia. We all remember the name Mengistu Haile Mariam. He was a major when the military first struck in that country against Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.
He was actually the leader of the junta that overthrew the monarchy but he never showed up immediately to claim power. He became very elusive and because of his level and status as a junior officer, he bade his time in order not to turn the military against him as an over-ambitious young officer. In the Ethiopian military at that time there were many generals and many other senior officers ahead of Major Mengistu. There is a similarity between him and General Murtala Mohammed in this respect and what I have discussed earlier but General Mohammed did not behave like Mengistu to get to power. Then what did Mengistu do to get to power?
He had the absolute control of the junta boys and definitely he could not wait for every general to be out of the military before making his intention known. He therefore put in place a plan to accelerate the exit of these generals. If we remember clearly the elimination of these generals started very early in the wake of the coup that deposed the emperor. Many generals loyal to the emperor were eliminated the day Mengistu and his boys struck at the palace and arrested the emperor. The emperor himself was clamped into detention where he stayed for a long time before he died. All these should be noted because it will crop up in the argument ahead. Still Mengistu did not jump into the seat of power because there were still left popular generals in the army which Mengistu would not want to confront. He then hatched a plan of installation and elimination. One after the other these generals were installed as head of state and got eliminated in quick succession by putsch instigated by Mengistu. There were three generals eliminated in a row in this manner. The rest of the senior officers of the Ethiopian Army did not hesitate after these callous eliminations to scurry into exile and there were many of them who are today Mengistu’s nemesis. Mengistu finally assumed power when the road was clear and the first thing he did to consolidate his power was to eliminate all the junta boys of the revolution and surrounded himself with handpicked sycophants and bootlickers. The regime of Mengistu like any absolute dictator slipped into repression and high handedness. The rest is now history. Mengistu is tucked away in exile in Zimbabwe with a death penalty hanging over his head after the revelation of his monstrous activities while he held sway in Ethiopia. In this context, let us look at the last two military regimes, the Babangida and the Abacha regimes.
Who has the Absolute Power in a Military regime in Nigeria
In doing justice to these two regimes one must be very factual and accounts must be rendered objectively to avoid being labelled an ultra-loyalist with an ulterior motive. As I said earlier, I am here to contribute to a discussion that could help the generality of Nigerians to understand the intentions of the military in those days in order to prevent a misplacement of history and to derive lessons that will be of benefit to the democratic well-being of Nigeria. Many sensitive areas will be touched when making comments on contentious issues. It is prudent not to speak evil of the dead but nothing should stop us from telling the truth about the dead.
I have read many accounts of the crawl to power of General Babangida and General Abacha. If you recall the activities of Major Mengistu of Ethiopia we can draw a parallel of these two regimes in Nigeria of which one was a benevolent dictator and the other a ruthless absolute dictator. I have read different accounts and comments of how General Babangida got to power from the rank of a major but I have never read any account similar to that of Mengistu. Truly General Babangida’s presence in military putsch was noticed from the time Gen. Mohammed was installed as the military head of state in 1975. He had remained well known until he became the head of state in 1985. 1 never read of any account like that of Mengistu which was a bloody attrition to get to power. Gen. Babangida’s role was like that of any young officer of his time contributing to change of government. Admittedly, I have read a lot written about him of his smartness and quickness in understanding the political landscape of Nigeria. I believed also that he utilised the attributes effectively and they contributed immensely to the good performance of his regime in its first three years. Gen. Babangida was a populist type of an officer right from the beginning. He had that intimate touch with his subordinates and superiors alike. This approach other than graft or coercion endeared him to the generality of the junior officers who unknown to many are the real kernel of a military putsch. It will not be correct to say that his activities contributed to a form of attrition against the Buhari regime or any other regime before him. It was true that he was very visible before and when Buhari became head of state. He was part of the move to overthrow Shagari regime and there was no doubt that he was monitored by the Shagari security in the period preceding the overthrow. There was nothing to show that he was very ambitious to step in as a head of state immediately Shagari-was removed. It would have been possible to do so if he had shown such interest as he had tremendous good will among the junta boys. It was unfortunate that Buhari/Idiagbon regime ran into a foul weather with the junta and there was a unanimous choice for replacement in the person of General Babangida. Even though some critics had accused General Babangida of mounting a war of attrition against Buhari regime, it may probably be speculative as the pressure for change was from the junta and the public opinion.
