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Abachaís role in June 12 annulment, by Humphrey Nwosu

Posted by By CHIDI OBINECHE on 2008/06/09 | Views: 2477 |

Abachaís role in June 12 annulment, by Humphrey Nwosu

Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, (NEC) which organised the June 12, 1993 elections that was annulled by the military, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, has sensationally pointed at key civilian and military personnel as being fully involved at different levels, before, during and after the annulment.

Chairman of the National Electoral Commission, (NEC) which organised the June 12, 1993 elections that was annulled by the military, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, has sensationally pointed at key civilian and military personnel as being fully involved at different levels, before, during and after the annulment.

Widely held belief in the last 15 years put the blame of the annulment squarely on the doorsteps of the then military president, General Ibrahim Babangida.

But in an exclusive interview with Daily Sun, in his Enugu residence, ahead of the launch of his memoirs on the event, Nwosu disclosed that the late former military head of state, General Sani Abacha, as well as ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo have cases to answer.

Answering a question on Obasanjoís indifference towards immortalizing the presumed winner of the election, who was also his schoolmate and kinsman, the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, Nwosu observed that "it is left for Nigerians to judge whether he has been treated fairly or what really happened. They should also read my book and draw conclusions one way or the other."

He disagreed with the Obasanjo administrationís adoption of May 29 as Democracy Day, arguing that he would not pass judgement on "Obasanjo and the late M.K.O. Abiola. Sometimes, it is a sensitive thing."

On the late Abacha, Nwosu said, "he played a role. But I will not tell you the role he played now. No one has asked me this question before. Very interesting! He played a role. Definitely, you will get it. He played a role. I emphasize it. He played a role."

He spoke further on the June 12 crisis, among other contemporary issues.
Ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo was alleged to have played a key role in the annulment and throughout his eight years in office, he did not recognise the late M.K. O. Abiola in any way, even though they were schoolmates and kinsmen. Pro-democracy and human rights activists said he had a case to answer.
I donít really know what is in the mind of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, and neither do I know if there was any rivalry in school or life between two of them. May Abiolaís soul rest in perfect peace. I think it is left for Nigerians to judge whether he has been treated fairly or what really happened. They should also read my book and draw conclusions one way or the other. There is no need for me to foretell what is in the book.

I would recommend that people should read it, having waited for it for 15 years. Passions, feelings, sentiments, have all died down now. People should draw judgement. I will not pass judgement on Obasanjo and the late M. K. O. Abiola. Sometimes, it is a sensitive thing. We all are making history. We all are part and parcel of history and people made sacrifices. Those who died, those who are living, and those who feel that Nigeria should grow from it to a greater nation than it is. We need a stable democracy and taking all these into account; I have a view about what should be Democracy Day and why it should be so. It could also be in memory of those people, who sacrificed their lives and made efforts about the reforms that brought it about.

Talking about the late General Abacha, his government sprang from the ashes of June 12. To some extent, he was involved in the politics of June 12. To what extent did he fight for or against it?
Just wait. His name appeared in the book. I said it all. He played a role. But I will not tell you the role he played now. No one has asked me this question before. Very interesting! He played a role. Definitely, you will get it.

He played a role. I emphasise it. He played a role. I recommend the book to students of political science, lecturers, market women, just about anyone who is interested in the polity called Nigeria. We will all learn from it. But what I didnít like is the dismantling of the democratic structures. There was no need to dissolve the SDP and NRC. There was no need to dissolve the National Assembly. Part of the problem of this country is continuity of good policies. There was no need to apply full-scale secret ballot system, as if we didnít have history, as if we didnít know the abuses of it. It was allowed in 2003 and 2007 elections as if to say we are British or Americans, who will just go and vote and come out without stuffing the ballot boxes, without writing the results.

When people talk about criminality, they donít know that it is criminal to write elections results before the election takes place. It is not right to have electoral papers without serial numbers. You account for any ballot paper you issue. So, it is just enough to say that Nigeria would have a much more stable democratic order if those reforms we carried out between 1989 and 1993 were allowed to take firmer roots, without being dismantled. He created five parties that were almost the same party and all the five parties nominated one person.

How do you compare that with the two-party structure?
He could have reactivated the two-party structure. He could have made them stronger. They cut across every boundary. You know in Enugu State, we had NRC in control. In Anambra, SDP. They were viable strong parties. That is what Nigerians should go for. Today, we have one dominant political party. Have you see any state where a different party won a local government election. Have you seen it? Is it democracy? And people comment that they will be there for 1,000 years. If you are there for that long with one party, it is dictatorship in my own view.

