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Democracy Day: Humphery Nwosu, Nigeria’s June 12th Unsung Hero

By Emeka Ginigeme

The story of June 12 will not be complete without the mention of Prof. Humphery Nwosu. A man who gave his heart against all odds for the love of democracy in Nigeria, he is said to have led the team that conducted the freest and fairest election in Nigeria, sitting as the chairman of the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria in the year 1993.

Who is Humphrey Nwosu?
Nwosu was born on 2 October 1941, and became a Professor of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He served in the cabinet of Samson Omeruah, governor of the old Anambra State, where he helped traditional rulers to gain staffs of office, receive salaries, and settled intra and inter-community land disputes. He also served as chairman of a Federal Technical Committee on the application of Civil Service Reforms in the local government service. He was appointed FEDECO chairman in 1989 after his predecessor Eme Awa resigned due to a disagreement with Ibrahim Babangida.

What Role Did Humphrey Nwosu Play In The 1993 Election?
Nwosu was the chairman of Nation Electoral Commission of Nigeria which conducted the 1993 12th June election, which was seen as the freest and fairest election till date, in which Chief Moshood Abiola was presumed to have won. Nwosu’s commission introduced the novel Option A4 voting system and the Open ballot system. Nwosu had released many of the election results when he was ordered to stop further announcement by the military regime.

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According Idowu Bankole who made an article on Vanguard on the 24th February 2019, he said, “Nothing was said about Humphrey Nwosu the architect of that milestone. This was what prompted my decision to feature the June 12, 1993 election in this column again today to reflect on what Nwosu and his team which included this writer went through in the conduct of the famous election. While i have had cause in the past to tell the story at many fora, it is not too much to restate it to our compatriots considering that our politicians have a habit of blaming the electoral body for hitches without bothering about how much they always contribute to the ordeal of managing elections in the country.
Here is my story, In the middle of the night of June 10, 1993, an Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Bassey Ikpeme, in breach of the relevant decree, ordered the electoral body to put on hold, the presidential election that was some 36 hours away. The plaintiff in the case was an unregistered body known as Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) which consisted of a group of politicians generally believed to have government backing. Nwosu found his way in the morning uninvited to a meeting of the military council to explain the grave consequences of Ikpeme’s indiscrete pronouncement. It was then agreed that NEC could discountenance Ikpeme’s order and continue with its arrangements for the elections.
At the end of voting, when it became clear from the majority of the results already collated that the candidate of the then Social democratic Party (SDP) Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola could not be stopped from winning the contest, the then Chief Judge of Abuja, Justice Dahiru Saleh ordered NEC to halt the process. Again, Nwosu stormed the Villa, but this time he found that the government had withdrawn support from him.
The then Attorney General of the Federation, (AGF) Clement Akpamgbo who gave Nwosu legal backing earlier, did not only ditch him but also ensured that a bench warrant to arrest Nwosu issued by the Chief Judge of Abuja was duly served. As from then, Nwosu became labeled as the problem, while his Electoral Commission was formally suspended forthwith. The only other option left to Nwosu was to seek judicial cover from the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division. With no one else behind Nwosu except the Commission’s vibrant Director of Legal Services, Bukhari Bello, NEC drew attention to an earlier judgment by a higher court in which Oguntade JCA as he then was, established two main points.
The first was that where a court makes an order in a case where it lacked jurisdiction, the order was null and void; and second that it was unnecessary to go on appeal in such circumstance. This suggested that Nwosu had no business obeying the erroneous decisions of the lower courts. Interestingly, NEC was able to produce in Court, the complete result of the election which she had been stopped from announcing and which confirmed the victory of MKO Abiola. The real problem was that some ambitious military fellows aided by a set of compromised politicians wanted to prolong military rule. At this point, government sensing that it might lose the case decided to annul the election a few hours to the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
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Consequently, the winner of the election could not be declared. As far as some Nigerians were concerned, Nwosu’s electoral commission was to blame for not disobeying the new court order since it was able to disobey the first order without realizing the difference between the two. No one blamed the infamous politicians in the Association for Better Nigeria. The only person to blame was Nwosu”.

This brings me to the question, why would Prof. Humphrey Nwosu be so easily forgotten? A man who made what is being celebrated today possible, a man who played a key role in what we celebrate today, a man who gave his all for the love of true democracy.
He is a hero that made what we celebrate today in Nigeria possible, a true patriot.
Happy Democracy Day fellow Nigerians.

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