History Through the Headlines (2), By Muni King-Keazor & Ed Emeka Keazor
…on June 11, 1994 after consultation with the newly-formed National Democratic Coalition, Aare Moshood Abiola declared himself president in Epetedo, Lagos Island, on the basis of the June 12 mandate… This declaration led to Aare Moshood Abiola being declared wanted by the government of Sani Abacha, arrested shortly afterwards on June 23, and kept in detention till his death.
This is a rehash of stories that made the headlines through 160 years of Nigerian press history for the week of 7-14 June.
The government of General Ibrahim Babangida as eighth military president of Nigeria, had marshalled a complex programme of return to civilian rule that was to transit to the emergence of the much anticipated ‘Third Republic’. This convoluted programme, after a number of modulations, culminated in the formation of two government-sponsored political parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). These two parties thus prepared for general elections scheduled for June 1993, with the presidential part of the polls specifically fixed for June 12.
After a primaries process, the two parties eventually put forward two candidates – Aare Moshood Abiola for the SDP, and Alhaji Bashir Tofa, for the NRC. Two days before the election, however, a group known as the Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) obtained a court injunction to stop the election. However, the National Electoral Commission (NEC), led by Professor Humphrey Nwosu proceeded with the conduct of the election in spite of the order, and in fact NEC encouraged Nigerians to go out and vote. The elections were thus held and acknowledged by several observers as being comparatively free and fair. The results, however, were never officially released, as a plethora of political and judicial manoeuvrings ensued, culminating in President Ibrahim Babangida announcing on June 23, the annulment of the June 12 election, and declaring that fresh elections were to be held.
This was to result in a political crisis that gripped the nation for the next five years. Protests ensued, mostly in western parts of the country, alongside serious political pressure on the regime of President Babangida, such that he announced his resignation as head of state, handing over to an interim government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan on August 26, 1993. The said Interim Government was to last barely weeks before Chief Shonekan was replaced by General Sani Abacha on November 17, 1994. Abacha was to assume control of government for almost five years. In the interim, on June 11, 1994 after consultation with the newly-formed National Democratic Coalition, Aare Moshood Abiola declared himself president in Epetedo, Lagos Island, on the basis of the June 12 mandate.
This declaration led to Aare Moshood Abiola being declared wanted by the government of Sani Abacha, arrested shortly afterwards on June 23, and kept in detention till his death.
Daily Times of Nigeria, June 12, 1933: A suspect is arraigned before the Magistrates at the Sant Anna Police Court, Tinubu Square, Lagos, on suspicion of trafficking in Marijuana. Marijuana usage had become prevalent in Lagos, progressively from the end of the First World War (1914-1918). By the 1920’s, Government legislation criminalising its trafficking had been introduced subsequent to Nigeria’s signing of the Hague Convention limiting the trafficking of Opium in 1912, followed by the 1925 Geneva Convention – subsequently reinforced by the 1931 Geneva Convention – prohibiting the trafficking of Narcotic substances. These contracts gave rise to Dangerous Drugs Act of 1935, which provided strict penalties for trafficking. This Law was to obtain wider enforcement via The Indian Hemp Decree of 1966, by the Federal Military Government prohibiting the sale of Indian Hemp and prescribing strict penalties for the same.
Lagos Daily News, June 12, 1934: Founded in Lagos in 1925 by Herbert Macaulay, a nationalist, surveyor, and entrepreneur, Lagos Daily News was the first daily newspaper in West Africa. Its style was in keeping with its publisher’s nationalist status. However, it maintained a fine balance between this mindset and avoidance of extreme confrontation withe the colonial authorities.
From a small congratulatory message midway down the last column on the front page of the Lagos Daily News announcing his graduation as a medical doctor, Dr. Samuel Layinka Ayodeji Manuwa (SLAM) rose over the coming years to become chief medical officer of Nigeria and one of West Africa’s greatest reformers of public health. He was to occupy several more prominent headlines in the 40 years following this humble insertion, and was knighted by the Queen in 1956 for services to medicine.
Elder Dempster Lines Ltd kept itself in the public psyche with regular updates on the movement of their vessels, as seen with two notifications concerning MV Aba and MV Accra.
Public notices informing of disruptions to public utilities were standard practice, from the inception of the Public Works Department (PWD) – the government unit responsible for all utilities. This department, first founded in the former Colony of Lagos in the 19th century, was forebear of today’s various ministries of works and housing (at state and federal levels).
Daily Times of Nigeria, June 12, 1964: After a protracted trade dispute with the federal government, on the basis of demand for better wages and working conditions, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria – led by Michael Imoudu and supported by Wahab Goodluck – embarked upon a general strike on June 1, 1964. This strike crippled services in hospitals, ports and other government establishments.
The government dismissed several striking workers, leading Wahab Goodluck to declare defiantly at a rally on June 13, 1964: “The dismissal notices you have received are so many scraps of paper. You can keep them as souvenirs to show your children and remind them that today is a turning point in the history of this country.”
The strike ended on June 15, 1964, with the government reaching an amicable agreement with the TUC.
Muni King-Keazor, a journalist, photographer and writer, was former editor of Happy Home Magazine, while Ed Emeka Keazor is an historian, lawyer and film-maker.