The history of the struggle for Nigeria's true democracy as experienced in the June 12, 1993 election is one that reverberates the genes of every true patriotic citizen.
From facts, the presidential election was held on the said date, the first since the 1983 military coup ended the country's Second Republic. This was a transitional process from military rule to civilian rule.
Foreign and local observers described it as the freest and fair elections that were ever held in Nigeria.
However, the results of the election were annulled. The unofficial result of the election, though not declared by the electoral body, indicated a victory for Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC).
This unleashed a robust assemblage of agitators, who called for the reversal of the annulment and the eventual enthronement of democracy.
These actors were unarguably the men and women who kept the popular imagination alive about the June 12 saga, both during the heady days of the infamous annulment and long after when democracy had been restored.
This piece is a tribute to the gone heroes of the June 12 elections who either died with the struggle or years later (up to 2021).
One of the wives of MKO Abiola, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola became a martyr of the June 12 struggle. She paid the ultimate price for the struggle when she was assassinated on June 4, 1996, in Lagos.
She was relentless in her campaign for the release of her husband from prison and the actualisation of Hope 93.
However, the military government at the time could not stomach her activism. She became a thorn in their flesh as she espoused the ideal of democratic values and stood solidly behind her husband and the Nigerian people who voted for him.
Chief financier of the National Democratic Coalition, Chief Alfred Rewane was murdered on October 6, 1966, in his residence at Ikeja.
He was a staunch believer in progressive politics and democratic ideals. Pro-democracy meetings were regularly held in his house.
Rewane had a long-standing relationship with Chief Obafemi Awolowo which established him in the direction of progressive politics even as he was a known businessman and industrialist.
But it was in his politics and activism for the realisation of June 12 that he lost his life in a gruesome manner.
Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, a Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist, led the fight against the cancellation of the 12 June, 1993 presidential election and the subsequent detention of the election's victor, Chief Moshood Abiola.
His passport was subsequently seized on many occasions; his residence and chambers were ransacked several times. He was beaten up repeatedly and was exiled from one part of the country to another to prevent him from being listened to by the masses.
Some of his books, which the military junta did not like, were confiscated and one of his Lagos houses where his law books were kept was about to be set ablaze when the would-be perpetrators were caught and apprehended by neighbours.
Yet he was undaunted and until his death on September 5, 2009, he continued to take on the ruling class.
Another Nigerian activist from a significant family is Bekololari Ransome-Kuti, a physician and civil rights activist who died of lung cancer on February 10, 2006, at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos.
His mother, Funmilayo Kuti, was among those who negotiated Nigerian independence with the British, and his father, the Rev Oladotun Ransome-Kuti, founded the Nigerian Union of Teachers.
Ransome-Kuti completed his medical training at the University of Manchester, Manchester, UK, in 1963. As chairman of the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, and later its national deputy, he campaigned for greater investment and equity in the Nigerian healthcare system.
Beko moved from medicine to human rights. He helped form the Campaign for Democracy, Nigeria's first human rights organisation. In 1993, when a return to civilian rule failed and the winner of the election, Chief Moshood Abiola, was jailed, the Campaign for Democracy was at the forefront of the opposition against the new dictatorship of General Sani Abacha.
Until Abacha's death and the return of civil rule to Nigeria in 1998, Ransome-Kuti and others were repeatedly arrested and detained. After the death of Abacha, Ransome-Kuti was released and continued his activism, helping to ensure the return of civilian rule to Nigeria.
Chief Abraham Adesanya was a Nigerian politician, lawyer, activist, welfarist, and liberal progressive until his death on 27th April 2008 at the age of 85.
He was among some of the few Nigerian pro-democracy campaigners who did not flee the country during the June 12 crisis despite the personal danger to their lives.
As deputy leader of NADECO, he stayed at home and fought against both Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Gen. Sani Abacha on the annulment of June 12 election results even after his NADECO leader, Chief Anthony Enahoro, had been hounded abroad.
He was uncompromising and became a thorn to the maximum dictators. A man of progressive political inclination, he had been active from the days of Action Group in the late 1950s and remained so until his death. He narrowly escaped death at the hands of Abacha’s death squad, which shot at him and his driver.
Prof. Omo Omoruyi, was the Director-General, Centre for Democratic Studies.Omoruyi was a friend to both Abiola and Babangida and often acted as a go-between for the two.
In an interview, Omoruyi said it was from him that Abiola got the encouragement to run for president when he wasn’t so sure if Babangida was really serious about relinquishing power or wanted to transform into a democratic president.
Omoruyi actually fell out with Babangida for not honouring his word on June 12 and making Abiola president. It soured their relationship for a long time; he was privy to some of the internal wrangling within the military and among the northern establishment about a power shift from the north to the south and the consequent denial that Abiola suffered.
There was an attempt to assassinate Professor Omoruyi in Benin City on February 3, 1994, by unknown assassins believed to be working for the state under the General Sani Abacha regime because of his articles which criticised the regime and the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by the late Abiola.
Omoruyi, however, died of cancer in 2013.
Former Military Governor of Imo State, 1975, and Lagos State, 1976, Rear Admiral Ndubisi Kanu, served as the ex-administrator, a chieftain of the pro-democracy group, the National Democratic Coalition
He was also part of those who fought for the revalidation of the late Moshood Abiola’s annulled June 12, 1993, presidential mandate.He was the chairman of NADECO’s Action Committee, which organised and participated in protest marches and public sensitisation activities.
He was among those, who signed an ultimatum for the General Sani Abacha regime to revalidate Abiola’s mandate and hand over power to him, which brought about one of the most vicious crackdowns by a regime in peacetime Nigeria.Kanu died on January 13, 2021, at an undisclosed hospital after a brief illness
Chief Adekunle Ajasin was a Nigerian politician who was elected Governor of Ondo State from October 1979 to October 1983.
Ajasin was a leader of the National Democratic Coalition popularly known as NADECO in Nigeria. The coalition was formed to bring an end to the military government of Abacha and the regime to honour the electoral mandate given to Abiola.
In 1995, he was arrested by the military government of Abacha along with 39 other activists for holding an illegal political meeting. He died on the 3rd of October 1997 at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital.
Former governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa, was also at the forefront of the struggle against the annulment of the result of the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
In an interview he granted in 2020, Musa said the annulment of the election, believed to have been won by the late MKO Abiola, is responsible for the many challenges facing the country today.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for honouring the late Abiola, saying Buhari should complete the task he started by investigating the circumstances leading to the annulment and “punish those responsible effectively”.
He said bringing the perpetrators to justice would serve as a deterrent to others who may want to do the same.
“The President should complete the task he started by investigating the circumstances that lead to the annulment of June 12, those responsible for the annulment and punish them effectively, so that it will not happen again,” he said.Musa died in November 2020.
Former spokesperson for Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin is also identified as one of the deceased heroes of the 1993 struggle. Odumakin was a core activist who started his activism at the university and served as the Public Relations Officer of Obafemi Awolowo University Students’ Union.
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana stated that Odumakin was among the young men and women who mobilised the Nigerian people to terminate military rule in Nigeria following the annulment of the June 12 election won by MKO Abiola.
Odumakin died in April 2021 at the intensive care unit of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital where he was being managed for respiratory issues due to complications from COVID-19.