This is the speech that almost destroyed Nigeria in 1993

In the heat of the suspense that followed the 1993
presidential election declared as the freest and fairest
in Nigeria’s history, then head of state, General
Ibrahim Babangida, annulled the election in a
broadcast to the entire world.
This singular action gave birth to the various groups that
began the demand for democracy that finally came in 1999
after the death of General Sani Abacha. Abacha died in
office as the head of state on June 8, 1998.

Ibrahim Babangida, Moshood Abiola and Sani Abacha
Nigeria welcomed democracy with the swearing-in of Chief
Olusegun Obasanjo to the office on May 29, 1999.
Here is the speech by Babangida that almost swallowed
Fellow Nigerians:
I address you today with a deep sense of world history and
particularly of the history of our great country. In the
aftermath of the recently annulled Presidential Election, I
feel, as I believe you yourself feel, a profound sense of
disappointment at the outcome of our last efforts at laying
the foundation of a viable democratic system of
government in Nigeria.
I therefore wish, on behalf of myself and members of the
National Defence and Security Council and indeed of my
entire administration, to feel with my fellow countrymen
and women for the cancellation of the election. It was a
rather disappointing experience in the course of carrying
through the last election of the transition to civil rule
Nigeria has come a long way since this administration
assumed power and leadership about eight years ago. In
the attempt to grapple with the critical and monumental
problems and challenges of National existence and social
progress, this administration inaugurated and pursued
sound and justifiable policies and programmes of reform.
These policies and programmes have touched virtually all
aspects of our national life – the economy, political process,
social structures, external relations, bureaucracy and even
the family system. I believe strongly that in understanding,
conception, formulation and articulation, these policies and
programmes are not only sound but also comparatively
unassailable. I believe too that history, with the passage of
time, would certainly score the administration high in its
governance of our country.
Let me also express my deep conviction that the core
strategy and structures of our reform policies and
programmes, as enunciated in 1986/87 would, for a very
long time, remain relevant and durable in the course of
changing our country positively. I believe that at the exit of
the Administration from power, we would leave behind for
prosperity, a country with an economy, the structures of
which have been turned around for good. The average
Nigerian person has come to reconcile himself with the fact
that his or her social progress remain essentially in his or
her hands in collaboration with other fellow Nigerians and
not merely relying on what government alone could
provide for him or her. The days are gone for good, when
men and women trooped to government establishments for
employment and for benevolence.
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This administration has built the foundation that would take
Nigerians away from their previous colonially induced
motivations and the encumbrances of colonialism. We have
laid the foundation for self-reliant economic development
and social justice. We have established a new basis in our
country in which economic liberalization would continue to
flourish alongside democratic forces and deregulated
power structure. In all these, the average Nigerian person
has more than ever before this administration imbibed and
assimilated the values of hard work, resilience and self-
It is true that in the course of implementing our reform
policies and programmes and especially because of the
visionary zeal with which we approached the assignment
and responded to incidental pressures of governance, we
engendered a number of social forces in the country.
This is so because we sought to challenge and transform
extant social forces, which had in the past impeded growth
and development of our country. We also sought to deal
with the new forces to which our programmes of action
gave rise. Thus in dealing with the dynamics of both the old
and new social forces, we ran into certain difficulties.
In particular, during the course of handling the interlocking
relationships between the old and new political forces and
institutions, some problems had arisen leading us into a
number of difficulties and thereby necessitating our having
to tamper with the rules and regulations laid down in the
political programme. As a result, the administration
unwittingly attracted enormous public suspicions of its
intentions and objectives. Accordingly, we have
experienced certain shortfalls and conflicting responses to
the pulls and pushes of governance in the course of policy
I believe that areas of difficulties with the transition
programme, especially from the last quarter of 1992 to the
recent cancelled presidential election, derived primarily
from the shortfalls in implementing the programmes of
actions, which, though objectively taken, may have caused
a deviation from the original framework, and structure of
the programme.
Fellow Nigerians, it is true that by the cancelled presidential
election, we all found the nation at a peculiar bar of history
which was neither bargained for, nor was it envisaged in
the reform programmes of transition as enunciated in
1986/87. In the circumstance, the administration had no
option than to respond appropriately to the unfortunate
experience of terminating the presidential election. Our
actions are in full conformity with the original objectives of
the transition to civil programme. It was also in conformity
with the avowed commitment of the administration to
advance the cause of national unity, stability, and
democracy. In annulling the presidential election, this
administration was keenly aware of its promise in
November 1992 that it would disengage and institute a
return to democracy on August 27, 1993. We are
determined to keep the promise.
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Since this transition, and indeed any transition, must have
an end, I believe that our transition programme should and
must come to an end, honestly and honourably.
