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June 12 Anniverssary: How US, UK betrayed MKO –Dele Alake, confidant

Posted by By CHRISTIAN ITA on 2006/06/13 | Views: 2550 |

June 12 Anniverssary: How US, UK betrayed MKO –Dele Alake, confidant


When the late politician and business mogul, Chief M.K.O Abiola was alive, he had many friends and business partners but very few confidants. One of those who enjoyed that rare privilege was Mr. Dele Alake, the Lagos State Informtion Commissioner.

When the late politician and business mogul, Chief M.K.O Abiola was alive, he had many friends and business partners but very few confidants. One of those who enjoyed that rare privilege was Mr. Dele Alake, the Lagos State Informtion Commissioner.

Alake, who was the first to be informed by Abiola of his intention to contest the 1993 presidential election, in an exclusive interview with Sunday Sun, offered rare insights into the June 12 struggle.
For instance, he dispelled the notion that Abiola got any form of assistance from western democracies, including the United States during his struggle to revalidate the result of the annuled presidential election.

According to Alake, Abiola felt "betrayed and abandoned by the United States and even the United Kingdom and all the western powers that paid lip service to democracy outside their own shores."

He said throughout the course of the struggle, "Very little help was received from the UK government apart from allowing them to be there. There was no material help. The same thing from the US. It was only when pro-democracy cells were established all over the US and agitations increased and then contacts were made with the black congressional caucus in the US Congress that they took up the issue in the US Congress. But the US government itself did not lift any finger in concrete terms."
He also spoke on the intrigues and even betrayals within the Hope 93 campaign organisation as well as the party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP).


In the beginning
My experiences over June 12 were quite interesting, revealing, instructive, exposing, educating and believe me, those were the momentous days in the life of this nation. I will first of all thank God Almighty for the privilege of having been exposed to some of those momentous events that help to shape the course and direction of this nation.

It wasn’t out of any personal merit or unparallel endowment. I was just privileged to be at the right place at the right time not just to witness history in the making but also to be part of the making of history.
The June 12 journey started long before June 12. June 12 was the watershed when the election proper took place but there were many things that took place before the election. The preparation for June 12 started years before, perhaps inadvertently and unintentionally by M.K.O. or providence. M.K.O came into the limelight in the 70s and had become synonymous with generosity, largeness of heart, with magnanimity and a zest for life.

And so, he had built bridges across ethnic divide, across religion, across social categories, across social classes and he was one individual that was well prepared for the presidency of this country in all ramifications, such that when June 12 occurred, everybody in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, excerpt the powers that be at that time, knew he was going to win. This was because he had sacrificed for it, worked for it in kind and in cash. He had endeared himself to virtually every body and on June 12 if you recall, we had 80year-olds coming out to vote because of the attraction of M.K.O. And immediately after the elections, when the results started coming in and it was clear that M.K.O. was coasting home to victory, the prices of goods started coming down, especially in Lagos and from what we heard later on, across the country.

Having established these structures, bridges across the divides, by January of 1993, most of the political actors then had their primaries cancelled by the IBB regime in 1992. The Yar’ Aduas and all those, such that the political landscape was almost bereft of serious actors by January 1, 1993. There was a general clamour in the country that the military should leave. So, there was a seeming vacuum. Some of those political actors had been banned, if you could remember, after the cancellation of their primaries in 1992. So, one night in Januray 1993, chairman (M.K.O) called me about 1A.M that I should see him at home. He was the chairman of Concord and I was the editor of the Sunday Concord. So, I went there. He said to me that he was going to run for the presidency.

I told him my fears, which was the reflection of the fears of so many people that the military wasn’t prepared to go, why would he want to hit his head against the wall?
We argued back and forth and he said people were looking up to him as the last remaining force that could challenge the military behemorth and that if he failed to contest, history would not forgive him and people would blame him that when he had everything, the wherewithal to confront the military and released the people from the shackles of militocracy, he caved in and dodged. I said fine but that it was obvious to us too, that as political scientists and journalists that the military was not prepared to go, particularly, IBB.


He insisted he would still go into the race and that he also had the feeling that the military was not ready to quit yet but that if he went into the race and confronted the military, and won the election, there were only two things that could happen. Either the military quits office or not quit. I then asked what if the military failed to quit. He said then Nigeria would not be the same again. Those were very profound words he told me that night and those words came to be very prophetic .

