A retired judge, Dahiru Saleh, who was the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in 1993, has revealed that he pronounced the annulment of the June 12 presidential election, with no pressure from the then military ruler, Ibrahim Babangida.
Even though Babangida has personally took responsibility for the annulment of the election, which was won by the late MKO Abiola, Saleh insists the former Head of State should not be blamed for the decision.
He said Babangida did not force the judgement on him.
“The former president did nothing of the sort,” he told The Interview magazine.
“There were so many cases and I cannot remember all the cases offhand. There was the case against MKO Abiola and it was before one of my judges; she was Igbo but I can’t remember her name. She started the case, then fell sick and was flown out of the country for treatment.
“Then there was another case against him (MKO Abiola) and I had to transfer the case from the other judge’s court to my court. During that time it turned out that Abiola didn’t even finish the case before he disappeared. Later, I learnt he had been arrested by authorities.”
Abiola under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) defeated Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in the election adjudged the most credible in Nigeria’s history.
The cancellation of the election before the final announcement of results however caused chaos in the country for months, as many Nigerians took to the streets in protest for days.
Saleh said Abiola had the option of appealing the judgment but refused to do so.
He said: “If Abiola wasn’t happy with the case, he could have appealed it to the Court of Appeal, to the Supreme Court.
“The judicial system was still open but he chose not to follow it. Why no one followed up the annulment of the election in the higher courts is best known to members of Abiola’s party at that time.
“If he, as an individual, was not interested, there must have been other people who would be interested to see the end of the story but they didn’t appeal.
“But the point is, in those days, the Yorubas wanted Abiola to become president; he was seen as a kind and considerate man to every Tom, Dick and Harry.
“Unfortunately, he wanted to be the president but he couldn’t be. While the political blame must be on President Babangida, he (Babangida) did nothing of the sort to stop him, using my court.”
Saleh further said his relationship with Babangida at the time was purely official, adding that he was not personally close to him.
“I think I was in service when I first came to know him. I can’t remember the time.
“But I only came to know him well after his retirement. I was already Chief Judge when he was president. He came and met me there and he left me there. But while he was in office, we had no personal relationship. He was my boss; I was his subject,” he said.
Saleh, however, stressed that he would make the same decision if the situation presented itself again.
“And I have no regrets, none whatever. No regrets. I would repeat the same thing now,” he said.