History will bear witness that as an administration we have
always striven, in all our policy decisions, to build the
foundation of lasting democracy. Lasting democracy is not
a temporary show of excitement and manipulation by an
over-articulate section of the elite and its captive audience;
lasting democracy is a permanent diet to nurture the soul
of the whole nation and the political process.
Therefore, it is logical, as we have always insisted upon,
that lasting democracy must be equated with political
Informed by our sad experience of history, we require
nothing short of a foundation for lasting democracy. As an
administration, we cannot afford to leave Nigerian into a
Third Republic with epileptic convulsions in its democratic
health. Nigeria must therefore confront her own reality; she
must solve her problems notwithstanding other existing
models of democracy in other parts of the world.
In my address to the nation in October 1992, when the first
presidential primaries were cancelled, I had cause to
remind our country men and women that there is nowhere
in the world in which the practice of democracy is the
same, even if the principles are similar and even for
countries sharing the same intellectual tradition and
cultural foundation. The history of our country is not the
history of any other country in the world, which is either
practicing advanced democracy or struggling to lay the
foundation for democracy. Yet, in spite of the uniqueness
and peculiarities of Nigeria, there are certain prerequisites,
which constitute an irreducible minimum for democracy.
Such essential factors include:
Free and fair elections;
Uncoerced expression of voters preference in election;
Respect for electorate as unfettered final arbiter on
Decorum and fairness on the part of the electoral umpires;
Absolute respect for the rule of law.
Fellow Nigerians, you would recall that it was precisely
because the presidential primaries of last year did not meet
the basic requirements of free and fair election that the
Armed Forces Ruling Council, the, had good reason to
cancel those primaries. The recently annulled presidential
election was similarly afflicted by these problems.
Even before the presidential elections, and indeed at the
party conventions, we had full knowledge of the bad signals
pertaining to the enormous breach of the rules and
regulations of democracy elections. But because we were
determined to keep faith with the deadline of 27th August
1993 for the return of civil rule, we overlooked the reported
breaches. Unfortunately, these breaches continued into the
presidential election of June 12, 1993, on an even greater
There were allegations of irregularities and other acts of
bad conduct leveled against the presidential candidates but
NEC went ahead and cleared them. There were proofs as
well as documented evidence of widespread use of money
during the party primaries as well as the presidential
election. These were the same bad conduct for which the
party presidential primaries of 1992 were cancelled.
Evidence available to government put the total amount of
money spent by the presidential candidates as over two
billion, one hundred million naira (N2.1 billion). The use of
money was again the major source of undermining the
electoral process.
Both these allegations and evidence were known to the
National Defence and Security Council before the holding of
the June 12, 1993 election, the National Defence and
Security Council overlooked these areas of problems in its
determination to fulfill the promise to hand over to an
elected president on due date.
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Apart from the tremendous negative use of money during
the party primaries and presidential elections, there were
moral issues, which were also overlooked by the Defence
and National Security Council.
There were cases of documented and confirmed conflict of
interest between the government and both presidential
aspirants, which would compromise their positions, and
responsibilities were they to become president. We believe
that politics and government are not ends in themselves.
Rather, service and effective amelioration of the condition
of our people must remain the true purpose of politics.
It is true that the presidential election was generally seen to
be free, fair and peaceful. However, there was in fact a
huge array of election malpractices virtually in all the states
of the federation before the actual voting began. There
were authenticated reports of the election malpractices
against party agents, officials of the National Electoral
Commission and also some members of the electorate.
If all of these were clear violations of the electoral law there
were proofs of manipulations through offer and acceptance
of money and other forms of inducement against officials
of the National Electoral Commission and members of the
electorate. There were also evidence of conflict in the
process of authentication and clearance of credentials of
the presidential candidates. Indeed, up to the last few
hours to the election, we continued in our earnest
steadfastness with our transition deadline, to overlook vital
For example, following the council’s deliberation, which
followed the court injunction suspending the election,
majority of members of the National Defence and Security
Council supported postponement of the election by one
week. This was to allow NEC enough time to reach all the
voters, especially in the rural areas, about the
postponement. But persuaded by NEC that it was capable
of relaying the information to the entire electorate within
the few hours left before the election, the council,
unfortunately, dropped the idea of shifting the voting day.
Now, we know better. The conduct of the election, the
behaviour of the candidates and post-election responses
continued to elicit signals, which the nation can only ignore
at its peril.
It is against the foregoing background that the
administration became highly concerned when these
political conflicts and breaches were carried to the court.
It must be acknowledged that the performance of the
judiciary on this occasion was less than satisfactory. The
judiciary has been the bastion of the hopes and liberties of
our citizens.
