Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Cautionary tale from Nigeria 1993

Before we get overly excited about the results of the most recent presidential election in Nigeria, let's remember what happened in 1993. (The Wikipedia account is a mismash of contradictory statements that's often the result of articles by multiple authors working without editors. The basic facts match with what I've read in several textbooks.)

Moshood Abiola


Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (24 August 1937 – 7 July 1998)... was a popular Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Yoruba Egba clan. He ran for the presidency in 1993, and is widely regarded as the presumed winner of the inconclusive election since no official final results were announced. He died in 1998, after being denied victory when the entire election results were dubiously annulled by the preceding military president Ibrahim Babangida because of alleged evidence that they were corrupt and unfair…

For the 12 June 1993 presidential elections, Abiola… overwhelmingly defeated his rival, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. The election was declared Nigeria's freest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponent's home state. Abiola won at the national capital, Abuja, the military polling stations, and over two-thirds of Nigerian states. The reason why the election was so historic, was because men of Northern descent had largely dominated Nigeria's political landscape since independence. The fact that Moshood Abiola (a Southern Muslim) was able to secure a national mandate freely and fairly remains unprecedented in Nigeria's history. However, the election was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, a political crisis that ensued which led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year…

Abiola died under suspicious circumstances... on the day that he was due to be released, on 7 July 1998.[22] While the official autopsy stated that Abiola died of natural causes, Abacha's Chief Security Officer, al-Mustapha has alleged that Moshood Abiola was in fact beaten to death... The final autopsy report, which was produced by a group of international coroners has never been publicly released...

As recounted at the time in a BBC interview with special envoy Thomas R. Pickering, an American delegation, which included Susan Rice, visited Abiola and during their meeting with him, Abiola fell ill, with what was presumed to be a heart attack which caused his death.

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