Introduction to Part THREE
Nigerias Political Problems & Introduction
The Truth of the Matter
The fact of June 12
Consequences of the Annulment
What to Do
To you (The Reader)
I will tell you a story I have never openly told. When I was appointed Minister of Information in 1986 and I had the privilege of an audience with General Babangida, I told him that there are three occasions in the year I strive to keep to myself and that I would want to be inaccessible on those occasions. These occasions are in the months of May, September and December. At those times, each lasting some three
days, I try to relate in a very special and positive manner to my Creator. The President readily agreed that I could take those days off. And I did for four years I served in his Administration.
September, as earlier indicated, is one of the months. This year, I was once again striving to relate to my Maker. I do not usually on such occasions beg the Almighty to save me from iniquitous men and women
or kill my enemies or make me triumph over competitors. I pray for strength to fulfill His Will in His Creation as the Holy Books request that we should do.
A week after the event, it occurred to me to write a letter on the situation in Nigeria and how to resolve it. I decided that the letter would have to go to General Sani Abacha who is the most senior serving Army officer and a powerful ally of General Babangida during the eight-year Administration of the President.
The letter is what forms Part THREE of this publication.
After writing the letter, I went round to discuss it with as many of the persons mentioned in the last paragraph as I could reach and there was not one of them who did not appreciate the love of country that advised this little contribution.
I believe that June 12 must be revisited and that if nothing is found that should have led to the nullification of the election, Chief Moshood Abiola should be invited to form a government of national reconciliation for the term he would have served. It is only a stupid and cursed people that would like to experiment with history and never want to learn from it.
We would have emerged into the sunshine from the political fog of 1964 if the-June election had not been annulled. We would move deeper into the fog if we remained unbending in our postures that June 12 is history and must therefore be buried and forgotten.
The copies of this letter have never been sent to anyone aside of those listed in the last paragraph in the first instance. Later, when a commission was announced by the Head of the Interim National
Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, and tempers rose and threats began to fly from one part of the country to the other, I decided to send copies of the letter to all the 30 Executive Governors of the 30 States of the Federation. This I did with personal covering letters to each of them. I also gave copies to the Deputy President of the Senate, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the two elders of the SDP and NRC, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole and Chief Tom Ikimi
I am doing this little book to document the very alive dangers ahead of us if we still want to bury our heads in the sand and refuse to see the handwriting on the wall. This document is my witness, and I pray that I do not have to say ‘I warned you’.
Prince Tony Momoh
October 27, 1993
September 13, 1993
General Sani Abacha,
Secretary for Defence,
Ministry of Defence,
Dear General Abacha.
RE: NIGERIA’S POLITICAL PROBLEMS
This letter would have gone to Chief Ernest Shonekan, but for obvious reasons, I am not addressing it to him. I decided to write to you directly because you are in a position to call the shots, and to help resolve the political problems we are in, being now the most senior serving officer in our country’s Armed Forces. This is the last chance the military has to play a noble role of preparing Nigeria politically for the next century.
Let me first of all establish my credentials with you. I had the honour and privilege to have served as Minister of Information for FOUR of the eight years of the Babangida regime. The four years were the most turbulent because those were the years when all structures meant to help solve Nigeria’s economic, political and socio-cultural problems were put in place, I believe, in good faith. During the four years, you can attest to my brutal level-headed frankness in the contributions I had had to make verbally or in writing in addressing and resolving our problems. Only time proved me right then, and time will again show that I am not now just trying to play to the gallery.
I would want you to give this letter as much thought as you PRAYERFULLY can so that in years to come, you would look back to it and be then in a position to decide for yourself if your reaction to it was right or wrong. What you do with it therefore will make or mar this country in the years ahead.
I start by saying that you and General Babangida were known to be very close and that even now, he is being said to be right there in government because you are there. You therefore have the responsibility to redeem the honour which ruthless propaganda against the military in Nigeria has denied the service because of the annulled June elections.
I must confess that you are better in a position to know why the elections were cancelled but the truth of the matter is that Nigerians are not convinced that the reasons were not an after-thought. In this letter, I
want to state briefly my understanding of what happened and suggest what I think you must do. It is the man who has no experience of life that asserts that once he makes up his mind, no power on earth can
change him. The same is true of a group or even a people. See what is happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians
Before the elections were held, I told myself that I would be surprised if they would be trouble-free. This was because of the line-up. Since Independence, one of the three major national groups in Nigeria, the
Hausa/Fulani, had been in control of the political power. It has all along been argued that the Yorubas controlled the economic live-wire while the Ibos monopolized trade. This may have no basis in critical review. But let me restrict myself to the political arena. It is not even true that the people in control of political power have been the Hausa/Fulani.
