Ernest Shonekan
Ernest Shonekan

By Eric Teniola

This is the concluding part of this piece which last week revealed why Obasanjo declined to head the ING set up by IBB but urged Gen Yar’Adua to resist Abacha’s membership of the interim government YAR’ADUA reluctantly agreed to Abacha’s retention as he did not want to give Babangida a pretext to remain in power.

The Tripartite Committee recommended an ING to be led by civilians, but with military representatives. The head of the ING was to be the head of state and chairman of the ING. Nebulously, the ING chairman’s powers as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces were to reside in the National Defence Council and the National Security Council. The ING was to take off on or before August 27, 1993, and would stay in office until December 31,1994. However, its duration was shortened, with its terminal date being brought forward to March 1994.

The NDSC accepted the Tripartite Committee’s recommendations with a few amendments. A small band of hardliners urged Babangida to stay on. Some planned to use the Senate to pass a motion calling for an extension of Babangida’s tenure. The Senate president, Iyorchia Ayu, was impeached by the Senate for opposing moves to extend Babangida’s tenure beyond August 27. This was the first time that a Senate president had been impeached in Nigeria’s history.

A politician, Mohammed Arzika, said that “it is a sad commentary on the political environment of the country … that being principled and honest is considered something unbecoming that should be gotten rid of”.Finally out of options, Babangida announced on August 17,1993 that he would “step aside” as “a personal sacrifice”. The Tripartite Committee members and stakeholders signed a document agreeing to create the ING. Those who signed on behalf of the Federal Military Government included Admiral Augustus Aikhomu (retired) – Vice President; Lt-General Joshua Dogonyaro – Commandant of the Command and Staff College, Jaji ; Lt -General Aliyu Mohammed – National Security Adviser; Brigadier David Mark-National War College, Abuja; Brigadier John Shagaya – GOC, Ist Division, Kaduna; Brigadier Anthony Ukpo – Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna;  Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene – Secretary for Internal Affairs in the Transitional Council.On behalf of the SDP: Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (retired); Tony Anenih – SDP National Chairman; Alhaji Sule Lamido – National Secretary of the SDP; Dr. Okechukwu Odunze – SDP National Treasurer; Jim Nwobodo; Alhaji Olusola Saraki, Dapo Sarumi, Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, Amos Idakula and Alhaji Abubakar Rimi. Prominent among those who signed for the NRC were: Dr Hammed Kusamotu – NRC National Chairman; Okey Nzoho – NRC National Publicity Secretary; Tom Ikimi, Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, Joe Nwodo, Theo Nkire, Professor Eyo Ita, Dr. Bawa Salka, Prince Bola Afonja, Alhaji Y. Anka, Abba Muritala, Halilu Maina and Alhaji Muktari A. Mohammed. Other signatories were Alhaji Ramalam, Ahaji Halimu Maina and Joseph Toba.

A remarkable aspect of the ING’s emergence is that many of those behind its formation were unelected, while the majority of those who had been elected (Abiola, the National Assembly and state governors) played little or no part in its creation. The ING was imposed on the polity and nation without the consent of the overwhelming majority of both constituencies. The ING was unique. It was the only government in Nigeria’s history that was not the product of a coup or election. On August 26, 1993, Babangida “stepped aside”. He stood down after eight years in power and retired with his service chiefs (Lt-General Ibrahim, Air Vice-Marshal Akin Dada, Vice-Admiral Dan Preston Omatsola and Aliyu Attah). He left the crisis-racked country to an uncertain future in the hands of an ING headed by the chairman of  the Transitional Council, Ernest Shonekan. Shonekan was the former chief executive of the multi-national United Africa Company. His selection was strategic. Like Abiola he was an Egba Yoruba from Abeokuta.

The military knew that Shonekan would be regarded as a traitor by other Yorubas for agreeing to lead the ING after the voiding of an election won by a fellow Yoruba. Even though Babangida had officially retired, Shonekan was perceived as a puppet being controlled by Babangida from behind the scenes. In a last-ditch attempt at continuity, Babangida left his loyalists in charge of key military units. Lt-Generals Joshua Dogonyaro (Chief of Defence Staff), Aliyu Mohammed (Chief of Army Staff) and Brigadier John Shagaya (GOC, 11 Division) were left behind to watch Shonekan. The Defence Secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Sani Abacha, also retained his position and was the only military member of the ING.

Babangida stood down with the military’s reputation at an all time low. When he came to power he was seen as a visionary benevolent leader with foresight, a reform agenda, finesse and a forward thinking economic blueprint. Yet he left office eight years later with his reputation mutilated and became (at that time) the most unpopular military leader in Nigeria’s history.

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