Being the full report of the meeting between Mr. Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary-General, his Commonwealth of Nations counterpart, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola during the struggle to actualise the June 12, 1993 presidential election mandate won by Chief Abiola, believed to be free, fair and most transparent, only to be annulled by the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida.
He was later arrested by the military junta of General Sani Abacha which ousted the Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan, hurriedly put in place as General Babangida was stepping aside after 8 years as military president. Abiola was charged with treason, detained in military confinement, tried, and later died in custody after several years of incarceration.
The meeting with Kofi Annan as recounted by Abiola himself
I never met Kofi Annan before. In fact, I never knew that Boutros Ghali was no longer UN Secretary-General. Annan was sure I knew him and for the first 30 minutes, I did not know who I was talking to. In the circumstances, I had to tell him that I had no access to any media for four years and was out of date.
He got the message and then introduced himself and intimated to me the many steps he has taken for my release since 18 months in office.
Next, he told me the new head of state had agreed to release me unconditionally but Abubakar wanted an undertaking that I should not seek for my mandate. I told him at that point that, that in itself is the worst of conditions. He, the head of state, felt that any such renewed request will only cause “confusion” as it would not have any effect.
Annan told me that nobody in the international community will recognise me on the basis of a five-year old mandate, insinuating that but for the purported annulment, I would have finished the first term covered by my election of June 12, 1993. He ended by saying that such undertaking will facilitate my release. I interjected that my detention would have ended ages ago if I had given such undertaking.
I thanked him for his efforts on my behalf. I told him firmly that I can give no such undertaking as requested because it will be worse than useless. My declaration was made in public at a mass rally at Epetedo, Lagos, before thousands of people despite the heavy downpour of that evening. It was made in clear terms, without any ambiguity. I then surrendered myself for arrest and was put on trial, which continued until my affidavit of October 4, 1994 showed the federal military government in a no-win situation.
Nothing on June 12 has been done “under the table” or at a “secret meeting” because June 12 is the number one public matter in our country. Even the counting of votes was done openly and in public at every one of the over 209,000 voting centres throughout the nation.
Secondly, given a “private declaration” to secure my own release will make all concerned look cheap. Such “declaration” obtained under duress will not only be worthless but unworthy of all who are involved with it. Since the issue relates to the mandate of all Nigerian people, such a private statement will amount to “shaving our people’s heads in their absence” – an exercise in illusion.
On the issue of non-recognition because of the elapse of time, I told Annan that I do not believe it. And the case for my recognition by the London Times of last Friday (July 3, 1998) proved me right. If what Annan said were true, it would amount to a person (the federal military government) being allowed to profit from his illegal action – the purported annulment which they had no power to do with decree and four-year detention – another illegality.
My own concession on the issue of declaration in my statement to him is that I will not make any fresh declaration.
Firstly, because it will not be necessary anymore since the first one of June 11, 1994 has served the purpose fully to keep June 12 alive. I told him that the state in which June 12 is now is such that I can now, on my release, take time to check my health locally and abroad, rebuild the cohesion of my family which has become tattered by the events of the past five years in general and the brutal assassination of my senior wife, Kudi and of course, breathe life into my business. This is because June 12 is today a major world issue, compared with the situation four years ago when it was in a coma.
Meeting with Emeka Anyaoku
The same grounds were covered, so all t he above comments were also relevant.
In fact, I believe the Federal Military Government “used” the two men to fly their kite on “declaration” which was the main issue they both said worried the FMG. Both diplomats appear to have co-ordinated their positions.
Chief Anyaoku made the additional point that he had sought legal opinion and it was confirmed to him that the five-year lapse has killed the mandate. My answer to that is that, in the court of public opinion, legal advice is useless. Which country has ever solved her political problems by seeking legal advice? And what do the masses of our people know of “legal advice?” He also said he had met people like Shonekan. I told him that all these “big men” do not carry weight with the people and that Shonekan particularly cannot win a ward councilor election in Itoko ward in Abeokuta South local government whee he comes from! He must not rely too much on such people!
Again, the London Times piece is enough to debunk his “legal opinion.” I asked him pointedly what made it his business to seek legal advice?
The two of them were working as agents of the Federal Military Government whether they are paid or not, beyond the free (not clear) and hotel (not clear) I won’t know! And that is not our business either!
Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku issued a statement on July 16 saying that the suggestion made in some newspapers that he was invited to Nigeria by the Federal Military Government to put pressure on Chief Abiola to renounce his mandate was a “mischievous distortion.”
The purpose of his visit, he said, was to discuss recent developments with the new Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar and urge a speedy movement in Nigeria to a credible democracy, beginning with the release of Chief Abiola and all the other detainees.
Answering a question about Abiola’s mandate at a press conference in Lagos following their meeting, Anyaoku stated: “Chief Abiola will speak for himself about his mandate when he becomes a free man.” The statement said Anyaoku had received the news of Chief Abiola’s death with great shock and deep personal sadness and rejected as utterly misleading the recent negative comments about their final meeting.
– Compiled by Emmanuel Edukugho