General Abacha had the same beginning as Gen. Babangida but the similarity ended when Gen. Abacha became a visible junta broker in the overthrow of Shagari like Babangida was before the removal of Gowon. This new found entity was further consolidated in the removal of Buhari and he became a de facto controller of the junta machinery that overthrew Buhari. However, he was unlike Babangida in the early days. He was known to be very evasive and had no such relationship like that of Babangida with the senior and junior officers. There was no doubt in the mind of many of the junta members that Gen. Abacha nursed the ambition of mounting the seat of power right from the inception of Babangida’s regime. I do not intend to go deep into the issues that made the war of attrition so pronounced but I will mention some in passing and leave the rest for those who might want to expatiate on them. I can readily recollect the attempt to remove some military governors in 1986 so that some of his cronies could replace them; the near abortion of the ceremonial burial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1987; the issue of welfare fund provided for the Armed Forces at the inception of Babangida administration that never got to the Army; and the most important among many others the annulment of June 12 1993 Presidential election. Truly these were not bloody attritions like that of Mengistu but at the end the method served the same purpose for the emergence of a full blooded absolute dictator. They were all designed to give someone a bad name. Before the general passed away over ninety percent of his disciples had been dealt with, humiliated and removed from office. Do not forget that statement that an absolute dictator will destroy his disciples first. That done, the road was clear for repression and suppression which are being recounted in gory details today. Is there still any doubt about the military regime that had at its head an absolute maximum ruler?
IBB Regime Pre and Post Installation period and other Influences.
The event that brought Gen. Babangida as the president of Nigeria is well known. I will concern myself with the scope of this paper, that is, the regime and the Armed Forces. I will not discuss provision of equipment, training etc to the Armed Forces which were no doubt encouraged but the paper will centre on the politics and intrigues within the Armed Forces during this period. In 1985 the regime was popular and for whatever reason was well accepted by the general public. The regime also started well in the appointment of Members of the Council .of State and other senior appointments at the GHQ and the Executive Council. The Armed Forces Ruling Council was made of knowledgeable and hardworking officers. I was opportuned to be among the first set of governors which I believed were carefully selected. As I was one of them it will be imprudent of me to blow my own trumpet but I believe there was merit in the appointments. Even when officers were retired in the wake of the changeover, they were not sent into oblivion. Some were provided with assistance to settle down so as not to engage in other activities that could tarnish the image of the military.
There was absolute control along the line of military hierarchy. The mere fact that I was a military governor did not make me superior to my seniors in the military. If there were in those days any show of indiscipline of a military political appointee, it would have been an exception and not the rule. Admiral Ukiwe was the Chief of Staff at the GHQ and his no nonsense approach will make you think twice before carrying out any exercise. For example, the use of security vote was controlled and accounted for directly by the governors to the GHQ. It was in fact pegged at N10, 000 a month. Furthermore, you need to give a convincing reason why you have to spend up the approved N 10,000 naira in a month. I remember an incident in which I gave N100 to a hapless old woman as a gift. Pronto! I got a query from the GHQ that security vote was not meant for gift and that is true. I am not sure that was so later. But the calibre of Admiral Ukiwe was removed too soon. Why? And who was responsible for the removal? May be we may get someone who may throw light into this event but suffice to say that it marked the beginning of a war of attrition to give the dog a bad name so that you can hang it. There were early signs of crack in the regime that led to the Maj Gen. Vasta’s episode and also the exit of Gen. Bali who was an asset to the regime. May be we need to know more about the circumstances that led to these incidents and the role played by a certain individual.
By the time the first set of governors were redeployed in 1988, the regime posture had started to change. There was that tendency that some new political appointees were not keeping pace with the spirit that brought in the regime. Some were even prematurely removed from office because of unwholesome activities. Perhaps we have to find out who nominated these appointees and what caliber of officers they were and their ratings in their respective services.
There was no doubt that the whole issue of contest for power really came to a head in 1990 unless one wants to deceive oneself. By 1990 through these extraneous circumstances Gen. Babanbagida by my own reckoning had lost some ground in his constituency. There was wild spread discontentment of the way affairs were being run in the army. While there were changes in the other services that of the army remained like an albatross round the neck of the regime. It generated so much discussion and it pointed to the need to have a change of leadership especially in the army. Okar coup was an extension of these wild spread discontentment. A lesson was learnt from the Okar coup and the Armed Forces Consultative Assembly was inaugurated where officers were encouraged to speak out on the performance of the government and suggest measures that could keep the government on track. I was never told of any officer victimized for airing his view in that assembly. It was a healthy assembly and one should give credit to the young officers who were often bold to state how they felt about the regime and the military. What became of that consultative assembly during the military regime after Gen. Babangida is left to your own imagination.