It is however true that among this group was the powerful and dominant few whose influence could not even be endangered by the consistent winning of Kano by NEPU, Borno by the BYM and Benue/Plateau by the UMBC. These ‘localised’ pressure groups reached an understanding with the NCNC and the Action group in the South to become an unregistered United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) which was to contest the 1964 Federal Elections against the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA). But UPGA boycotted the elections and the NNA won. Zik refused to swear in Balewa, claiming that his was a minority government. Balewa later appeared in the newspapers with the military chiefs and Zik, seeing where the wind was blowing, swore in Balewa as Prime Minister.
The 1983 elections provided another opportunity for what happened in 1964 and we had the so-called 12 progressive governors who hosted an alliance between the UPN, the NPP and the GNPP. Because Zik
and Awolowo could not agree on who should be the candidate, the alliance collapsed. There were alleged massive abuses of the ballot in the 1983 elections and this led to the return of the military in December,
The new set-up, especially after August 27, 1985, showed clearly that your goodself and General Babangida were FULLY in charge. Two of you succeeded in giving this country the most relatively peaceful era this country has ever witnessed. And to us bloody civilians who see only from the outside, your era seemed to be the one that showed so much profound control of the Armed Forces, and to such an extent that in spite of any arrangement to the contrary, you were seen to be second
in command to General Babangida. It was even being said openly that you were the power behind the throne and that what you did not support would never happen.
The programmes put in place in the last eight years were therefore seen by some of us who had the privilege of working with you as the structures that were meant to resolve our past problems and take us
into the next century. For reasons many see as an after-thought, we are where we are today. But for what happened after the June 12 elections, the Babangida regime of which you have been a key actor
would have been the only regime since 1966 to have restored confidence in the electoral process and established a sense of belonging in all Nigerians.
THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER
As I have indicated, it would have been naïve in the extreme for anyone to believe that the powerful group in control of power at the centre since Independence would let go without ‘firing’ a shot. It is believed that these vested interests, with other interests in the military and elsewhere ‘formed’ an undefined ‘alliance’ to mess up the programme that would have crowned your efforts of eight years with success. It is not the NORTH therefore that does not want a Southerner nor is the issue North versus South. The issue is that those in control of power since independence do not want to hand it over. Thus, the ‘conservatives’ are unwilling that the ‘progressives’ should rule. The same group of people
want to continue to see the same familiar faces in the corridors of power. General, this adamant posturing is dangerous in the extreme and those who want to bluff their way through it may discover that they land this country in more mess than anyone would have contemplated. The consequences are very vivid before my eyes, and I see with very clear eyes, with eyes without emotional blinkers.
THE FACT OF JUNE 12
Recall that Shehu Yar’Adua and Adamu Ciroma were denied the opportunity to contest when their nominations were cancelled. In spite of protests at what happened in Jos and Port Harcourt, the nomination of Chief Moshood Abiola and Alhaji Bashir Tofa were not cancelled. Yes, there were attempts internally to cancel the nominations as it was alleged that the military had said they did not want either Tofa or Abiola. Yes, there were also allegations that the cancellation of the results was
done on an unsigned piece of paper that emerged from the Presidency and without the support of either Babangida or your goodself. I have no reason to make any statement on why the actions taken were taken or on who the military wants. Suffice it to say that any selection process or electing who Nigeria wants should bind all Nigerians, including the military that, being in power, set up the selection processes. If not, people will allege that justice had not only NOT been done but also that
there was a reckless attempt to deny justice.
June 12 came and went. On June 12, it is known there was an election. There did not have to have been an election, if that was the decision of the government. But that there was an election makes all the
difference. The results had not all been declared before the official announcements were stopped and before the election itself was cancelled. The reasons given for the cancellation were most unpersuasive and injured the pride of any thinking Nigerian. The inflammatory word wars that followed would have been avoided if the ‘progressives’ had caved in and what happened had been written off as
an act of God.
But the ‘coup’ that the cancellation obviously was, did not seem to me to have been as successful as some people would think it is. It is still being resisted and I believe this is where you must use all your ingenuity to have you and your colleagues resolve this matter. I want to say that no coup d’etat that has been resisted in Nigeria has ever succeeded, NONE. Resistance is even more potent nowadays when the world frowns at the forceful take-over of government by the military. Where a coup d’etat is resisted, it is the military that suffers. You will be surprised how individually people in the Armed Forces dissociate
themselves from the claim that the Armed Forces do not want Abiola as their President. Believe me when I say here now that I am less concerned for Abiola as a person than for Nigeria as a country.
