MKO Abiola: 19 years after as the great Nigerian icon lives for ever…


Basorun MKO Abiola

To all Nigerians living home and abroad, June 12 will remain a sacred day; a day political freedom knocked on the door of our dear nation, begging to be allowed a chance for a fruitful future.

It is  a day when all Nigerians ditch political affiliations and stood still in one unity of purpose to achieve a nursed dream for a workable future.

The day is  day that we all looked back say a big thank you to a true son of Africa and world icon, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.

He is today the true face of Nigeria;s democracy and no doubt, Nigerians across the world are relishing the dawn of a new political era.
No doubt, the history of  democracy in Nigeria will ever  remain incomplete without mentioning the supreme price the nation’s best ever philanthropist paid to grant us the elusive political freedom, after many years of military dictatorship which culminated in oppression, suppression, economic wastage, mental and emotional deprivation.
The acclaimed winner of June 12,1993 Presidential election,Bashorun MKO Abiola is an enigma, a human character and extra ordinary do-gooder.
He was a successful businessman of international repute, a ‘special breed’ philanthropist, celebrated polygamist, successful publisher, frontline champion of reparation struggle for the oppressed Africans, and indeed pillar of sports in Africa.
He was also a good friend to virtually many ‘who is who’ in Africa continent and the closest associate to those common Nigerians whoo had long been deprived of a proper living.
Bashorun Abiola  was larger than life.
He was a unique symbol of unification for all Nigerians regardless of their tribes, religions and social background. Indeed, a friend to all oppressed in our grossly demarcated society where the few privileged walk over the entire nation. Abiola was the beacon of hope.  He struggled from grass to grace to attain greatness
No wonder at a stage during his life, he was  described as rich as a Croesus by his appreciating loyalists.
In Greek and Persian cultures, the name of Croesus became a synonym for a wealthy man. Even rich and powerful people in Abiola’s class often envy his natural heart of gold and generousity.
He was also a good friend to virtually ‘who is who’ in Africa and Nigeria. He died as a Legend no matter his shortcoming as an imperfect human being which we all are!
Prior to his coming to the political scene, Bashorun Moshood Abiola was a close ally to many top military brass, retaining his closeness and fatherly loyalty to a large percentage of those men of guns and yet holding up his own as a dignified enigma.
At a stage, he was widely peddled as a reputed  ‘government’ contractor, enjoying full patronage of those close allies in the military.
He remained the most humane Nigerian ever, touching  on the lives of ordinary Nigerians and impacting on their lives in so many  positive ways.
According to Dr Chidi Amuta in his article titled :‘Babangida and the Western Bypass’:”I can assert here, with the fullest confidence of all the facts at my disposal and without fear of contradiction that the candidature of the late M.K.O Abiola’s was largely a product of and enjoyed the highest all round support from Babangida.
The possibility is quite high that there may have been no Abiola candidacy without the level of support he enjoyed from Babangida, his most celebrated military man friend who had enjoyed his love and loyalty even ever before the Minna man shot into national prominence.
What historians and commentators are still working out, which defy logic is figuring  out  how a leader who worked so hard to advance the emergence of his friend as a presidential candidate could turn back only to  take the dramatic decision of cancelling the elections and turning an erstwhile benefactor who had been instrumental to hip own political ascension, make a mockery of such loyalty.
Even though our national history is full of such dramatic and tragic backsliding and  twists of destiny, only Babangida can provide the definitive insight into what happened in 1993, which has given birth to today, June 12 national public holiday.
Perhaps, not even the world’s best spin doctor is capable of providing a scheming that will obliterate the inherent hubris and historical tragedy of that decision.
Incidentally Babangida is the type who insists on bearing the burden of history. He had insisted that as a leader you cannot outsource responsibility for your actions or indeed the actions of those who travelled the road of power with you.
The evil genus as he is fondly referred to at one time told the world to put behind the wicked slain of Dele Giwa, an accomplished journalist who was bombed on his dinner table, just as Babangida relished power and was salivating his unexpected shot into prominence. The episode will be a new topic of discussion another day.
In recent times, the Minna mega power broker  has had cause to express regrets and even apologised for that very unfortunate episode of Abiola’s denial but can the lost opportunity for our dear nation ever be quantified?
And so, exactly 19years today when over 20 million  Nigerians voted on that historic date June 12,1993 for Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola as their President, a nation called Nigeria was stabbed from behind and today the retardation suffered and the thriving poverty  and attending loss of dignity are unforgivable.
Abiola was the presidential candidate of  the then Social Democratic Party(SDP), one of the best political association ever existed on the African continent.
Although the election was described by both local and international observers as the  first free and fair election in the political history of Nigeria where people shunned tribal and religious sentiments and massively voted for Muslim-Muslim ticket(Abiola/Kingibe ticket), the dream was to be terminated by a man who remains untouchable and walks free as a martyr on the nation’s soil.
Yet such debacle is the story of the Nigerian nation; brutalised, bruised, denied, basterdised and dwarfed to a level that takes her back to more than 50 years.
Majority of Nigerians had cast their votes in favour of  Chief MKO Abiola but unfortunately Abiola’s best friend, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida who was the military president during that turbulent era annulled the presidential election and denied Abiola his place in history of  becoming the democratically-elected Nigerian president.
It is also worth noting that the   cancellation of that election instantly triggered many violent protests across Nigeria with  scores of  defenceless Nigerians killed for  protesting to grab back their inheritance and rights.
The were   brutally gunned down in cold blood. Many highly intelligent Nigerian pro-democracy activists were also forced into exile to escape unlawful arrests and possible assassinations. Many more were imprisoned andd castrated for fighting a just cause.
The mayhem culminated in the closure of many institutions of higher learning in Nigeria with student activists either detained indefinitely or expelled from their various Universities.
With that turning point in Nigeria’s history, the  dreams  of many were shattered while many more are yet to recover from the losses. Oh, the rest is now history as Nigeria still grapples with its elusive reality, scrambling for her real destiny which for long has been denied by self adoring megalomaniacs parading as true leaders. The nation   is yet to stand out visibly as a uniquely established democratic nation since May 1999.
Nigeria’s current leader, President Goodluck Jonathan is quite aware of Bashorun Abiola’s ultimate sacrifice  paid by Abiola and his passionate love and patriotic instinct  for a stable democratic Nigeria.
On May 29,2012, he took a step which he thought might inscribe Abiola’s name in the true fabric of the nation.
He renamed the then University of Lagos as Moshood Abiola University, Lagos, a move that had been rebuffed  but many people  who considered the gesture as a ‘greek gift’ to penetrate South West Nigeria in preparation for year 2015 general elections.
There were stiff opposition and  instant reactions from the students and members of the Unilag community.
However,  opinions are still divided among Nigerians on the controversial re-christening of the frontline University. The outcome of the opposition to this decision remains onpredictable as the president is currently seeking  the signature of the nation’s topmost house, The Nigerian House os Senate.
Maybe more bold steps are required as the President’s move is a positive one  that requires the support of the entiire nation.
Abiola has died so that we can experience political freedom. He had paid the ultimate price for our democracy and needs immortality to be  able to serve as goo lead for others coming behind that the greatness of our dear nation is worth dying for.
Bashorun Abiola died after drinking poisoned tea!

