Following the heroic and implacable stand of the SDP, as revealed by the comminique of the Benin Consultative Forum on July 4, 1993, the two political parties were summoned to the villa. Our team was led by Shehu Musa Yar ‘Adua and there were other nine principal officers of the party, and other leaders besides myself. These included Abubakar Rimi, A.K. Odunze, our National Treasurer; Amos Idakula, the National Publicity Secretary; Mr. Tofa, National Deputy Chairman; Alhaji Sule Lamido, the National Secretary; and Lateef Jakande.
The NRC delegation was led by Dr. Kusamotu. Other members of the NRC delegation included Chief Tom Ikimi. We sat in the hall, I later got to know was the Executive Council Chambers. At the meeting on the government side we Clement Akpamgbo the Attorney General; Service Chiefs, electoral commission officials, including the chairman and others. President Babaginda arrived with Admiral Aikhomu, Ernesr Shonekan and a few others.
Opening the discussion, President Babaginda said: “Gentlemen, I have come sincerely, honestly and committedly. I called you here because a problem has been created-the problem of the annulment. I thought I should call you so that we find a solution to the problem created as a result of the annulment. I am a most misunderstood Nigerian.” He told the meeting that the military would not accept Chief M.K.O. Abiola ans Alhaji Tofa as their bCommander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and that we should go and prepare for a fresh presidential election with new candidate. He directed the SDP and NRC should arrange fresh conventions to pick new candidates. He gave the two political partiessix weeks to conduct fresh primaries, confirm the nomination of their candidates and hold fresh elections-an action President Babaginda knew would not be possible. He called on the parties to comment.
Dr. Kasamotu, chairman of the NRC, spoke first. He said the NRC was prepared for fresh elections and wanted to know the date. I was stunned. I could not believe that Dr. Kusamotu could say that or speak in that vein. Though it was generally assumed that the NRC was a government party, never had support for the Government for whatever cause been so openly demonstrated by that party.
President Babaginda then turn to me and said, “Tony?” I was suprided a bit that he called me by my first name so personally and familiarly. I replied that we were not ready for fresh elections and we were rather demanding for the release of the June 12 election results. I stated that from the president’s own speech he had confirmed that Chief M.K.O Abiola was his friend and Tofa too. I also stated that Chief M.K.O. Abiola told me as the national chairman of the SDP that apart from getting clearance from the National Electoral Commission(NEC) to contest the election, President Babaginda himself also gave his clearance, promising to give him full backing.
I then asked:”Are you just knowing that Chief M.K.O Abiolawas not fit and proper person to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces?” President Babaginda replied, “not me” using his hands in gesticulation to show it was not his personal objection to Chief Abiola but that it was the middle cadre of the military officers that did not want Chief Abiola or Alhaji Bashir Tofa to be their Commander-in-Chief. I, therefore asked him for the reasons for this objection to Abiola and Tofa. At this point, the asked General Aliu Mohammed, later to be the National Security Adviser to President Obasanjo, to take me to his offer after the meeting to show me the dossiers on these two presidential candidates.
So, after the meeting, I followed General Aliu Mohammed to his office, but before then, as we got up at the end of the meeting, General Babaginda came around to shake my hands and thanked me for my contributions. It was at this junction I apoligized to him that we were meeting for the first time as i was out of the country during his state visit to Edo State which would have created the opportunity for our first meeting. Shonekan also came to shake me and thanked me for my contribution. He whispered into my ears that it was the first time somebody was talking to the president the way I did, and he left, Thereafter, I followed General Aliu Mohammed to his off where he showed me the file on Chief Abiola.
Culled from “My Life and Nigerian Politics.” By Chief Tony Anenih
(To be continued)