The Significance of June 12 in Nigerian and African Democracies

Ogunsakin Mustapha
3 Min Read

By Abubakar Hashim

Today, June 12, 2023, marks exactly 30 years when General Ibrahim Babangida, then Military President of Nigeria, conducted the most credible elections in, not only Nigeria, but in the entire African continent.

The two leading political parties that contested the June 12, 1993 elections, the Social Democratic Party SDP of late Chief MKO Abiola and the National Republican Convention NRC of late Alhaji Bashir Tofa, were both the creation of General Babangida.
The elections were conducted by the then National Electoral Commission NEC, chaired by Prof Humphrey Nwosu.

Significance of June 12 to African Democracies

The electorates vote for service delivery motives, not on religion, ethnic colourations. June 12, 1993 election was won on a Muslim/Muslim Presidential Ticket, just as in the last February 12, 2023 elections.
African countries need service delivery of basic infrastructural necessities, clean water, light, good roads, quality education, etc.

In West Africa, three countries are currently governed by the military – Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso.
Sierra Leone will be going to the polls on June 24, 2023, just 12 days away. Liberia, too, will hold its elections on 10 October, 2023.

The legacy of June 12 elections in Nigeria, celebrated today, as “Democracy Day”, must be replicated in all African countries heading toward elections, that service to the people is paramount, instead of sentimental considerations like religion or ethnicity.

When Babangida cancelled the June 12, 1993 elections in Nigeria, the country was on the brink of collapse. Babangida, in a moment of modesty, then, admitted that he was the problem as the country had defied solutions.

I recall, with nostalgia, a cover report by the News Magazine in 1993, edited by Bayo Onanuga, with headline:
Babangida: Defeated by Nigeria. That publication caused panic and uproar.
Late Chief MKO Abiola asked Bayo to apologise to Babangida to douse the tension. Bayo, to the amazement of all, refused to apologise and instead, resigned and wished late Abiola well in his future endeavours. Since then, I admired Bayo for a principled stance! I boarded the next Nigeria Airways flight from Lagos, back to Freetown. Abiola did not live long enough to see and reap the “future endeavours.”

As Nigeria celebrates June 12 democracy day today, African countries, particularly the two West African countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia, that are conducting elections in the next few weeks, should emulate the symbolic significance of June 12, in order to uphold the sacred tenets of democratic principles to achieve economic developments, particularly basic needs of the people….

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