Few days after President Buhari conferred national honour on late MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election which was annulled by former military dictator, Ibrahim Babangida, Nigerians who played active roles in the struggles that followed the annulment have continued to speak on the event which remarkably marked a turning point in the country’s history.
Olisa Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association and active participant in the struggle spoke about the event in an interview with The Punch.
Agbakoba who is also a human rights activists also narrated how former late dictator, Sani Abacha convoy drove through human barricade that want to stop him from entering Lagos.
He alleged that instead of turning back, the late dictator’s convoy drove through the barricade, killing 120 protesters on the way.
He said: “We were waiting for the results to be collated by each of the returning officers and the declaration to be made by Prof. Nwosu, but suddenly there was commotion and there was no collation. Then, there was a period when people were wondering what was happening until Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (the then Head of State) made a broadcast saying, ‘Yes, the election was free and fair but there were very compelling reasons why the military will not be able to support the result and I hereby annul the election’.
“That led to the reactions by the international community and civil society movements, such as ours. We started to protest. There were lots of movements that went on the streets, protesting and saying ‘On June 12 we stand.’ And then, the crackdown started.
“Then M.K.O. Abiola made the famous declaration and then they looked for him. In the meantime, various movements had been having lots of discussion with Abiola at his residence. We were planning strategies and looking for the best way to validate June 12.
“There were very big protests which Beko and I led at Eko Bridge and we could have lost our lives but for the late Admiral Mike Akhigbe, who was on the bridge because our boys had blocked Gen. Sani Abacha at the airport. We said he could not come in into Lagos.
“At that time, although Abuja was the official capital, Lagos was still where they resided to do their work and business. Abacha killed about 120 of our members that day, driving through the human barricade we had formed. He broke the barricade and went into Dodan Barracks.
“Yes, 120. I saw them. We were shocked; they were brutally brought down by his security men. Our boys had built a big human barricade. Initially, when they came in, all of them were at the airport wondering what to do.
“Going further, he added that: “When Abacha came, he stayed for a while (there) and suddenly made the decision to move. I’m not sure whether Abacha gave that directive directly but I’m clear that that was the number of people that went down that day. Meanwhile, we were on the other side of the demonstration.
“The tail end of the demonstration was at the airport but we were already on Eko Bridge, and down Apongbon, that descent, tanks came out. I remember one of us jumping off the bridge straight down and as soon as he hit the ground, there was blood everywhere.
He was dead. So, there was a stalemate. We couldn’t move forward because of the tanks and we refused to go back. So, Akhigbe came. He was a member of the Armed Forces Ruling Council.
“He told his commanding officer to go back and that he would handle it. He then told us not to worry. He said we should trust him and that he would have the whole thing sorted out. We said alright and dispersed. But unfortunately, Akhigbe didn’t do anything.”