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Nine Dates That Politically Defined Nigeria In The Nineties

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Get ready for some history lessons! Nigeria from before the 1990s, had coups all over the country and its rulers kept changing. This political instability had already begun from the 1960s where Nigeria had gained its independence from Great Britain. The chain of coups had already begun then.It was no different during the 1990s. At the beginning of the 1990s, Ibrahim Babangida was in rule. He succeeded a coup on August 27, 1985 against Buhari. And from the beginning of Babaginda’s rule to the end of the decade with Obasanjo surprisingly democratically in charge, there were 10 dates in all that in effect defined the era and consequently decided the ones after it.
1. April 22 1990: Coup lead by Gideon Orkar, a junior military officer that failed but almost killed Babangida. More than 200 soldiers were sentenced to death then executed. Unlike the other coups, this coup was heavily funded by civilians, implying that the civilians wanted change in the government.
2.June 12 1993: It was the date set aside for the presidential elections, signalling the return of civilian rule. But confusion over the election meant that only around 30% of the registered electorate actually voted. The initial results from the elections indicted that Chief Moshood Abiola had won the majority of votes in 19 states and he declared himself president. A couple of days later, however, the results were annulled by the ruling National Defence and Security Council, and Mr Babangida said that the polls had been marred by widespread irregularities. The annulment of the election was condemned internationally.3. August 26 1993: Babangida steps down by naming an interim government of his own choice, headed by Ernest A. Shonekan. Chief Shonekan was to supervise the organisation of local elections to be held later in 1993 and a presidential election to be held in early 1994. However, within a couple of months, Mr Shonekan was overthrown by General Sani Abacha, the vice-president.
4. November 17, 1993: Sani Abacha overthrew Shonekan, initially promising to return the government to civilian rule within two years. However he dismantled all elected institutions, terminated all national and state assemblies, closed independent publications, banned all political activity, and suspended the constitution.5. March 1, 1995: Attempted coup by Lawan Gwadabe. Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Musa Yar’Adua were also suspected in aiding the coup and were sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment for it.
6. May 21 1994: Four Ogoni chiefs were murdered. Environmentalist Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other leaders were arrested being accused of the crime and were sentenced to death by hanging. Opposition came from all over the world, especially because it was obvious that the trial was rigged and later it was found out that the Nigerian government bribed witnesses. This shocked the world, and led to the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth.
7. June 8, 1998: Abacha died of a heart attack at the age of 54. Opposition to Abacha’s rule had been mounting more and more in recent months, because it was suspected that he did not intend to step down despite his promises to hand over to civilian rule on August 1, 1998. Demonstrations and riots had broken out, and many were killed.8. July 7 1998: Moshood Abiola died in detention of a heart disease before he could be released in a general amnesty for political prisoners. Abiola had been declared the winner of the 1993 elections which was annulled. But after continuously opposing the military government and parading himself as the legitimate Nigerian ruler, he was thrown into prison. The suspicious circumstances surrounding his death led to rioting in Lagos led to over 60 deaths.
9. May 29 1999: Former Military Head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, is sworn in as Nigeria’s democratically elected civilian President.Photo Credit: Getty

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