Many  groups also want  Aso Rock presidential villa in Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power to be re-named after the denied President. Other support and suggested  Abuja national stadium and maybe  University of Abuja to really show that he died for the whole of Nigeria’s democracy.

Many have supported the President’s move on re-naming of Unilag since the late politician during his heroic lifetime donated 1 Million naira to all the tertiary institutions of higher learning in Nigeria and financially empowered the less-privileged in the society. What ever step is taken by the government, it is essential that Abiola’s name is written in gold in Nigeria’s political history and no amount of sacrifice id too much for such ultimate price.
It is an irony of history that when Bashorun Abiola was buried in his Ikeja palatial mansion in 1998, several people from all walks of life trooped out  to defy heavy police presence at  Toyin Street Ikeja residence of Abiola to pay their last respect to this great pan-Africanist.
It is also noteworthy that many students from virtually all the schools in Nigeria also attended the burial programme despite the massive police blockades.
Some students  and ordinary Nigerians(including this writer) even kept vigil at his graveside till the next day to show their loyalty for a paid ultimate price for the political freedom of our nation.
Ironically, it is still unbelievable that students who came out en mass for his funeral services  and who had then benefited from his generosity in giving more light to the Unis then donating N1million in endowment were the first set of people to kick against the renaming of University of Lagos, after  he had invested his wealth in education in Nigeria and empowering those students.
Remembering the Biblical crucification of Jesus Christ when ‘Hossanah’ was shouted  in the morning but crucification took place n the evening.
Many opposition to Abiola’s presidential honor in  Unilag going against re-christening  were either in nursery schools or just learning how to read English language alphabet when June 12 election was unlawfully annulled and should be replayed the rough lines of Nigeria’s political history.
Mention must be made also to one of Bashorun Abiola’s wives,Alhaja Kudirat Olayinka Abiola who was also murdered  in Lagos as a democratic process actiicvist.
Kudirat was murdered in broad day light by agents of late General Sani Abacha and it is evident that Abiola’s family suffered immensely for democracy in Nigeria and their legacy remaing evident today and for many  the unborn generations.
As regards the military juntas who had caused our nation more agony than comfort, the long hand of wickedness  also crippled Abiola’s business empire just because of his insistence that on re-validating the June 12,1993 presidential election.