I have had the opportunity in the recent past to comment on the transition programme during Babangida’s regime. It is no more a secret that that programme was frustrated on many occasions. But who was responsible? Was it a sole effort or was it a concerted effort to frustrate the civilians taking over and why? After much pressure on the president there was a change of leadership in the army and other services. Gen. Abacha was moved to the Ministry of Defence and he retained the post of Chief of Defence Staff which was itself an anomaly. If those who craved for a change were delighted they were soon disappointed. The CDS was by the organisation of the Armed Forces only the chairman of the joint services as every service chief had a direct access to the commander-in-chief. With the calibre of the CDS at that time, the powers of the service chiefs were completely usurped. The Flagstaff House, the traditional residence of the Chief of Army Staff from time immemorial was not even surrendered to the incumbent. Fund for the running of the services and for the maintenance of our troops in Liberia that found its way into the CDS office never surfaced again. There were instances that fund for welfare of troops had to be dispensed directly to the Divisions to effect welfare programmes for the troops. This brought the divisional commanders into a collision course with the CDS. The presidency made available cars and motor cycles on loan to the officers and soldiers but this exercise that was supposed to be a delight to the Armed Forces was immersed in controversy that the effect was lost through organised propaganda to discredit the good initiative.
Then came the annulment of the June 12 1993 Presidential election. The circumstances surrounding the annulment of the June 12, 1993 election are better explained by those who participated in it. Naturally, Gen. Babangida as the president has to take the ultimate responsibility of the annulment of that election. I believe he has done this several times but this cannot be the end of the story. I do not believe this can placate those who believed a wrong was done in the annulment of that election. The annulment of June 12 election is not an ordinary issue that can simply be wished away. It touched the very nervous centre of the political dynamics of this country. It will therefore be foolhardy if anyone thinks it can simply be wished away. Today, we are witnessing the fact that most of the good things that were done for this country had been over shadowed by one single event, the annulment of June 12 election.
There are areas of economic development and structures that were put in place and are still relevant and could be pointed to as achievements that are no more being mentioned. In many other areas too like the international community relationship that was rubbished because of the regime’s stand on the June 12 issue. The efforts of ECOMOG in Liberia spearheaded by Nigeria is today a reference point by the international community in conflict resolution. But in 1993, it was regarded as a monstrous waste and referred to, like June 12 as one of the excesses of the Babangida administration. I acknowledged the fact that there is no administration in Nigeria without its own shortcomings. Definitely there are many good things done by that administration also that could be a reference point today. Unfortunately, Gen. Babangida departed the scene in a manner which made all the efforts he put into the well-being of Nigerians to remain unrecognised because of the annulment. Today the pains of June 12, 1993 is not being felt by him alone but by all those who worked for his regime be it in the civil life or in the armed forces.
As I said earlier after the Okar coup attempt, the armed forces had become more politically aware and there was no pretension about the fact that things were no more normal. The generality of the troops despite the changes in the leadership still do not accept the way the Minister of Defence conducted affairs. The presidency put in many measures to bypass the power that be to address the issues in the armed forces. This did not go down very well with some senior officers of the armed forces because of the implication of possible insubordination by junior officers that were saddled with tasks that could have gone to their superiors. This was all brought about because of the ambition of an individual who seemed to be above everyone. The period 1990-1993 witnessed a lot of events in the attempt at transition to civil rule. We should encourage more people to talk about these events to put the record straight. The climax of all the intrigues of the transition to civil rule came via the June 12 election annulment.
There are many questions needed to be answered on the conduct of that election and the annulment. One of the terrible things that affected the armed forces was that the Armed Forces Consultative Assembly was influenced by certain officers who had been programmed to dilute the progressive discussions at the assembly. So also the close caucus advisory members to the regime was enlarged with officers whose loyalty was not for the president. The result was that intrigues and rumours became the order of the day especially by those sycophants. So many distortions were brought in to discredit the way the transition was being handled. They played on the religious sensitivity of the time and even played up the north and south dichotomy. They accused the president of deliberately trying to shift the power from the north to the south and one should note the effect of such accusation on the president who is from the north. However, one thing stood against all that mischief. Despite all the attempts to cancel the election, it was an impressive turnout and every part of Nigeria including the north massively voted for Chief Abiola. Not only that Chief Abiola was on a Muslim – Muslim ticket and that too never distracted the south from voting for Chief Abiola. Who was then responsible for this intrigue to give a dog a bad name? Eventually Chief Abiola was on the way to victory but who played the major part in the rejection of the election? There are many people who I am sure are willing to say something if only they are encouraged. But one thing I know for sure is that the last military regime but one built its image on June 12 election annulment.
