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International campaign against direct military rule and abuse of human rights in Nigeria

In June 1993, the people of Nigeria saw a window of HOPE when they were invited to elect a democratic President under two Political Parties: the NRC and the SDP. Report has it that the flag bearer of the SDP was poised to win as the result of the election termed Nigeria’s Freest and Fairest pointed to the fact the Chief MKO Abiola was the favourite choice of the people of Nigeria as their President. This was not to be as the release of the election results was halted and the election annulled.

The annulment of the June 12 1993 election led to an out cry by Nigerians who could not understand why they were being deprived of their Constitutional and natural rights of choosing their political leaders. With this deprivation came what has since become political uncertainty and socio-economic destabilisation in Nigeria.

In 1995 Ken Saro Wiwa and his Ogoni eight were condemned to death and executed in November by the Nigerian Military Government led by Gen. Sani Abacha after what was claimed to be a stage- managed judicial process. This military action against the international writer and environmental activist earned Nigeria a suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations. Nigeria was on suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations when General Sani Abacha died on 8th June 1998.

I was at the forefront of the international and addressed Conferences organised by Nigerians and international NGOs to highlight the human right abuses that intensified in Nigeria. Amnesty International, Human Right Watch and others mounted a heated campaign against the Nigerian Military regime. To read some of the conference papers presented by Alice Ukoko, click here

I was not convinced that Nigeria’s political problems were over as a result of the death of General Sani Abacha and one month later, Chief MKO Abiola. I prediction that the deaths however created a window of opportunity that was needed to address the many problems facing the country.

To express my concerns and suggest a possible way forward, I wrote a letter to General Abdulsalami Abubakar, I appealed to the Head of State to start strengthening civil society who had become politically disillusioned by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 Presidential elections. The issue I raised was that by the military rejection of the people’s democratic election of Chief MKO Abiola in a FREE and FAIR manner, their enthusiasm to participate in Nigeria’s political arena has been destroyed and as such, there is a necessity for the then Head of State to make a deliberate effort to assure people that their democratic will is valued and encouraged. To read the General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s letter, click here. (Jude please create hyperlink here for the letter which can be downloaded)

In 1999, General Abdulsalami Abubakar handed over to a civil government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and thirty-six State Governors and an Administrator for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. I observed the people’s response to the call to elect their leaders who were sworn in on the 29th May 1999 at Ilorin Kwara State of Nigeria. Although the day was declared “a public holiday” persuading Nigerians to exercise their democratic rights of choosing their leaders, I was distressed at the turn out of people of Ilorin to cast their votes. The people appeared to use the opportunity of the “public holiday” to embark on their private affairs. There were more people at “public water pumps” fetching water than there were at “Polling Stations” At the close of Polling Ballot boxes appeared “empty” signifying the people’s failure to participate in the Polls just as I feared.

Although very few Nigerians turned out to “vote” I was even more distressed when the “results” of the Polls began to be emerge almost immediately at the close of “Polling” on the same day.

My shock came as to how the results became known so soon after Polling? There was no electricity at greater part of that day in Ilorin in Kwara State. It is an open secret that Nigeria is yet to sort out the problem of electric power generation. I concluded that for the results to be released so soon meant that the outcome of that exercised were predetermined. In which case, Nigerians were correct in their boycott of the elections as they participation would have amounted to a “waste of time” This is a tragedy for Nigeria’s democracy. It has since become known that in some areas, the figures of votes cast are greater than the population.

Who is delaying Nigeria’s ability to develop in a rapidly changing world? For, until Nigerians engage in the democratic process effectively, Nigeria will continue to lag behind in the League of Nations.

Good Governance is the product of the people’s active participation in the process of governance.

If the people of Nigeria are denied the right to choose their political leaders in a Free and Fair manner, they will be unable to curb corruption within the Political class.

“Corruption” has become the greatest problem that is facing Nigeria in the 21st Century. Whether the on-going fight against corruption of the Obasanjo Government through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would rid Nigeria of corrupt practices and individuals remains to be seen.

It is important to note that unless Nigerians begin to put the Nation and the people first, efforts to enthrone good governance, justice, peace and sustainable development would fail.


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