Nigerians should be able to have choices between one platform and another. The reforms we carried out between 1989 and 1993 gave Nigerians the opportunity of making viable choices. Even in the National Assembly, there is no one party that was there. There was visible opposition. In fact, even in popular votes. In the National Assembly election of July4, 1992, SDP had the majority, but the NRC had the majority of popular votes. I mean that is the growth. If we had allowed it to grow and consolidate, Nigeria would have been like Singapore, like Malaysia. But today, we are still talking about whether we should have three or four parties.

What are we doing with 50 parties? It is just like having a giant and a dwarf. The giant will be defeating the small parties up and down. The giant will never allow the small parties to come together, integrate and form viable choices for Nigerians. Nigerians are limited because mostly, there is no choice to be made. It is a fait accompli that you have to vote for one party. That is no democracy. That is why I advocated a return to a two-party structure and is it not democratic asking people to make choices? Tell me what is democratic when a nation has a peculiar problem and that problem has worried it for over 40 years and yet, we are still talking of the same problem.

The administration that I served recognised that. Remember that Nigerians during that time wanted a two-party structure, through the political bureau headed by distinguished political scientists. They toured this nation for over one year and gathered the wishes of Nigerians before making their recommendations. If Nigerians had expressed desire for a two-party structure, the essence of governance is for the government to help people to realize their goals and objectives. There is nothing wrong in government helping to realise the peoplesí desires.

When government released NEC guidelines for the formation of political associations that could evolve into two national political parties, Nigerians were given the opportunity. You could recollect, there were 13 political associations and none of them met that requirement in terms of membership spread, in terms of structures, all over the local governments and states. We identified them and recommended to the government that none met the requirement and that was why government was involved in bringing about the two-party structure.

That is why I strongly recommend the need for strong political will. That is what statesmanship is all about. The National Assembly should be involved. The President, all the states, should make sure and encourage other parties to emerge.

We are now talking about constitutional review. I am saying that, two strong parties in the mould of SDP and NRC should come. It will facilitate national integration and alternative choices. When you donít like one party, you vote for the other. It is not so now.

What was the extent of military politics that dovetailed into the annulment, especially between the then President Babangida and his Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Sani Abacha?
I wouldnít want to comment on that. Remember, I am not a military officer. The military have their own ways. I was not a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council. Neither was I a member of the National Defence and Security Council. But when matters relating to my commission was being discussed, I could sit in. Therefore, I will not claim to know the nuances that determine the politics or rivalry between them. Wherever you have human beings, there is some politics, no doubt. I am a political scientist. It will be an overstatement for me to claim to know about them. They were friends and colleagues. Friends and colleagues can also disagree because they are two different individuals. They can never be the same in terms of personality, in terms of perception, in terms of world view. They may have some common interest, but there are some areas they differ. But my perception of what happened is detailed in the book.

When you look at Nigeria now, and cast your mind back to 1993, is there any difference?
In some respects, there is nothing to cheer about. In my neighbourhood, there has been no water for the past one year. When I moved into this area in 1988, during the military era, water was running. But for one year, there has been no water. Diesel is N140 per litre. I was not using much of generator eight or 10 years ago. It is so expensive running generators. In fact, to do seven or eight hours in a medium sized house, you require N6,000 or N7,000 worth of diesel.

There should be electricity. There may be areas of improvement. You are also a Nigerian. But I have only identified areas of pressing importance to Nigerians Ė light, water. If you have constant power supply, there will be a lot of thriving small-scale industries. Vucanizer will be able to do his work. The economy will thrive. I will prefer paying three times the electricity bill that I paid three years ago today to help us with power supply, so that we do not run around looking for diesel. You do not run around looking for cooking gas.

I will plead for more governance. I will plead that all those at all levels of governance; local governments, states, and federal should take their duties responsibly. I used to be Commissioner of Local Government, Rural Development and Chieftaincy Matters in old Anambra State between 1986 and 1988, and for a while, commissioner for agriculture. Within the period, I was able to mobilize all the local governments, 25 Ė 30 of them. We had construction equipment. We were constructing roads, tarring roads, and sinking boreholes.

