The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, on Tuesday says the ill-fated Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan, was designed to fail from the outset.
Tinubu dropped the bombshell at the public presentation of a book titled “Nigeria’s Aborted 3rd Republic and the June 12 Debacle: Reporters’ Account” at the National Press Centre of Radio House in Abuja.
The development is coming barely nine months after the former head of state died and was buried in Lagos.
Shonekan was hastily brought into power on August 27, 1993 after Babangida announced that he was “stepping aside” following the annulment of June 12 presidential election.
The new Interim National Government, however, was short lived as it was toppled by an overzealous and ambitious former Chief of Army Staff, General Sani Abacha on November 17, 1993
But Tinubu, who was represented by Director of Media and Publicity of APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, believed the transition programme was designed to crumble by the powers that be.
He said, “The Third Republic was not expected to last long. Indeed of all our nation’s republics, it was the shortest: it began in January 1992 following the election of state governors in December 1991. It ended on 17 November 1993 with the Abacha coup against the Interim Government of Ernest Shonekan. This happened some five months after the annulment of the 12 June, 1993 election, won clearly by Moshood Kashimawo Abiola.
“The entire transition programme of the military administration of the time, according to discerning critics, was designed to fail. It was, they said, meant to make then military president Ibrahim Babangida succeed himself as a civilian president.
“The journey to the short-lived Republic began in 1986 when the military junta announced a transition programme, setting 1990 as the terminal date. New leaders at all levels of government were to be elected to usher in the Republic. But no sooner the programme was announced than government began to tinker with it, brewing accusations of hidden agenda.
“The transition programme was first extended by two years and then extended by another year to terminate in 1993. During the seven-year transition, Nigerian politicians were turned into guinea pigs for political experimentation. First, the military government attempted to clone a new set of politicians known as the ‘Newbreed.’
“It introduced Option A4, a system of voting done by queuing behind candidates, a novelty in the making of democratic choices. It imposed a two-party system, with defined ideologies.”
The APC national leader lamented that Nigerians witnessed a form of government known as diarchy, with elected state governors being bossed by a military president under the Third Republic.
According to him, the nation watched helplessly as the military regime cancelled presidential primaries and banned all politicians from participating in political gathering.
“Then a year later, the most unexpected happened with the annulment of the June 12 election. I was an elected senator of the short Third Republic and thus a witness like all of you. I was also a staunch supporter of MKO Abiola and the struggle to restore his mandate.
“Though I have not written my memoirs of the period, I have given many interviews and speeches about my role in the struggle, kicked off by the annulment,” he said.
Tinubu also used the occasion to thank the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and the National Assembly for recognising June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
He also called for a minute silence in honour of the martyrs of the June 12 struggle, from MKO Abiola to his wife, Kudirat, Chief Alfred Rewane, missing journalist, Bagauda Kaltho and many others.
He said, “Let us never treat this day as one devoid of special meaning, as just another holiday on the yearly calendar. We must keep in special and important remembrance why June 12 is Democracy Day and why all Nigerians should honour it.
“Let us also not just treat June 12 election as just another election. It truly represented a watershed in our history as it moved us closer to our Pan Nigeria dream, a nationhood we often speak about, where, for instance, a Yoruba-born politician could team up with a minority Kanuri man and still win the poll massively outside their regions.
“The military, in aborting June 12, killed this collective dream of building a nation in the true spirit of our old national anthem: though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. And I make bold to say once again that the spirit of 1993 will be upon us in 2023.”
The 242-page book provides a suspense-filled account of untold moves by the embattled former military president, Ibrahim Babangida and his cronies that set the stage for the infamous annulment of June 12 election.
A statement by National Chairman Emeritus of the National Association of Political Correspondents, Dr. Emeka Nwosu, said the book offers a deep historical insight into the character and content of the transition process and the web of conspiracies that were deployed by key political actors in the military and their civilian collaborators to scuttle the June 12 election.
“The idea to put this book together came innocuously following the demise of one of our colleagues, Tunji Olawuni, a former Political Editor of the Vanguard newspapers in October 2019. Another of our colleague, Bosun Oluwabusayomi (formerly Odedina) had set up a WhatsApp platform of former political reporters who belonged to the National Association of Political Correspondents to rally funds in support of the family of our deceased member.
“In the course of interactions on the platform, the idea of the book was floated. It was agreed that there was the need for those of us who were on the frontlines of the politics of the ill-fated 3rd Republic and who reported firsthand the convoluted political transition programme of President Ibrahim Babangiada with all the intrigues to document our thoughts and experiences into a book for the benefit of the present political actors and future generation,” he stated.