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June 12: The Democratic Journey So Far

23 years ago, Nigerians went to the poll and voted in the presidential election described to be the best in the history of the country by some observers. It was one of the rare elections where religion and ethnicity played insignificant role in the way people voted for the candidate of their choice. It has been argued that people voted the way they did because the elections were properly planned and well conducted. There were pre-election debates and it was easy to know who was intelligent and who was really dull. The primary election conducted produced Bashir Othman Tofa as the candidate of National Republican Convention (NRC) and MKO Abiola as candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Cover ChoiceThe people voted and the results were rolling in more to the favour of MKO Abiola. When it became evident that Abiola would win, Bashir Tofa (the opponent) was reported to have sent him congratulatory messages until Nigerians received a rude shock from the then Military Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida, that annulled the election. The annulment was greeted with a lot of protests that almost paralysed the economy of the country.  Both labour and Nigerians students were fully mobilized and took part in the protests. Many people died in the struggle to actualize that mandate popularly called JUNE 12.

Many democrats, human right activists that championed the resistance against June 12 annulment, ran out of the country to protect their lives from the military junta. People like Pa Alfred Rewane were not lucky as he was killed in the struggle.  It is also believed that though June was not actually realized, the struggle forced IBB, popularly called the Evil-Genius, to hand over power to an Interim National Government led by Ernest Shonekan who was later removed in what some people have described as a palace coup on November 17, 1993, by late Sani Abacha who was a General and Chief of Army Staff at that time.

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