The ex-ambassador said he was excited when President Bill Clinton sent him to Nigeria.
A former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, has challenged the country to celebrate it resistance to long years of military rule that culminated in the return to democratic governance in 1999.
In the remarks he sent to the Osun State June 12, 1993 presidential election celebration, Mr. Carrington who was then the U.S. envoy to Nigeria, said if it were in other countries, schools, banks and government offices would be closed to mark the annulled presidential poll won by the late business mogul, Moshood Abiola.
He regretted that only five states in Nigeria, including Osun, out of the 36 states in Nigeria are organizing events to mark the election, annulled by the military administration of Ibrahim Babangida.
“June 12th should be a day of special remembrance for all who love democracy and Nigeria,” Mr. Carrington said. “In any other country which had undertaken the struggle against military rule that Nigerians mounted between 1993 and 1998, this would be a national holiday.
“The schools, banks, and government offices would be closed throughout the land so that the nation may commemorate those whose sacrifices made possible the freedoms they today enjoy.
“In an age which heralds the Arab Spring and other movements to reclaim democracy from the hands of tyrants, why does Nigeria not proudly remind the world and itself of its own noble resistance to military despotism?
He said that Nigeria’s return to civilian rule in 1999 was the most important event in Africa since the end of the apartheid system in South Africa, noting that for the first time, the African Union adopted a rule refusing to admit any country under military dictatorship through coups.
According to him, Nigeria became an encouragement for others who craved to return to similar type of government.
Mr. Carrington said, “Nigeria’s return to civilian rule was the most consequential event on the African Continent since the overthrow of apartheid in South Africa. It led to the African Union, for the first time, adopting a rule refusing to admit to membership any government which came to power through a military coup. Nigeria became an encouragement for others who wished to return their governments to the control of their people.”
The former U.S. envoy said every child should be taught while every parent in Nigeria should remember the significance of the day of the annulled presidential election, stressing, “June 12th 1993 was a day when Nigeria was more united ethnically, religiously and regionally than it had ever been before or has been since. Moshood Abiola, a southern Muslim, scored so convincing a victory in the Presidential election that he swept even the home ward of his Northern opponent.
“It was declared by foreign and Nigerian observers to have been the freest and fairest election in the country’s history. But then before the results were officially announced the election was annulled. The mandate the whole country, North and South, had bestowed upon the President-elect was suddenly stolen from him at the behest of military politicians who feared that he would return them to the barracks where they belonged.
“It is important to remember the world in which June 12th occurred. Twenty years ago democracy appeared everywhere to be irreversibly on the march. Africa seemed about to join Latin America in becoming a no go area for military governments. More multi-party elections had taken place during the preceding three years than in any comparable period in the continent’s history.
“These elections were the culmination of a demand for change from Africans desperate to free themselves from the morass into which autocratic governments, mismanagement, corruption and civil strife had led them. Three long time leaders had been swept from power,” he said.
Mr. Carrington recalled the day he received a call from the White House informing him that former President Bill Clinton intended to appoint him that country’s ambassador to Nigeria, saying he was excited because since it (Nigeria) was about to join return to democracy he would be presenting his letter of credence to a civilian ruler while he would help to place Nigeria in the heart of American foreign policy.
“You can imagine, therefore, the excitement with which I received the call from the White House that President Clinton intended to nominate me as the United States Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. After decades of military rule Nigeria was about to join many of its smaller neighbors on the path to democracy,” he said.
“I, unlike most of my predecessors, would be presenting my credentials to a civilian head of state. I would be uniquely placed to help put Nigeria not only at the center of America’s African policy but also to make it one of America’s most important bilateral relations with the developing world.
“A continent long ignored in our geo-political considerations could be ignored no longer if it was led by a dynamic, democratic Nigeria. And, after all, Nigeria had the credentials to assert itself as a major player in world affairs. As an international peace keeper its record was second to none.
“Wherever its troops served with the United Nations from the Congo in the Nineteen Sixties to Somalia and Bosnia in the nineteen nineties its units were highly praised. Nigeria seemed a safe bet to get one of the permanent seats on what was soon expected to be a newly reconstituted United Nations Security Council. I looked forward to energetically promoting her cause. She was an important trading partner, the source of one-fifth of the United States oil imports. During the OPEC crisis of the Seventies, Nigeria became, for a while, America’s number one source of imported oil.
Mr. Carrington thanked the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola for inviting him but regretted that he would not be able to attend in person as he would have desired.
“I would like to thank Governor Aregbesola for his kind invitation to participate in this commemoration of one of the seminal dates in Nigeria’s history. Although we cannot be with you in person, my wife Arese and I are very much with you in spirit.
“How honored I would be to be in the presence of Balarabe Musa one of the great men of the democracy movement, whose honesty, courage and unwavering sense of dedication are an inspiration to us all.”