The military did not leave office after he won but Nigeria never became the same again. So, he said why he actually called me was not just to tell me of his intention but to ask me to go and prepare a statement which he would release to the whole world as his formal declaration of intention to contest the presidency. I said alright. I left him about 3 A.M and went home.

Next day, I pondered over it but he has given me and assignment to draft a statement for him to sign. It was such a heavy thing, I couldn’t contain it and as such called me colleagues: Segun Babatope, Nnamdi Obasi and Chike Akabogwu (now late). They were on the editorial board while I was editing the Sunday Concord. So, I called them and told them M.K.O’s decision. We also debated it and concluded that the man was right, his logic sound.

Tunji Bello was the political editor for the paper. He was with us. So, together, we prepared the draft. It was entitled "Why I want to serve." That was the first formal declaration by M.K.O of his intention to contest the1993 election. We advertised this statement in all Sunday newspapers in this country, all the electronic media, national and state. It was widely circulated and from then on, the die was cast.


There was no going back. We started to prepare. In Concord then, we had a team. We formed the nucleus of the intellectual power-house of the entire June 12 events. We were led by Dr. Doyin Abiola who was the MD of Concord. In actual fact, the very first organogram of the Hope 93 campaign organization was drawn up by this team in Concord. Then Dr. Doyin asked us to expand the team to include other members of Concord such as Nsikak Essien who was editing the Daily e.t.c.

The very first meeting we held, we were suggesting names because M.K.O told us to get the organogram ready and suggest names for the positions. The first position we wanted to fill was that of the director of organization. We penciled down Johnathan Zwingina, Yemi Ogunbiyi, Chief Dayo Abatan, Chief Ayo Okpadokun’s name also cropped up. The was a man we used to refer to as Mr. X to keep his identity. At the end of the day, Zwingina got it because of the ethnic colouration. That since M.K.O was a Yoruba man, it was politically expedient to pick somebody from the North. Secondly, Zwingina had worked with the Falae group in the 1992 and we felt he was not a novice when it came to organizing political movements and political organizations. So, he was picked. We have all the papers kept in bank vaults.


Yar’ Adua & Jos Convention
It is true that Yar’ Adua at some points when there was a stalemate in the ballot, played some role. After the first ballot, there was no clear winner. But the primary in Jos was not reflective of the mood in the country. The rest of the country wanted M.K.O to be their president. But don’t forget that M.K.O was a new entrant into the party which already had groups and sub groups of which Baba Gana Kingigbe was a prominent figure. The current Vice President was also a prominent player within the party. He was also a contender for the presidency. He also was very valiant. He played a positive role in June 12 at the time. After the first ballot, there was a stalemate and meetings were held in Yahaya Kwande’s house. Kola Abiola was also in attendance.

While this horse-trading was going on, Yar’ Adua was told to step in to persuade some people, perhaps, the Vice President, Alhaji Atiku to step down for M.K.O so that M.K.O could emerge. I think expediency, more than any perceived altruism was responsible for whatever role Yar’ Adua or anybody played. It was expedient politically, for M.K.O to emerge. So, I would assume that if Yar’ Adua actually supported M.K.O, then he was playing smart. Don’t forget that Yar’Adua also won primaries in the West, in Lagos and Tinubu, then Senator Tinubu was part of the Yar’Adua group and other Yoruba elements in the Yar’Adua group must have impressed it on him that they supported him and that it was his turn to support them and he played smart because a leader must know the moment to follow his followers or he loses his leadership.


Why IBB annulled polls result
You are trying to insinuate that there could have been something personal between them but there was not. As far as I know, there wasn’t. Many times, even in the heat of the struggle, I asked M.K.O, what could have led IBB to this? He asked him pointed questions because there many unsubstantiated rumours that there was a business deal that turned sour or that he had some of IBB’s money who now wanted his own pound of flesh and all that. There was absolutely nothing like that because the man him (Abiola) was himself perplexed. There was a day we were with him in London during his short exile and he wondered aloud, that what did he do to this people to deny not just him but the nation, a new lease of life? What kind of offence did he commit against them?