Given your experience in NEC, if you were asked to go back and head it, will you accept?
I have done my part. I did my best in my time. There are other Nigerians. I have had stints at the state and national levels. But if there is any desire for me to help, I can serve as consultant. I can help because Nigeria requires all its citizensí help. Whatever experience you have, bring it to bear in solving the myriad of problems. Not that I am looking for a job. No. There are many intelligent, skillful and productive Nigerians, who are looking for jobs. I submitted a comprehensive memorandum to the Electoral Reforms Committee and spent a number of days with them. You see, so many people struggle for such jobs, but it requires commitment, and sacrifice.

For serving this nation as NEC chairman, considering what happened, do you have any regrets?
I have no regrets. I am, indeed, proud to be a Nigerian and also proud to have the priviledge to serve in various capacities without lobbying. It gave me joy. I reached the zenith of my career as a professor at the University of Nigeria, Nnsuka purely on merit. I wrote several books. I held several positions, head, department of Political Science, associate dean, participated in the Senate, co-ordinator of local government training programme and I was not consigned to the classroom alone. I had the priviledge to serve under the late Samson Omeruah, may his soul rest in peace, a great Nigerian, who selected almost eight of us who served in his cabinet in the old Anambra State. I had the opportunity of balancing theory and practice.

I made traditional rulers in the state to have staff of office, and receive salaries like their counterparts elsewhere. I still have a lot of friends among them. I settled intra and inter community land disputes. You know in the Igbo speaking areas, there is many land disputes, and when you engage in protracted land disputes, you reduce the chances of community development. My theory was that if you settle the disputes, then you would be able to initiate developments.

A little bit of it is reflected in my book, the background I brought to bear in NEC. I also served as chairman, Technical Committee at the Federal level on the application of Civil Service Reforms in the local government service. I was just settling down after doing that in1989 when from nowhere my name was heard on radio as the NEC chairman. I was not consulted. I took over from my former teacher, the late Prof. Eme Awa. It was a huge surprise and I held that position fairly long. People who hold it do not last long. I had the privilege then, using my relevant background to institute far-reaching electoral reforms that people still talk about today. It gives me joy. I thank Almighty God and those who considered me fit to do the job. I look back today, and I am happy that I left a worthy legacy. It shows that when you work hard, your nation may require you in one capacity or the other, in spite of difficulties.

Looking back now, which day would you consider as your saddest as NEC chairman?
Life itself is full of risks. Well, we thought that at the end of the day, national honours were coming our way. Well, when the commission was dissolved without notice, we felt bad. But it is said, there is a purpose for everything in life. If the annulment will bring about a reconsideration of the party system in Nigeria, electoral reforms, reducing the party structure in the system, it is a victory. You never know. God is the only being who has a complete picture of the past, present, and future. Sometimes, you may think you have a bad past, it may lead to a better future. That is how I see it. I am not the only person who has presided over an electoral management body.

So, the day the election was annulled was your saddest day in office?
There are other sad days in my life. If you consider that the processes we initiated were not allowed to bear fruits, then you understand how I feel. We should have ended on a good note.

Looking at Nigeria now, what is the way forward?
My book ended by looking at the way forward. After telling the story, how it happened, the preparations for the elections, the conduct of the election, the collation of the results, the annulment, the problems, the two-party structure, it wonít be wise not to suggest the way forward.

The book concludes in my view, that those things that worked in the past should be revisited in the light of our circumstances today. There could be modification where necessary, and they should be entrenched in the constitution that is about being reviewed. We should return to a good system, be more committed, and these divides, north, south, east, west, and the states should be de-emphasised.
And if we develop this country by using our collective strength, energy and talent, there will be so many goodies for every Nigerian.

When there is what you need, there is a greater sense of citizenship than when there is little and everyone jostles for it. Politicians exploit the divides to create polarization. I donít want it. The people who gave me the greatest loyalty as NEC chairman are not from my ethnic group. They are still around me today, drawn from all over the country. In the planning committee for the book, it is one of my loyalists that is chairman, and he is not Igbo.

So, what I am trying to emphasise is that there are many good Nigerians from different ethnic groups, which mean, we can all work hard and make this nation great. The people in the planning committee of the book are people who believe in me. People, who helped me to succeed, People, who if I stayed 2.00 a.m. in the office, they would be there. If I look this way or that, they know what I mean and who, members of my family know because they are interested in my welfare more than some people around me.

What about sanctions for people who put back the hand of the clock and put us where we are now?
There has been many hidden internal sanctions. I think we should look ahead and agree to work together to make this nation great. We should utilize the resources we have in this country for the welfare of all. That is my view.

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