June 12, 1993 goes down in Nigeria’s political history as the day that Nigerians defied the odds to take part in an election that was widely adjudged to meet the international standards of transparency and won by the late Chief MKO Abiola.
In Nigeria on Sunday June 12, many commemorate the poll which was, however, annulled by the then military regime and the winner of the election, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola who died after being held in prison in 1994 under the orders of then military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (August 24, 1937 – July 7, 1998), often referred to as M. K. O. Abiola, was a popular Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Egba clan.
He ran for the presidency in 1993, and won, but remained President-Elect till his death, as he was denied his mandate when the election results were annulled by the preceding military president Ibrahim Babangida.
Chief MKO Abiola‘s memory is celebrated in Nigeria and internationally as June 12 remains a public holiday in some western states in Nigeria, there are also remembrance events arranged across Nigeria.
Abiola’s involvement in politics started early on in life when he joined the NCNC at age 19. In 1979, the military government kept its word and handed over power to the civilian. As Abiola was already involved in politics, he joined the ruling national party of Nigeria in 1980 and he was elected the chairman of his party. Re- election was done in 1983 and everything look promising because the president re elected was from Abiola’s party and based on the true transition to power in 1979; Abiola was eligible to go for the post of presidential candidate after the tenure of the re-elected president. However,his hope to become the president was shortly dashed away for the first time in 1983 when a military coup d’etat swept away the re- elected president of his party and ended civilian rule in the country.
After a decade of military rule, General Ibrahim Babanginda came under pressure to return democratic rule to Nigeria. After an aborted initial primary, Abiola stood for the presidential nomination of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and beat Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to secure the presidential nomination of the SDP ahead of the June 12th 1993 presidential elections.
For the 12 June 1993 presidential elections, Abiola‘s running mate was Baba Gana Kingibe. He 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 opponents home state.
President-Elect Abiola won on the national capital, Abuja, the military polling stations, and over two-thirds of Nigerian states.
However, the election was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, a political crisis that ensued which led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.
In 1994 President-Elect Moshood Abiola declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island.
After declaring himself president he was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of military President General Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody. MKO Abiola has been referred to as Nigeria’s greatest statesman.
Moshood Abiola was detained for four years, largely in solitary confinement.
President-Elect Abiola died under extremely suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of General Abacha.

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