The unsung hero behind Nigeria’s June 12 Democracy Day Story

By Chukwudi Obiora Nwosu

The story of June 12 will not be complete without the mention of Prof. Humphery Nwosu. A BRAVE man From AJALLI, Anambra State who gave his heart and life against all odds for the love of democracy in Nigeria. He led the team that conducted the freest and fairest election in Nigeria, siting as the Chairman of the National Electoral Commisssion of Nigeria in the year 1993.


Prof Nwosu was born on 2 October 1941, and became a Professor of Political Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. A first class degree holder and one of the best brains in the world.He served in the cabinet of Commodore Samson Emeka Omeruah, former governor of the old Anambra State, amongst other achievements, he helped traditional rulers to gain staffs of office , receive salaries, and settled intra and inter Community land and Chieftancy disputes. Also served as Commissioner for Agriculture in the same administration

He further 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 and teacher Prof Eme Awa  resigned due to a disagreement with Ibrahim Babangida.


Prof Humphrey Nwosu was the Chairman of National Electoral Commission of Nigeria which conducted the 1993 12th June election, which was the freest and fairest election till date in the history of this country, in which Chief Moshood Abiola  presumed to be the winner of the election. Nwosu’s Commission introduced the novel Option A4 Voting System and the Modified Open Ballot system.He built the current headquarters of INEC and made the staff status pensionable , no longer ad hoc.

After the voting exercises of June 12 elections, Nwosu had released many of the election results when he was ordered to stop further announcement by then military regime. He was strategic in his further actions to defend this democracy we are all enjoying today. 


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 to happen.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 took the risk of his life and found his way in the morning uninvited to a meeting of the MILITARY COUNCIL, ASO VILLA to explain the grave consequences of Ikpeme’s indiscrete pronouncement. After intimidations and harrasment on Prof and other deliberations that took place at the uninvited meeting, it was then agreed that NEC could discountenance Ikpeme’s order and continue with its arrangements and preparations for the elections.

At the end of voting, when it became clear from the majority of the results already collated from the states, 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 ASO 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 headed by Justice Achike With no one else behind Nwosu except the Commission’s vibrant Director of Legal Services, Bukhari Bello along side with Chief Tony Ojukwu SAN, OFR, the current Executive Secretary, National Human Rights Commission. 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 RESULTS OF THE ELECTION  which he 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 they decided to annul the election few hours to the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

Consequently, the winner of the election could not be declared. Unfortunately,as far as some few 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 differences between the two. No one blamed the infamous politicians in the Association for Better Nigeria. The only person to blame was Nwosu” and his TEAM. However, Prof Humphrey Nwosu has been vindicated and the truth is now out on how he defended the election he conducted and stood firmly for democracy to prevail. 

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 and still 31 years after the elections he conducted remained the best in the history of the Nation

The good news is that PROFESSOR HUMPHREY NWOSU is a hero that made possible what we celebrate today as democracy day in Nigeria, a true patriot.


Prof, the world knows that you’re an icon, an institution, an embodiment of knowledge and the face of democracy in Nigerian. 

Nigerians will never forget the role you played for us to have democracy we are enjoying are indeed the hero of democracy. 

Wishing long life and God’s blessings to age gracefully and history will never forget you and your family. 

Happy democracy day 2024

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