Former Chairman of defunct National Electoral Commission, NEC, Prof Humphrey Nwosu, has said that members of the commission were promised honours if they conducted a credible election on June 12, 1993, saying those honoured by President Muhammadu Buhari were just beneficiaries of their work.
He also said the making of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day validated his position that the election was free and fair.
On the intrigues that played out before, during and after the election, the former NEC Chairman said he felt that then Defence Minister, Gen Sani Abacha, wanted to have a stint as President.
Nwosu, who noted that members of the commission displayed courage by conducting the election in the face of opposition from the military, said for elections to be credible in Nigeria, electoral officers must be courageous to do what is right.
The former electoral umpire spoke during an interview with NBN TV to mark his 50th wedding anniversary, last week, in Maryland, USA, which was sent to Sunday Vanguard by his spokesperson, Mr. Chidi Obiora.
The interview came amid growing calls on the Federal Government to honour him for conducting what has been widely adjudged as the most credible election in Nigeria’s history.
Former Military President, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, retd, had annulled the election on June 23, 1993, in a nationwide broadcast. The presumed winner of the poll, the late Chief MKO Abiola, was arrested after declaring himself President by then Head of State, Gen Abacha.
The calls for the validation of the result of the election even after Abiola’s death in 1998, informed the declaration of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day by President Buhari.
Apart from the gesture which was made on June 7, 2018, the President also honoured Abiola and his presumed Vice President-elect, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe.
However, Nwosu said going ahead with the election was the most challenging task he had ever undertaken.
Most challenging task
His words: “The inability to declare the winner of June 12 presidential election was the most challenging task for me. There were a series of obstacles against the election. There was a court ruling on June 10, 1993, at 9:30 pm that there should not be an election. There wouldn’t have been an election following that court decision. I felt it was not in order and Nigerians would not be happy, because we had successfully conducted the governorship elections with Option A4 in December 1991. In 1992, we conducted the National Assembly election and June 12 was the last election to establish the Third Republic. I tried to reach out to the President, Vice President and Attorney General of the Federation, AFG, but it was not successful. I later met the AGF, who told me that the Supreme Military Council would meet at 10: am on June 11 but I was not invited as the Chief Electoral Officer of the country. I decided to attend the meeting uninvited not minding the risks involved.
Spate of court injunctions
“Those who blamed me for not announcing the final official results do not know that, without me, there couldn’t have been June 12 election. I called the Director of Legal Service of NEC, who asked if I was invited and I said no. When we got to the gate of the Villa, they thought I was invited and allowed us to go in. That was the reason I said that God made June 12 possible. I arrived before the AGF and they were surprised to see me. President Babangida, Abacha, and others were there. They asked why I came and I replied that the next day would be June 12. They asked if I was not aware of the court order, I said it cannot prevent us from holding the election. When the President asked why, I reminded him that he had once asked a former AGF, Justice Bola Ajibola and I to find a solution to the spate of court injunctions that would have derailed the transition to civil rule programme. We came up with a solution that once a date has been fixed for an election, no court should stop us. But he said it had been challenged and upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal in Ibadan. I said that Abuja High Court cannot stop us. At that point, the AGF walked in saying I should obey the law. There was an argument which I challenged.
“I explained it in details in my book, Laying Foundation for Nigeria’s Democracy. I told Mr. President to tell me to inform Nigerians if elections would not hold tomorrow, June 12, because I was ready to conduct the election but there was complete silence. Abacha interjected saying we should postpone it for a week but I told him that sensitive materials had been distributed across the country. President Babangida asked if I was sure I would succeed and I said yes. That is why I commend Babangida. The military was divided. Some wanted the election to take place while others didn’t want it and I felt that Abacha wanted to have a stint as President.
“Babangida said I should convene a press conference to inform international observers that the elections would hold. When the section of the military that didn’t want the election saw that it was successful with Abiola winning, there was another court decision to stop the announcement of the results.
Military said I was on my own
“The Commissioner of Police in Abuja at the time said I should stop releasing the results. When all the results came in, the military summoned us asking if we wanted to disobey the Abuja High Court. I said we would challenge the Abuja High Court order because the law says that anyone or party, who is not satisfied should approach the election petition tribunal. The military said I was on my own and we challenged the court order. Justice Achike of the Federal High Court, Kaduna called for all the papers for an accelerated hearing. He said he would want to release the result. The court was to sit on June 25 but my commission was dissolved on June 23.
We were promised honours
“I am grateful to God that my stand has been justified because we were promised that if we got it right and set Nigeria on a democratic path, the commission would be honoured and we did exactly what was right. They have acknowledged that it was the most credible election in Nigeria. We also carried out important electoral reforms in Nigeria. Those, who have been honoured are beneficiaries of our efforts. Having a free and fair election depends on the courage of those appointed to conduct the election. If Babangida had not authorised that we hold the election when I challenged him, we couldn’t have had June 12. I had the courage to tell him that the election should hold. Those appointed to supervise electoral commissions should be courageous. We were getting it right on the democratic path until June 12. Abiola won in Kano but is such a feat possible today? We crafted the manifestoes of the two parties which made Nigerians identify with the parties not on ethnic basis but on the basis of policies and principles they thought could put Nigeria on the right path.”