Therefore, when it became clear that the courts had
become intimidated and subjected to the manipulation of
the political process, and vested interests then the entire
political system was in clear dangers.
This administration could not continue to watch the various
high courts carry on their long drawn out processes and
contradictory decisions while the nation slides into chaos.
It was under this circumstance that the National Defence
and Security Council decided that it is in the supreme
interest of law and order, political stability and peace that
the presidential election be annulled. As an administration,
we have had special interest and concern not only for the
immediate needs of our society, but also in laying the
foundation for generations to come.
To continue action on the basis of the June 12, 1993
election, and to proclaim and swear in a president who
encouraged a campaign of divide and rule among our
ethnic groups would have been detrimental to the survival
of the Third Republic. Our need is for peace, stability and
continuity of politics in the interest of all our people.
Fellow countrymen and women, although the National
Electoral Commission and the Centre for Democratic
Studies officially invited foreign observers for the
presidential elections, the administration also considered it
as important as a democratic society, that our activities and
electoral conduct must be open not only to the citizenry of
our country but also to the rest of the world. In spite of this
commitment, the administration did not and cannot accept
that foreign countries should interfere in our internal
affairs and undermine our sovereignty.
The presidential election was no an exercise imposed on
Nigerians by the United Nations or by the wishes of some
global policemen of democracy. It was a decision embarked
upon independently by the government of our country and
for the interest of our country. This is because, we believe,
just like other countries, that democracy and
democratization are primary values which Nigerians should
cultivate, sustain and consolidate so as to enhance
freedom, liberties and social development of the citizenry.
The actions of these foreign countries are most unfortunate
and highly regrettable. There is nowhere in the history of
our country or indeed of the third world where these
countries can be said to love Nigeria or Nigerians any more
that the love we have for ourselves and for our country.
Neither can they claim to love Nigeria any more than this
administration loves our country.
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Accordingly, I wish to state that this administration will take
necessary action against any interest groups that seek to
interfere in our internal affairs. In this vein, I wish to place
on record the appreciation of this administration for the
patience and understanding of Nigerians, the French, the
Germans, the Russians and Irish governments in the
current situation. I appeal to our fellow countrymen and
women and indeed our foreign detractors that they should
cultivate proper understanding and appreciation of the
peculiar historic circumstances in the development of our
country and the determination not only of this
administration but indeed of all Nigerians to resolve the
current crises.
Fellow Nigerians, the National Security and Defence Council
have met several times since the June 12, 1993 election.
The council has fully deliberated not only on our avowed
commitment but also to bequeathing to posterity, a sound
economic and political base in our country and we shall do
so with honour. In our deliberations, we have also taken
note of several extensive consultations with other members
of this administration, with officers and men of the Armed
Forces and will well-meaning Nigerian leaders of thought.
We are committed to handing over power on 27th August
Accordingly, the National Defence and Security Council has
decided that by the end of July 1993 the two political
parties, under the supervision of a recomposed National
Electoral Commission, will put in place the necessary
process for the emergence of two presidential candidates.
This shall be conducted according to the rules and
regulations governing the election of the president of the
country. In this connection, government will in consultation
with the two political parties and National Electoral
Commission agree as to the best and quickest process of
conducting the election.
In the light of our recent experience and, given the mood of
the nation, the National Defence and Security Council has
imposed additional conditions as a way of widening and
deepening the base of electing the president and sanitizing
the electoral process. Accordingly, the candidates for the
coming election must:
(1) not be less than 50 years old.
(2) Have not been convicted of any crime;
(3) Believe, by act of faith and practice, in the corporate
existence of Nigerians;
(4) Posses records of personal, corporate and business
interests which do not conflict with the national interests;
(5) Have been registered members of either of the two
political parties for at least one year to this election.
All those previously banned from participating in the
transition process other than those with criminal records,
are hereby unbanned. They can all henceforth participate
in the electoral process. This is with a view to enriching the
quality of candidature for the election and at the same time
taps the leadership resources of our country to the fullest.
The decree to this effect will be promulgated.
Fellow Nigerians, I wish to finally acknowledge the
tremendous value of your patience and understanding,
especially in the face of national provocation.
I urge you to keep faith with the commitment of this
I enjoin you to keep faith with the unity, peace and stability
of our country for this is the only country that you and I
can call our own. Nowhere in the world, no matter the
prompting and inducements of foreign countries, can
Nigerians ever be regarded as first class citizens. Nigeria is
the only country that we have. We must therefore renew
our hope in Nigeria, and faith and confidence in ourselves
for continued growth, development and progress.
Thank you all, and God bless you.
The final document annulling the elections were signed by:
General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida-Head of State and
General Aliyu Gusau-National Security Adviser
Brigadier General David Alechenu Mark-Director, National
War College