Outrage and condemnations yesterday trailed Justice Dahiru Saleh’s comment that he, not former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida, annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election. The election has been acclaimed the freest and fairest in the nation’s political annal.
The controversial former judge who broke his 23-year studied silence when he spoke with The Interview magazine, absolved Babangida of any blame, even when the retired army general had severally accepted responsibility for the annulment of the election won by the late businessman, Chief MKO Abiola.
Saleh maintained he had no regrets whatsoever cancelling the June 12 polls. “And I have no regrets, none whatever. No regrets. I would repeat the same thing now.
“The former president did nothing of the sort,” he said when asked if Babangida forced the judgment on him.
The cancellation of the election prior to the final announcement of results threw the country into months of chaos as angry Nigerians resisted the decision.
But Saleh, who was the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court at the time, blamed the late Abiola and the defunct Social Democratic Party on which platform he vied for not challenging the judgment.
“If Abiola wasn’t happy with the case, he could have appealed it to the Court of Appeal, to the Supreme Court,” he said .
“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 reaction to the statement, Ijeje James told Saleh to tell his tales to the wind. “You will pay for the confusion you and your group caused,” he added.
Leading lawyers and Senior Advocate, Emeka Ngige Emeka Ngige and Femi Falana also reacted.
“Some people would do something grievously wrong, they would be remorseful thereafter; others may do worse and remain brazenly defiance. So, the issue of the role he played in the annulment of that election and what he was reportedly said is matter conscience,” Ngige who said Saleh had already been punished by the National Judicial Council (NJC) for official misconduct said.
According to Ngige, when the report of Justice Eso panel was revisited, although he had retired from the bench, his retirement was committed to compulsory retirement, having been indicted for misconduct on the bench.
As far as Falana is concerned, “it is grossly incorrect to say that it was not the Babangida junta which annulled the June 12 election and that Chief Abiola and his party did not file an appeal against the ruling.”
He cautioned Saleh against giving the “dangerous impression that it was the judiciary which annulled the election.
More so, that it has since been confirmed that the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) was set up and funded by the military junta to sabotage the political transition programme and thereby prolong military rule in Nigeria.
President of the Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Malachi Ughamadu described Saleh’s comments as a failed attempt to re-write history declaring that it was too late.
The right activist and lawyer expressed consolation in the revelations from the principal actors in the June 12, 1993 election annulment saga.
Gani Adams, national coordinator, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) described Saleh’s statement as provocative. He regretted that the ruling effectively truncated the progress of Nigeria for many years and called on Nigerians to demand an immediate apology from the retired judge.
When contacted, a shocked Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said he did not know what to say. “He knows whether he took the decision based on the law or pressure. Today, people we used to call our lord justices have now become our lord
injustices. I will like to listen to the man and shake his hands.”
On his part, Balarabe Musa, also a former governor said he was not surprised by Saleh’s attempt to justify his decision.
“You must know that he is a judge and he takes decisions. He said that thinking that he must have taken the decision based on the law. If he took the decision on the basis of the law and the evidence before him, naturally he would say he has no regret even though the public may not be satisfied with the decision.
An online commentator at Tai28, said: “No court annulled June 12, the old man is talking garbage. The annulment was announced by unsigned statement from the ruling military council and IBB later came out to confirm it, that is why IBB is still been asked the reason why the election was annulled and he always say he takes responsibility for the action.”
Because Babangida was their “Boss”…it is therefore logical to say that the wishes of the “Boss” must be followed by the courts. But didn’t Babangida tell Nigerians that he accepts full responsibility for the June 12 saga?
Bitrous Ghali said it is only a mad man that doesn’t change his mind. After seeing the pain and the suffering your judgment brought, you still have the gut to say you have no regrets in terminating the people’s will. But why did you choose to bring curse on yourself? Wisdom would have taught you otherwise. So now that you’ve said this , have you not implied that may the blood of those killed be upon you? And I say Amen.
What galls me most about the June 12 crisis was not only about the injustice perpetrated against the generality Nigerians but the innocent Nigerians who lost their lives at that period and many journalists who were hounded and sent to the gulag. And this bastard has the temerity to say he has no regrets? I pray his children up to the fourth generation reap the fruits of his indiscretion committed both previously and now, and suffer injustice all their lives. What a nicompoop!