MKO Abiola: Between OBJ And PMB By Tunde Badru

Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola is a man who surmounted my struggles; right from birth. MKO lived up to Ola Rotimi’s famous quote of life struggles beginning at birth as the name Kashimawo means “let’s keep observing”; a name given to a child who is expected to be a still-birth (fetal death, natal death or death between birth to about 28 weeks after delivery), after the mother must encountered a few previous still-births.

MKO was born to Salahudeen and Suliyat Abiola, who are victims of real poverty; absolute not relative. Right from childhood, he had to fetch wood to afford education. The tale of MKO’s first encounter with fried eggs has been told countless times to described the level of poverty MKO passed through. When MKO got to his girlfriend, Simbiat Shoaga’s house, he was offered a meal and he asked what the meal is. MKO was told that it is fried eggs. He infamously asked, “Do they fry eggs”?

Philantropy

Within a relatively short time after then, MKO grew to become the richest man in Africa, surmounting another challenge, and fulfilling the prophecy of a good woman being behind every successful man. Of course, Africa has a long history of having great men who have amassed greater wealth than what MKO could garner; after all, Emperor Mansa Musa of Mali is reputed to be the wealthiest man to grace the surface of the earth. What Africa never had is a man with the generosity of MKO’s heart and hands. There was just no one near that.

MKO financed everything and everyone and left a golden mark on whatever he touched. Before the days of Globacom, MKO was the biggest financier of sports in Africa and Nigeria which famously earned him the moniker “Pillar of Sports in Africa”. MKO had a large and encompassing scholarship scheme and was a contributor to the erection of many mosques and churches in Nigeria. There is another tale about MKO, the like of which I have never heard again. One day, MKO was going on a trip and on his way he observed a gathering of Muslims. He stopped to observe what was going on and he was told that a fund-raising is being held for the construction of a mosque. The total fund needed was N5million. MKO donated N4.8million and went on his way. Those soliciting for funds did not know whether to continue with the programme or just put an immediate end to it.

As the Baba Adini of Nigeria, MKO had a Quranic Printing Press and hardly would anyone have to pay to get a Quran in Nigeria as all MKO’s Quran are printed and distributed freelyen masse. MKO facilitated the translation of the Quran into Yoruba language. He was a pioneer for Islamic philanthropy in Nigeria.

Politics

MKO’s public achievements and track record of altruism and volunteerism made him an easy choice for the number one position in the country during the June 12 elections 25 year ago. Even though SDP’s MKO won in all 5 SW states; that was the only election ever held in Nigeria where all manners of Nigerians discarded all manners of ethnic and religious garbs to vote for a candidate on the sole basis of merit, despite never previously holding a political office. I say this because as young as I was then, I knew that the NRC was also an equal rival in the SW then. This is evident in the loss of Lagos State to Michael Otedola. Because MKO was an easy choice to make, the election was an easy one to conduct and adjudged till this day as the only free and fair election ever held in this country. I could vividly remember some of the political activities that happened then.

Sadly, the evil genius living up to reputation will annul that election without uttering a valid reason till this day.

MKO had 2 choices, to stand up for the people and his mandate and suffer whatever consequence it would attract or to resign to fate and accept a lucrative contract from the demonic Abacha government. After one year of Abacha’s reign, MKO declared the inauguration of a parallel government and decided to fight for his mandate. His deputy, Babagana Kingibe would rather accept to become a minister under MKO’s tormentor. My heart bled hearing the same Kingibe speak on a day as glorious as this earlier today before being conferred with one of the highest honours in the land.

MKO would then be incarcerated for the next 4 years and lost his wife, his businesses and his freedom in the process in another struggle he surmounted till Abacha’s death on 08 June 1998. But a month later on 07 July 1998, MKO would pay for his tormentor’s death with his own life in a trademark revenge pattern employed by the Northern political class. Needless to remind us that Aguiyi Ironsi’s and many other Igbo people’s lives were cut short by this same class as an aftermath of the 15 January 1966 coup d’etat 6 months later, a coup which Ironsi never participated in.