It was just the desire to perpetuate self in office and the military then saw the presidency of this country as a relay race handing over the batons to themselves. That was what brought Abacha to office otherwise, Abacha should not have been included in the ING at all. In the constitution of the ING, it ought not to have been written that he would be the one to take over as the most senior officer in case of anything. It was programmed.


The struggle
There were so many escapades one had during that period. About 75 to 80 percent of those who were with us through the campaign to the election and who were flying in and out of M.K.O’s house, the campaign office or Concord to collect money for various ventures some of which were not carried out, disappeared immediately after the annulment. Many of them did not have the guts to get into the fray, many lacked the conviction.

The struggle to revalidate June 12 was waged on several fronts. There were those of us who were part of M.K.O’s personal organization, there was the campaign organization which floundered immediately after the annulment. The campaign organization, structurally, was not part of the struggle to revalidate the election. There was the party structure which floundered, which was not part of the struggle to revalidate the election result. In fact, the party eventually became part of the problem and the party leadership became conspirators with the annullers of the result.

So, the immediate struggle was wage by M.K.O’s personal organization. We started carrying out several espionage activities, gathering intelligence. In the course of this, we came across death several times. If you remember, there were riots of July 5, 6, 7 in 1993 in the country to protest the annulment. We took parts in the riots, in planning, conceptualizing, execution and all that because we thought it was a worthy venture towards achieving a worthy goal.


MKO had asked that we prepare the Epetedo Declaration speech. A man, I won’t mention his name, a fine editorial writer who was working with us though he was working in a different newspaper, was to write it. There were many drafts from various sources. Before M.K.O declared himself president, his house had been cordoned off by mobile policemen with armoured tanks. They took over Toyin Street, Opebi, Lagos. So the approach to M.K.O’s house was impregnable.

They had caged him in the house. On that very day of the declaration, this man called me to hand me the draft of the declaration speech to give to M.K.O. There was no way I could get into his house because it had been cordoned off. Nobody was allowed in and nobody was allowed out. I asked him to let us go together but he refused. So, I took the draft, hid it under the carpet of my car. I called M.K.O on phone and he asked that I get to any business centre and fax it. So, I was coming from the Concord Press around the airport. When I got to Toyin Street, I started seeing police checkpoints. The first checkpoint I got to, they searched me but did not discover the draft.

I then got to the third one, there were two policemen. One search the trunk, while the other searched inside my car. I had told police officers at the previous two checkpoints that I was a civil servant and that I was going to Alausa Secretariat. I told the same story at the third checkpoint. So, the one who checked the compartments had finished and got up. As I bent down to enter my car, my identity card fell from my breast pocket on the seat of my car. He saw it, picked it up and said ‘Oh! These are the people we have been looking for.’ I said I did nothing wrong, that I am a citizen. The point is, he now started the search all over again and he discovered the speech under the carpet. It was as if blood drained out of me. That was the must sought after document on that day because the Abacha government did not want that declaration to be made.

In a curious twist of fate, the policeman folded the document and put it back where he got it and spread the carpet. I asked him for his name, he didn’t give it to me. I said thank you. He said ‘Go, God be with you all. We are with you.’ I was stupefied. At that instant, his colleague who searched my trunk asked what was happening and he responded by saying ‘Nothing. Make dis one dey go. Nothing on him.’ He waved me on. I came to Oshopy Plaza and parked. As soon as I did that, my legs were shaking. I think it was a delayed shock.

When I got to the place I was to fax, I met a small crowd and waited to be the last person. There were nine pages of the speech. I reckoned that if I started with the first page, the girl mounting the machine would know what it was because of the title. So, I started with the last page. When it came to page one, she saw the title and became scared. I hushed her. She faxed the material and I gave her more money. I then called the house and M.K.O acknowledged receipt and said ‘over and out.’


Before the Epetedo Declaration
That is interesting because the authorities at that time, after being beaten by M.K.O and made the declaration, to save face, they claimed M.K.O dressed as a lady and was smuggled out to go and make the declaration. Nothing could be farther from the truth. That was a lie. M.K.O beat all the security gadgets and apparati put in place through a very simple method. But again, these are some of the juicy parts that one must keep for his memoirs.

In the unlikely event that such things occur again, if you’ve given out everything then you wouldn’t be helping the person to escape. Some of the methods used by M.K.O could be re-used. One thing I can tell you is that M.K.O never dressed like a lady. He was in suit, immaculate suit when he got out of the house and he got out and drove with one or two guys. Late Bobo Nwosisi was about the only Igbo man with us.


