Justice Dahiru Saleh was a popular legal personality and prominent abusite who served as the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court [1984-2003]. He is best known as “the judge who annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential elections”.
Born on August 22, 1939, he attended Azare Primary School between 1948 and 1951; Azare Senior Primary School between 1952 and 1955; and Barewa College, Zaria from 1956 to 1960.
He then proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1961-62; and later the council of Legal Education London (Middle Temple), 1962-65.
Justice Dahiru Saleh started his career as a Pupil State Counsel Northern Nigeria, North-Eastern State, 1966-73. He served in the office of the Legal Adviser, NNDC from 1967-73 and later as Chief Magistrate, 1973-74.
He was appointed as Chief Registrar, North East State and later Bauchi State from 1974-77. He served as the Honorable Attorney General and committssioner for Justice, Bauchi State from 1976-78 after which he returned to the bench as Judge of the Federal High Court from1979-84.
Justice Dahiru Saleh was appointed as the Chief Judge of the federal Federal Capital Territory, serving from 1984 until 2003 when he retired. It was during that he delivered that controversial judgement that annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential election.
Justice Saleh had ordered the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to halt the release of the June 12 results on the grounds that the election ought not to have been held in the first place. He based his order on the June 11, 1993, ruling of Justice Bassey Ikpeme that suspended the electoral exercise.
It is believed that Justice Saleh had annulled the election based on the order of the Military President, Gen. General Ibrahim Babangida (retd). A decision which gave him the name “the judge who annulled the June 12, 1993, presidential elections”.
A notion Justice Dahiru Saleh has dismissed. He said that he it was who should be held accountable for the annulment of that historic election and not General Ibrahim Babangida who was military president of the country and who announced the annulment of the election.
As he put it inter alia, “…while the political blame game must be on Babangida, he (Babangida) did nothing of the sort to stop him [Abiola] using my court…
“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 whatsoever. No regrets. I would repeat the same thing now.”
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate, Chief MKO Abiola was leading Bashir Tofa, his the National Republican Convention rival, by a wide margin on June 12, 1993, Presidential Election when the exercise was canceled ahead of the final announcement of results.
For many, the June 12, 1993 election had represented for Nigeria a life-time opportunity for national unity. The elections defied religious considerations to produce a Muslim president and vice president both men having received an overwhelming mandate of all Nigerians. The annulment of the exercise unleashed unsavory events that the country is yet to recover from till today.
Justice Dahiru Saleh died on Thursday, 7th of May, 2020 in his home town of Azare and was buried at the palace of the Emir of Azare around 4:30pm. Until his death, he was the “Mutawalle” of Katagum Emirate in Bauchi State.