Without disrespect to the Northern folks, the ability of the Yoruba race to pick itself up and move forward in the best interest of the country while embodying the greatest spirit of pardon is what distinguishes us from the rest of the country; and which makes me chin-up proud as a Yoruba man. What if Abiola had not averted another civil war in 1993? What if the Yoruba had been completely irritated by Abiola’s needless death in 1998 despite the fact that Abacha had died earlier? What if we had reacted to the murder of Ladoke Akintola and Ademulegun during the Jan 1966 coup? The forgiving and progressive spirits of the Yoruba race have kept this country going and when those spirits are finally extinguished, there would be no Nigeria again.

OlusegunObasanjo

When the military finally agree to cede the leadership of the country to civilians, all political actors in the country decided to concede the Presidency to the South-West, as a compensation for MKO’s loss. Of the 3 political parties in the country then, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) largely accepted in the East and South-South presented Obasanjo (OBJ), Alliance for Democracy (AD) which was more favoured in the SW presented Olu Falae while the All People’s Party (chiefly a northern party) was sympathetic to AD’s Falae. OBJ won.

Throughout the 8 years of OBJ’s reign, nothing symbolic could be attributed to have been done by OBJ to honour the person whose name paved the way for his presidency. The height of the insult came when N1,000 notes were introduced in 2005. Everyone’s expectation was dashed when the notes were seen to bear the first 2 indigenous governors of the CBN, Mai-Borno and Isong, rather than the much favoured MKO Abiola. Where in the world would anyone place CBN governors on currency notes, no matter how bereft of heroes their country could be?

There would be fewer OBJections than support to the position that OBJ neglected the development of the SW in favour of the north throughout his 8 years. Self-serving to a fault, the height of his mischief was displayed with his stubborn commitment to a failed unconstitutional third-term bid. In every way possible, he failed the Abiola family, the Yoruba people and all those connected to the June 12 struggle.

Muhammadu Buhari

Buhari was a man who became president not mainly by his own merit by largely by the demerits of the excessively corrupt and impune preceding administration. As a president who enjoyed goodwill larger than any of his predecessors, Buhari was expected to right every wrong of the past administration, especially in the maintenance of fairness among all groups in the region; where the past administration failed. However, the last 3 years have shown the brazen display of the highest level of nepotism by a sitting Nigerian President.

However, since a fortnight ago when the administration clocked 3 years, a different kind of Buhari is emerging. The #NotTooYoungToRunBill was signed and another bill which separates the fund for the executive, the legislative and the judiciary at the state level was signed. The height of it was the recognition of MKO Abiola as the winner of 12 June 1993 election, which signals the beginning of the end of a 25-year old injustice. MKO was also honoured with the highest title in the land and will now be proudly addressed as Late Bashorun M. K. O. Abiola, Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Gani Fawehinmi, a late activist-lawyer and frontier of the June 12 struggle was also honoured with the title of Grand Commander on the Order of the Niger. It is however saddening to see the treacherous Babagana Kingibe giving a speech on this glorious day and being conferred upon with the title of GCON as well.

OBJ vs PMB

OBJ’s exemplar constantly reminds me of the need to right my wrongs in my youthful years, rather than when I am out of vogue. OBJ, since out of office, has always been on the forefront in causes that are of immense benefits to the country. His letters to failing political leaders have been sincere, well timed and have helped raised political consciousness in the country. Recently, he has sponsored the emergence of a third force to help wrestle power from the two major political parties (which he helped raised anyway) which have been holding the country to ransom.

Despite the fact these efforts can be seen as brilliant, they are hardly accepted by the majority because of Obasanjo’s antecedents and disposition when he was in power. He is seen now as trying to be the opposite of what he was then and so he is easily dismissed as being mischievous. Buhari has capitalised on this fault and is righting OBJ’s wrongs one by one starting from the power sector. I associate with OBJ’s third force because I believe that the time is ripe for it. However, it would not be a surprise to see it fail as a result of people’s distrust in OBJ while opting for a man of Buhari’s remarkable personal discipline, despite being a woeful performer as a president.

Watching today’s investiture of award on the late MKO brought me so much emotions and the personal feeling that a wound is being stitched in my heart. And Buhari giving a highly inspiring speech, the like of which he has never made before, nearly made me forget about everything that I felt he did wrong. Listening to Kola and Hafsat Abiola explain what this means to their family and how MKO would have reacted to it had he been alive nearly brought tears to my eyes. If by chance, I ever get to vote for Buhari in 2019, it would probably start from this reason.

SHAME ON YOU, OBASANJO.

Tunde Afrika Badru (Dat Iwo-Boi) writes from Iwo in Osun State.