Communication from detention
Many things occurred but let us leave all of that and come to the anti-climax which was his death. That was an anti-climax. He had been communicating very surreptitiously. This is instructive to all repressive governments. That when there is a popular movement or struggle against the establishment, the establishment would be fooling itself if it thinks all its officers are loyal because these officers are human beings and live in the society and they have the preferences. We had a lot of people co-operating with us on the establishment side. So, it was possible for them to assist in ferreting information out, about his movement and stuff like that. And the anti-climax really was when a couple of days before he died, he had been writing letters to critical stake-holders. He had written to Gani, late Pa Ajasin, to the family and even me. I remember quite vividly that he died on a Tuesday.

The Friday before he died, one very agile Concord staffer, who was also Abuja based at the time was running a lot of the errands and had also been detained and released. He carried a lot of espionage activities and risked a lot. He called me to say he had some letters passed out from M.K.O detention centre for him to distribute and that he had my own letter. He brought my letter and I read it. Days before then, the Commonwealth Secretary General had visited him, Kofi Annan had visited him. Before then also, the New York Times had done an editorial supporting M.K.O. as the person to be made president. Abdulsalami Abubakar was in government at the time and there was debate in the country about whether or not a government of national unity to be headed by M.K.O should be formed, which we favoured for obvious reasons. By then, I was the editor of the daily.

I had culled that editorial and published it plus the opinion of critical stake-holders in Nigeria, all calling M.K.O to assume the presidency as the only solution to the logjam. Some how, M.K.O had read the paper and in his letter to me, he referred to that publication of National Concord. The tone of the letter was very resolute. He said he was not going to relinquish his mandate for anything and that he was going to hold onto the mandate at whatever cost and that those of us on the outside should gird our loins and should not waver.


On the Sunday before the Tuesday he died, Segun Babatope was with me in the office and I showed Segun the letter which he read and he said ‘Ah! Chairman is very resolute,’ I said ‘Yes.’ He then said ‘I am afraid for the chairman.’ I asked him what he meant and he said the chairman sounded so resolute in the letter and because of that, he was scared for his life. So, nothing could happen to him. I didn’t entertain any fears but Segun had a premonition.

About a day or so to his death, the family was invited to see him. They had seen him. On the Tuesday that he died, Dr. Doyin Abiola called me from Abuja to confirm that they had actually seen him and that he was ok excerpt that he had a running stomach or something like that. Just minor ailments. There was palpable air of expectation enveloping the country over his imminent release. Dr. Abiola told me on phone and spoke in an upbeat manner and asked me to do a draft statement for her to sign, telling the public they have seen him and that he was ok. I drafted the statement waiting for Dr. Abiola from Abuja. That was the situation when hours later, we saw the news flash on CNN that Abiola was feared dead and of course, the rest is now history.


Betrayal
Of course, he felt betrayed and abandoned by the United States and even the United Kingdom and all the western powers that paid lip service to democracy outside their own shores. Right from the annulment, we had known that the US, UK and western powers were not serious about implanting genuine democracy in this country. We learnt in the June 12 annulment that in international politics, might is usually right. Morals play a minor role in international politics.

After the annulment of June, the US, UK made the necessary noise, gave the necessary rhetorics and went as far as withdrawing their ambassadors and high commissioners from the country only to send them back after a while. There was no concrete finger lifted by them to actualize the June 12 mandate. In fact, even when we were prosecuting the struggle both within and outside the country, very little help came from them. I was in UK with then Senator Tinubu (now Lagos governor). We used to meet in General Akinrinade’s office with John Oyegun, Tokunbo Afikuyomi and the late Bobo Nwosisi, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi. These people formed the nucleus of the NADECO abroad.

Very little help was received from the UK government apart from allowing them to be there. There was no material help. The same thing from the US. It was only when pro-democracy cells were established all over the US and agitations increased and then contacts were made with the black congressional caucus in the US Congress that they took up the issue in the US Congress. But the US government itself did not lift any finger in concrete terms. When Abacha took office, they made the same strong statement that they were not going to co-operate with him. But no long after, the UK sold Vikings armoured tanks to Abacha

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