General, do not believe anyone who tells you that there is no fire on the mountain. It is building up to a conflagration, and I am surprised that many people even fail to listen to the rumblings in the bowels of the earth.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE ANNULMENT
Because of the annulled elections, Nigerians who ought to have celebrated on August 27 with fanfare, hosting many heads of state from abroad, many friends and well-wishers of Nigeria and tourists from all over the world, were sick and tired and panicky from strikes, fuel shortage, massive movement of populations to the safe havens of their ethnic areas and harassing demands from the world community for us to do one thing or the other to avoid boycotts and sanctions. A President that would have gone down in history as one that set Nigeria on a path to achieve a cosmic mission left office as if in a hurry and is being called unprintable names in some parts of the country.
Need this to have happened if the military had been seen as an unbiased umpire? Can the military in all seriousness be an umpire any more? Or can anyone else be an umpire in any election unless the June 12 election problem has been resolved?
Dear General Abacha, Nigeria is not at war and I pray it will never be at war, but I sincerely believe that many hearts are heavy, so heavy that it would be impossible for love to flow therefrom until you and your colleagues intervene decisively to take the shortest and most convenient way out of the political impasse. This you can do by revisiting June 12. I hope I live long enough to be able to say that I advised on this, if for one reason or the other you and your colleagues think otherwise. But I do pray that you are guarded by the Almighty to do what is expedient in the circumstance.
WHAT TO DO
Set up a judicial enquiry to investigate the conduct of the elections of June 12. Let there be public hearings. Let those who have evidence to give on irregularities do so. Give a time limit within which this must be done. The results of the enquiry should be discussed by your colleagues of the NDSC, and the National Assembly should also be asked to discuss them. The findings should determine what next to do for Nigerians would have been fully aware of what happened that may have advised the action of canceling the election.
But if the results are not so totally devastating as to send either or both the candidates to jail for breaches of electoral regulations, call Abiola, if he turns out to have won the election, to form a national government which will run the country for four years. Both parties as well as nonparty men should be represented in the government.
You should have the duty and responsibility to plead with the dominant power block in the North to accept the situation. Let the Sultan of Sokoto lead other Emirs to undertake this task. Get other leaders of thought in the North to do the same, and plead with the political parties to present a common front on this issue. They will all agree, as it now can also be seen as the Will of God.
I have said elsewhere and I repeat it here that the FOUR years we will tolerate someone outside the dominant power group in the North may well ensure a non-controversial return of leadership to that part of Nigeria. If they insist on writing June 12 out of existence, I want to say, General, that this country will find no peace this century. Who ever emerges as president will not have the enthusiastic support that he may merit. Even many won’t vote because there is very active mobilization of pro-democracy groups whose activities government does not seem to have answers to.
It is one thing to ask people to go about their work and promise that they would not be molested. It is quite another for them to have faith in the promise enough to be out doing their business. Apart from the fact that they may be afraid of the repercussions of breach of the order by the pro-democracy groups, they may well have sympathy for the group and so would obey their instructions.
Sir, a government that makes laws that are obeyed more in the breach than in the observance is a government that is out of touch with the people it purports to govern. Many laws are being churned out that no one will obey or whose enforcement will embarrass the government. You have very little time to redeem the situation. Very little time indeed. I can only pray that you are bold enough as you have been in the past to take decisions. I pray for you and your colleagues in the Armed Forces to be rightly guided to tackle this political problem frontally.
This letter is meant to request that you do bend over backwards to address the political problems we created for ourselves and to find a lasting solution by revisiting June 12 and inviting Chief Moshood Abiola, if the results of the enquiry so permit, to form a government of national reconciliation for four years. Afterall he was said to have been requested to head the Transitional Government but opted to stand election. FOUR years is not forever and any attempt to believe that the parties have all agreed about fresh elections and therefore elections should be held, would be very short-sighted indeed and will mislead us into undertaking an exercise that may not be acceptable or that may even sow the seeds of further problems. We need peace, lasting peace; and we must mobilize all our energies to achieve it. I believe it will take less time and effort to ask Chief Abiola to rule for four years than to sentence the mandate of June 12 to the archives. It will haunt you and dog all future elections because, believe me, you will find it difficult to get the people to accept the results of any elections you intend to hold. You therefore personally have a duty to educate the military and the power brokers in this country on the consequences of re-enacting 1964.
I would crave your indulgence to send copies of this letter to the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Chief Ernest Shonekan, the Service Chiefs, the President of the Senate and Speaker
of the House, leaders of the two political parties and to General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida himself for their information.
Yours very sincerely,
Prince Tony Momoh
Minister of Information (1986 – 1990)