The June 12 debacle remains one of Nigeria’s biggest political crises. The annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election by former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida did not only delay democracy for five years, it equally plunged the country into chaos and turmoil.
Many lives of the June 12 players were also lost during the struggle as human rights abuses escalated.
The younger generation in Nigeria, who did not witness the period, got different stories from their parents, older relatives and teachers.
Some of them shared the accounts of the period as related to them by their parents or other adults:
Mariam Adebayo | Lagos
I wasn’t born yet in 1993. My parents told me how June 12 was a historic and remarkable day in the history of Nigeria when we had a free and fair election. I was told of the preferred candidate Moshood Kasimawo Abiola, and how he contested to be the President when we had military rule in the country.
Abiola was a man of the people because he was a successful businessman and philanthropist, and people saw his passion to help. They saw the traits of a good leader in him and voted for him. But the corruption level in the country was high, the election was not announced and because of that annoyance, Abiola went to a TV station and announced that he was the President of Nigeria.
After that, the military ruler declared the action treasonable and imprisoned him. From there, he developed sickness, or some people said he was poisoned and he eventually died. Recently, I watched a cross-examination by Femi Falana, where he was interrogating the officer that was in charge of the welfare of Abiola. A lot of signs show that he was actually poisoned. That’s all I can say about June 12.
Rosemary Chidera | Lagos
I was born in 1990. I can’t really talk deeply about June 1993. But, there are stories I heard about it. I was told when the incident happened, there was a series of violence at that time, and my parents ran away. They packed their things and ran away. That was the only thing I can actually say about it. Another thing I heard was about Abacha. I heard he was a very wicked man. He didn’t rule well. His regime was very terrible to the extent that when he died, people were rejoicing which is not the right thing. And in my dialect, they call it Oso Abiola, meaning Abiola caused people to run.
Olaitan Busari | Lagos
About the June 12 election and stories around it, I was barely 2 years old then. My mum told me how she put me on her back and went to the voting centre together with my dad. My dad of blessed memory persuaded my mum to register and vote. And before the announcement of the results, everyone knew it was Abiola who won the election.
And later everything was manipulated, the election was cancelled. Abiola was arrested and detained. He died and so on. For Nigerians at that time, it was a painful experience. And after that experience, my mum didn’t cast another vote until President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was contesting.
Pelumi Ajala | Ogun
I was told on June 12, 1993, Nigerians trooped out to make a choice between the presidential candidates of two political parties, MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. My parents said the presidential election of June 12, 1993 is Nigeria’s freest and fairest election so far, but Ibrahim Babangida cancelled the election.
MKO Abiola was later detained by the Nigerian government after he declared himself the president. This led to protests and political unrest. This led to a bloodless coup later in the year. MKO Abiola and his wife were assassinated due to jealousy and hatred. This was what my parents told me about June 12.
Elijah Oluwaseun | Lagos
I wasn’t born in 1993. I heard that MKO Abiola was elected but he was poisoned. They put poison in his tea in the cell where he was detained. He died after drinking the tea. Later, they arrested Olusegun Obasanjo and also put the same poison in his tea. But, as Obasanjo touched the cup three times, the cup broke and that was how he escaped. That was what I heard about June 12.
Christiana Akinrimisi | Lagos
I wasn’t born at the time. Here’s what I heard about June 12. June 12 was formerly known as Abiola Day, celebrated in Lagos, Nigeria and some Southwestern states of Nigeria. Nigeria’s Democracy Day is a public holiday to commemorate the restoration of democracy in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. MKO Abiola was later detained after he declared himself the president.
Victoria Adedeji | Ibadan
I was not yet born at that time. I was told that M.K.O Abiola was loved by many people and they happily voted for him. But Abacha planned to switch to a civilian president without leaving the seat. I was told that there was a video that was usually displayed on TV where Abacha would change from his military uniform into Agbada to buttress the fact that he had no intention to hand over the seat.
M.K.O Abiola emerged as the winner but unfortunately, the election was declared null and void. The masses were disappointed and Abiola made it known to everyone that cared to listen that he didn’t agree with the verdict of the election. He was labelled a rebel and incarcerated as a punishment for opposing the verdict. It was while he was in prison that his tea was supposedly poisoned so he drank it and he lost his life.
Eunice Abata | Lagos
Well, I heard something about the contestant of the presidential election. That was MKO Abiola. But, he wasn’t declared the winner of the election he won. Then, I learnt he was detained and he died. And that’s the whole essence of June 12.
Salisu Mohammed | Kano
I was born in 1989. I was still young at the time. I think Abiola and Babangida were the major people involved. But, regarding June 12, it is not an important issue that we should bother ourselves about. It was just about an election that took place in 1993, nothing else. But Buhari made it to be called a Democracy Day, which from our perspective is unfair.