Anenih: Abiola begged IBB to allow him be president even for one day

In his book, ‘My Life and Nigerian Politics’, Tony Anenih, who was the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) when the June 12, 1993 election was held, made a number of claims on the crisis.

Ibrahim Babangida, then military president, annulled the results of the presidential election presumed to have been won by MKO Abiola, the SDP candidate.

Anenih, in the book launched in 2016, said Abiola told him repeatedly that Babangida was trying to embarrass him.

“On the issue of June 12, Chief MKO Abiola had called me on the phone to come for an urgent meeting in Ikeja. I flew to Ikeja and met Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe, Dr Dele Cole, and Kola, MKO’s son,” he wrote.

“At the meeting, Chief MKO told us that his friend, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, planned to embarrass him. He kept repeating this without stating the type of embarrassment.”

IBB NOT PICKING ABIOLA’S CALLS

Later, Abiola insisted that they must leave his house for Kola’s.

“He was terribly frightened and depressed. We all moved to Kola’s house in Maryland. Right from this time, Chief Abiola was trying to get President Babangida on the phone, but each time he tried (Halilu) Akilu (then director-general, National Intelligence Agency) received the call,” Anenih wrote.

“We could hear Chief Abiola telling Akilu to tell his friend (IBB) that they were still friends, and that he should allow him to be president even for one day, and he would resign thereafter; that all the photographs they took together were still all over his house, and that he should not forget the past, and that God would bless him.

“MKO would repeat Akilu’s words: ‘You mean I should call back in 30 minutes? Okay, I will call back in 30 minutes’. This went on till 7pm when the national anthem was sung on the television and MKO hysterically was saying, ‘Do you see my friend? You see him? You see my friend? He wants to embarrass me. Pointing to the television and there was IBB with a piece of paper in his hand. It was the annulment speech of June 23, 1993, by which President Babangida annulled the election and repealed Decree NO 13 of 1993 and 52 of 1992 on which basis the election had been conducted.”

Anenih said that at a meeting, Babangida made it clear that the military would not accept Abiola as its commander-in-chief.

“He (Babangida) told the meeting that the military would not accept MKO Abiola and Alhaji Tofa as their commander-in-chief of the armed forces and that we should go and prepare for a fresh presidential election with new candidates,” he said.

“He directed that the SDP and NRC should arrange fresh conventions to pick new candidates. He gave the two political parties six weeks to conduct fresh primaries, confirm the nomination of their candidates and hold fresh elections – an action President Babangida knew would not be possible.”

‘ABIOLA WOULD HAVE BEEN ALIVE’

Anenih also said Abiola’s persistent refusal to listen to his advice landed him in jail and ultimately led to his death.

Anenih said he advised Abiola against declaring himself president, but that he refused to listen.

He said Abiola reached a secret agreement with Sani Abacha, former head of state, to take over from Ernest Shonekan, interim president, but he fled the country when things were heating up, leaving his supporters behind.

He said when Abiola came back to the country frustration drove him to declare himself president after his scheming to succeed Shonekan had failed.

‘ABIOLA KEPT US IN THE DARK’

Anenih said the late businessman kept the leadership of the party out of his negotiations with the military.

“It is a pity indeed, that Chief Abiola kept the leadership of the party away from his arrangement with General Ababcha to take over from Shonekan. If he had brought it to the notice of the leadership of the party, he would have been advised well,” he wrote.

“In a similar but not exactly identical set of circumstances, I had advised Chief Abiola against declaring himself the president of this country when frustration arising from Abacha’s refusal to hand-over to him drove him into that extreme line of thought. I spoke to him on telephone pointing out that the army was not there to back him up. He had no police support, and not even the immigration or customs would back him.

“It was clear to me that the course of action to which Chief MKO Abiola was heading was not only going to be self-destructive, but also ruinous. He was play into the hands of the military and offer himself as a sacrificial lamb by delivering himself to those who for various and obvious reasons, very much wanted him out of the scene.

“Chief Abiola did not listen. The result of his line of action landed him in jail.

“I wished he had listened to my advice not to declare himself president of this country. If he did, I believe he would, in all probability, still be alive today. Frustration arising from the collapse of his scheming drove him into extreme step which, in the end, set up a chain of events that ultimately caused him his life.”

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