June 12: A watershed in Nigeria’s history

Arinze Asuzu, Abuja


On 12 June 1993, Nigeria held presidential elections, in 30 states of the country at that time.

Businessman, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, of the Social Democratic Party, who was popularly known as MKO, defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention.

However, the elections were annulled by military leader, Ibrahim Babangida.

Observers generally described the elections as free and fair, as there were hardly any reports of violence and vote-rigging in the election.

However, the election results were delayed after a spate of legal challenges in Nigerian courts.

The most significant lawsuit was filed by the Association for a Better Nigeria, a lobbying group of wealthy businessmen, politicians and military officers who had led a highly visible campaign urging General Babangida to remain in office, for at least four more years.

The annulment led to a crisis that resulted in Sani Abacha, leading a successful military coup, also in the same year, against  Ernest Shonekan, a civilian installed as interim leader, after Babangida stepped down.

The election remains a watershed in Nigeria’s political history for the following reasons:

  1. It was the first election in which Nigerians voted across ethnic and religious divides.
  2. It was the first election in Nigeria’s history that had a televised presidential debate since independence.
  3.  It was also the first election at which voters were influenced by the performance of a candidate during debate.
  4.  A credible, transparent and unique voting pattern termed Option A4 was used.
  5.  It was the first election in which results were announced at the polling unit.