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June 12: Why I annulled MKO’s election, by IBB

After several decades of infamously truncating a democratic transition he kicked off, ex-military dictator Ibrahim Babangida claims he annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential election with MKO Abiola in the clear lead to avert a violent coup.

Mr Babangida claimed in an ARISE TV interview aired on Friday that some elements in the military would have staged a violent coup if he did not annul the election.

“If it materialised, there would’ve been a coup d’état which could have been violent. That’s all I can confirm,” the ex-dictator explained.

“It didn’t happen thanks to the engineering and the ‘Maradonic’ way we handled you guys in the society,” Mr Babangida added with a tinge of disdain. But that could’ve given room for more instability in the country.”

Many Nigerians and the international community have treated Mr Babangida as an ignominious pariah after illegally annulling the presidential election considered the “freest and fairest” election in the country’s history.

The presidential election had pitted two Muslim candidates, Bashir Tofa (National Republican Convention) from the North and Mr Abiola (of the Social Democratic Party) from the South. Nigerians had trooped out in their thousands to cast their votes only to wake up to an announcement by Mr Babangida’s regime that it had cancelled the election.

Mr Abiola was widely believed to have won the election.

Widespread condemnations and protests followed the annulment forcing Mr Babangida to “step aside,” handing over power to Ernest Shonekan on August 27, 1993, as the head of the so-called Interim National Government.

Within a few weeks of being in power, a military coup that Mr Babangida claimed to have prevented occurred as Gen. Sani Abacha ousted Mr Shonekan.

Mr Abacha is seen as the most notorious military dictator to ever ruled Africa’s most populous nation.