The leader made the opposition to believe that he had a remedy for the June 12 debacle but he ended up accosting Chief Abiola who in fact I was told played a major part in his installation. He was dumped into detention until he died despite all entreaties for his release from around the globe. Remember again the fate of Emperor Selassie in the hands of Mengistu. Who then was the absolute ruler who did as he wished? Was Gen. Babangida influenced or did what he liked? Who were the officers who remained loyal to Gen. Babangida after the annulment? Had the majority of them not already pitched their camp with the maximum ruler? Was Gen. Babangida not then left at the mercy of the junta at the twilight of his regime? Who would now think that he could have used his power as the commander-in-chief to remove the Minister of Defence at that point? Soldiers are known for survival and commonsense dictates that you fight to live so that you can fight again. I reckon that by July 1993, Gen. Babangida was no more in a position to influence the desperate move of his Minister of Defence. Of course the natural question will be why did he remain in service? That is the big question. But I must confess that Nigerians don’t have a good knowledge of the Nigerian Military and the military junta politics. Like any other military junta elsewhere, the military junta politics is like sitting on top of a gun powder barrel. If the leader becomes irrational, despotic, ruthless and unaccommodating he may at the end be taken out with his feet up. But if the leader is rational, accommodating, a good listener who engages in collective decisions, smiles and does not laugh like an hyena, he ultimately has the commonsense and will live to talk the story again and engage in constructive understanding.
Today, we are talking about the forgotten achievements of a regime. But we should also be realistic and call a spade a spade. I have tried to impress on you that Gen Babangida was not an absolute leader but ruled by consensus. I have also pointed out that Gen.Abacha was the head and controller of the junta that installed Gen. Babangida and a position he held and used effectively to install himself as an absolute leader. I have talked about the gradual attrition of Gen. Babangida’s regime which ended up with the installation of an absolute leader. This attrition even though it was not as bloody as that of Mengistu of Ethiopia was as diabolical and served the same purpose. There was power shift in the military in 1993 which led to the stepping aside of Gen. Babangida.
The annulment of June 12, 1993 election was the climax of the intrigues in the military. We have to revisit that episode and examine what led to June 12, 1993 and post June 12, 1993 tensions. It is right for Gen. Babangida to take full responsibilty for his regime but that cannot help to douse the fire of June 12, 1993 and the attendant misgivings. June 12, 1993 issue in its intemerity is by far more than the head of government taking responsibility for the inadequacies of others. Even though one may regard his position as first among equals and of which he had responsibility it will not be out of place to examine the part played by another actor in a regime that ruled by consensus within the junta.
The critics and those who still use June 12, 1993 to measure the state of the nation have a right to be heard as we also have the right to be heard in explaining our situation. We should not expect that this issue will be forgotten with time. June 12 touches the nerve centre of our political expediency as a nation. If the critics are vehement and still boil with anger over the episode, we must concede to them that they have every right to be so overwhelmed. After Chief Shonekan, a military regime was installed with a lot of expectation on the June 12 crisis. However, if a regime that rode on pro-June 12 stand failed to carry out such an expectation, it is a good pointer for us to know the forces behind the truncated transitional programme. It is to the credit of the opposition that they did not hesitate to confront the regime that took them for a ride. They enlisted their blood, sweat and lives until God’s intervention. Are we saying that all these would be forgotten?
If I talk about the critics it is not sectional. It cuts across the entire segments of our nation. They involve the market women, the farmers, the youths, the professionals and soldiers serving or retired. After all we all woke up one day and found ourselves in a repressive police state. The trauma was much and the damage was heavy. Families were-broken through forced exile and incarceration. Are we saying these activities were for the realisation of Chief Abiola’s mandate or for the lid on the box of his mandate to be nailed perpetually? May be we the military actors need to come out and talk about this issue as best as our knowledge can carry us. I, believe this will help to soothe frail nerves and clear the air of any mistrust and misgiving that had remained with us since the annulment and allow credit to be given where it is due.