I have no regrets for refusing to declare MKO Abiola president in 1993 – Justice Saleh

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A former chief judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Dahiru Saleh (retd.), said he has no apology for refusing to declare the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election, MKO Abiola president, when the case was brought before him.

He also absolved former President Ibrahim Babangida as being responsible for the annulment of the controversial election.

The retired justice, while claiming responsibility for the annulment, however, blamed the acclaimed winner, Abiola for refusing to appeal the court’s verdict.

Recall that Justice Saleh had in June 1993 ordered the then National Electoral Commission, NEC, to stop further release of the results of the election on the ground that the election itself should not have been conducted in the first place.

He had cited the mid-night ruling on June 11, 1993, by Justice Bassey Ikpeme that the election should not hold.

Speaking to The Interview, the retired jurist claimed that Babangida had no hands in the annulled election.

Asked if he was pressured by Babangida who was at that time the military president of the country, he said: “The former President did nothing of the sort. There were so many cases, and I cannot remember all the cases off-hand.

“There was the case against MKO Abiola, and it was before one of my judges; she was Igbo, but I can’t remember her name. She started the case, then fell sick and was flown out of the country for treatment.

“Then there was another case against him (MKO Abiola), and I had to transfer the case from the other judge’s court to my court. During that time, it turned out that Abiola didn’t even finish the case before he disappeared.

“Later, I learned he had been arrested by authorities.”

He noted that Abiola, the candidate of Social Democratic Party, SDP, should have appealed the ruling if he were not satisfied.

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.

“They were very close, and there were so many assumptions regarding the relationship between the two of them.

“But the point is, in those days, the Yorubas wanted Abiola to become president; he was seen as a kind and considerate man to every Tom, Dick, and Harry.

“Unfortunately, he wanted to be the president, but he couldn’t be. While the political blame must be on President Babangida, he (Babangida) did nothing of the sort to stop him, using my court.

“I think I was in service when I first came to know him. I can’t remember the time. But I only came to know him well after his retirement.

“I was already Chief Judge when he was President. He came and met me there, and he left me there. But while he was in office, we had no personal relationship. He was my boss; I was his subject.

“Anybody not satisfied with what I was doing as Chief Judge could appeal to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court, simple. And I have no regrets, none whatever. No regrets. I would repeat the same thing now.”

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