Some reactions from prominent Nigerians

According to Chief Ayo Adebanjo,former NADECO chieftain:”I agree with what the public opinion says, it is to get a Federal Government institution named after him and the consensus of opinion seems to be the National Stadium at Abuja or in Lagos.
We would not want him to be remembered by a monument that is controversial.I want us to acknowledge the good intentions of the president, but I also want the president to take note of the objection raised by responsible citizens in the country.
It is worthwhile, we commend him (Jonathan) for remembering to immortalize him (Abiola);his predecessors did not pay attention to it. If a Yoruba man, who was in office for eight years, did not want to mention him, he (Jonathan) should be commended.But I wish he (Jonathan) consider the opinion of those who are objecting to renaming the University of Lagos after him.
I don’t support the condemnation that is attached to it, but we must acknowledge his good intentions and make suggestions as to how best he could be remembered without any controversy.
Keeping the legacy of June 12, is to declare that day as a public holiday.
We should declare that day as democracy day instead of May 29. Without June 12, there would not be May 29. May 29 is the creation of the military, if we did not fight for it, there would not have been a day known as democracy day.”
In his own words,Mr Yinka Odumakin, Save Nigeria Group spokesperson stated that :”The best way to immortalize Abiola is to recognize June 12 as democracy day because that was what Abiola died for and that was the day that Nigeria got a template for her to solve all its problems.”Odumakin added that :”The best way we can immortalize him is to recognize June 12 as Democracy Day and declare Abiola post humously as a former president of Nigeria; any other thing is an addition.
The main thing is to place June 12 in the mainstream of history of this country.”
But unfortunately,over the past 19 years,June 12 and Abiola political legacy have been mis-interpreted as a South West(Yoruba land)agenda but Abiola died as a true Nigerian citizen.He had friends from virtually all the ethnic groups in Nigeria.
He received  and was decorated with many awards and uncountable chieftancy titles by nearly all the tribes in Nigeria. Till date, no living Nigerian citizen has ever surpass these sterling credentials.
He was  made a life patron to many organisations in Nigeria and outside Nigeria.He was indeed the friend of the poor.
Since the birth of democracy on May 29, 1999,Nigerians have endured series of broken promises from their elected leaders and politicians.
The cancerworm of mis-management has penetrated virtually all the key sectors of the economy and amazingly corruption has been digitally elevated into an olympian level. Despite the abundant human and natural resources,majority of Nigerians are still neck-deep in abject poverty.Several ethno-religious bloodshed
ever experienced before in the history of Nigeria.
The Boko Haram orgy of violence is still claiming innocent lives  in the northern parts of the country coupled with senseless regular attacks on churches by some brainwashed  and mis-guided people. No investor,either local or foreign will ever waste his wealth in an unstable and unsafe environment.
The Boko Haram’s terrorism is more of political motive than of religion according to a school of thought.
The present crop of Nigerian politician have learnt nothing from the past years.Some of them continue to behave as if they are above the laws of the land.
This attitude may eventually signal military intervention if urgent care is not taken and the country may  further sink into cesspit of abyss and military dictatorship.
The earlier those politicians retrace their steps,the better for the unity,peace and progress of Nigeria.
There is no way to erase June 12 from the memories of Nigerians although only the South West states are officially declaring the day as a public holiday in Nigeria.
Bashorun MKO Abiola might not be a complete saint afterall but legends are not expected to be ‘sparkling’ clean.Bashorun Abiola had the rare courage to speak out in the face of naked injustice and persecutions.Maybe one day,the real truth about June 12,1993 election shall come out .
The real cat shall be led out of the bag and the main reasons why this presidential election was cancelled by former military President Ibrahim Babangida who was incidentally one of the closest associates of Bashorun Moshood Abiola shall be a public knowledge.
Many prominent Nigerians enriched themselves during the June 12 era but they would still come out in the public to trumpet the popular slogan:’We still stand on June 12.’ while many Nigerians also suffered untold hardship during this dark era in our political history.
Some people also believed that assuming Bashorun MKO Abiola was officially declared and sworn-in as the elected President.
There would have been a coup and counter-coup to overthrow him from power but all these were just assumptions  and political permutations with no basis since Aare Ona Kakanfo of the entire Yorubaland was never officially declared as the President-elect as he died while negotiating his freedom on that fateful day on July 7,1998 in the presence of foreign diplomats in Abuja, Nigeria.
For now,June 12 is like an albatross which the ‘Prince of Minna’ shall carry to his grave.

By Dare Lasisi