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Visions of the Alfa Talakawa, from the Proletariat...Nigeria, as I see it

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The NPP submitted some candidates for ministerial appointments as part of the ‘gentleman agreement’. Ishaya Audu, a vice presidential candidate of the party, among others, was selected as a minister. However, the accord hit the rocks in 1981, and Adeniran Ogunsanya, the chairman of the party, asked all ministers to resign; many did not heed his call and some transferred to the NPN (cross-carpeting is not new, is it?).

By 1983, the stage was set for the downfall of civil governance. All the political parties re-nominated their presidential candidates during the 1983 elections. Rigging was well pronounced and open; ALL the political parties rigged the election in their various spheres of influence. The electoral body, FEDECO proved to be highly incompetent.

Before the elections, Umaru Dikko and Chief Adisa Akinloye, openly declared that as far as they know, there were only two political parties in Nigeria: The National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Army (Titanic, anybody?).

A number of fraudulent elections were upheld by the Courts purely on technical grounds, however in a few cases, the courts reversed the election results, notably in the case of the Ondo State gubernatorial, hotly contested by Alani Omoboriowo and Chief Michael Ajasin. Omoboriowo (NPN)’s votes were inflated from 703, 792 to 1,228,981 while that of Chief Michael Ajasin (UPN) was deflated from 1,563,377 to 1,015,385. Expectedly, the illegality resulted in serious violence; houses were burnt and properties destroyed, supporters of the two political parties continued to clash until victory was returned to Ajasin (the writer was still quite young then, but recalls the pun on Omoboriowo (the child overcame wealth) to Owoboriomo (the child was overcome by wealth).

Another nail in the coffin of the Second Republic was the seemingly insignificant but highly consequential remark of Umaru Dikko that the Presidential seat was not for the highest bidder. It would have just passed for an ordinary remark, but for the person it was made to; A Yoruba millionaire, by the name Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO), known to be a good friend of the Military. He had joined the NPN and was the State Chairman of the party in his home state of Ogun (although, with only one or two members in the State House of Assembly at Abeokuta, the NPN was virtually non-existent in Ogun State, the birth place of the revered Chief Obafemi Awolowo). He was expecting the NPN zoning to work in his favor in 1983 but it was decided that Shagari would run for a second term. He angrily quit Politics (or should we say he joined the ‘Second Party’)

By December 31, 1983 a voice hit the Nigerian airwaves:

Fellow countrymen and women.
I, Brigadier Sani Abacha, of the Nigerian Army address you this morning on behalf of the Nigerian Armed Forces…..

Nigerians all too gladly welcomed the military at this time. Having been told as a kid that as soon as Shagari was announced the winner of the elections, he said ‘Now that I have been re-elected, Austerity continues…’ my young mind was all too glad! To us, Austerity as dished by the NPN meant the disappearance of my favorite meals from the table.

Again, the government of Muhammadu Buhari offended MKO, and an ambitious Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) who allegedly also had his tracks to cover a la Gloria Okon saga got funded for the August 27 1985 take-over.

The Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) under the leadership of General Babangida prevented most ex-politicians from participating in politics. Only two political parties would be approved.

On October 7, 1989, the AFRC rejected all the six political associations presented by the National Electoral Commission, and accused them, inter alia of being led by leaders who were surrogates of banned politicians. In their place, Babangida decreed into existence two government funded parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) which he directed to be “a little to the left” in ideology and the ‘a little to the right’ National Republican Convention (NRC). Any Nigerian could join either as equals since they had no ‘founders’. This looked like a solution to money bags hijacking political parties, but some saw it as having the outlook of ‘government parastatals’.

An open ballot system, and Option A4, which required a candidate to seek nomination from the ward level to the local to the state and national level, and to win majority votes at all levels or an average of 50 per cent, paved way for what is adjudged the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history.

The earlier disqualification and ban of the likes of Shehu Musa Yar Adua and Olu Falae probably gave everyone the impression that IBB was setting the stage for MKO. The massive support he (MKO) had made almost every Nigerian consider his Presidency a fait accompli, until the June 24 annulment.

Mass protests, civil disobedience and pressure compelled IBB to ‘step-aside’ and hand over to a shaky Interim National Government (ING), the most unpopular government ever hoisted on Nigerians.

Barely three (3) months old, was the ING declared illegal by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya of the Lagos High Court, an outcome of a suit filed by MKO challenging its legality.

On November 17, 1993, the same voice that announced the demise of the Second Republic declared the Obituary of the aborted Third Republic, the only dispensation that never had a proper head was dead.

By selective amnesia, no one seemed to remember what Abacha did during the June 12 protests in Lagos. A man who deployed troops to silence protesters was suddenly the Messiah everyone was looking for.

I honestly feel repulsed that I would have to chronicle Abacha’s ‘transition program’ which ended in his own transition.

Key Pro-June 12 activists were appointed members of Abacha’s cabinet, initially with MKO’s blessings and ignored calls to resign even when it became obvious Abacha had plans of his own. While the internal wrangling continued, Abacha seized the opportunity to consolidate his power base.

Former allies turned to sworn enemies till date. Lateef Jakande, the charismatic Governor of Lagos State in the Second Republic who served as Minister of Works and Housing under the Abacha regime was kicked out, never to be welcome in the ‘circle-of-progressives’ again. Prior to that time, he was fondly called Baba Kekere (Small Daddy) because he was seen as the potential successor to the venerated Awolowo. Although Awo had died since 1987, the Yoruba would never forget the Free Education program that gave a literary edge to the South-Western part of Nigeria.

Ebenezer Babatope and Ebun Olu Onagoruwa were among the reputation causalities.

Abacha simply woke up one day and sacked his cabinet.

By 1997, with all ‘enemies’ dead, in prison, exiled or severely humiliated, the stage was set for Abacha to succeed himself as President (s)elect.

Then, ALL ‘five fingers of a leprous hand’ (to quote the late Chief Bola Ige), the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP), the Committee for National Consensus (CNC), the National Centre Party of Nigeria (NCPN), the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN), and the Grassroots Democratic Movement (GDM), ‘adopted’ Abacha as consensus candidate………..