Of June 12 and Abiola’s Heroism

MKO Abiola

MKO Abiola and, below right, with wife, Kudirat

By Folorunso, Fatai Adisa

‘’The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”— Wole Soyinka.

He believed evil will continue to thrive if good people like him kept quiet; that was why he couldn’t ignore evil acts. He valiantly demanded his mandate and that, as some believed, hubristically marked his end. He was Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (The acclaimed winner of the 1993 Presidential Election). The president who never ruled.

‘’The presidency is right in the centre of everything. My wealth is decreasing because my charities are increasing. Aside from that, Nigerians are not only poor as they were before, they are becoming poorer. My charities will not eliminate poverty but my presidency will.” Those were the words of Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola in a discussion with his closest friend, as reported by his son, Jamiu Abiola, from whom he received advice whenever he was distraught. In those words are clear indications that the peoples of Nigeria were at the core of his ambition. Humanity at its peak.

He was the largest donor of foreign scholarships to Nigerian students; the biggest supporter of religious institutions; benefactors to numerous universities and thousands of blacks in diaspora were not left out in is reparation schemes. Universities libraries gulped thousands of dollars from his monies. He was a philanthropist and a lover of academia.

Abiola’s level of charities has yet to get equalled by any dark skinned man. When he adopted the slogan “FAREWELL TO POVERTY”, during his campaign for the Presidency In 1993, little did he know that he had just launched the pay-off to his own life – Farewell to freedom/life. He named his campaign office HOPE ’93; sadly, retrieving his mandate turned HOPELESS.

Today June12, 2020 would make it exactly 28 years since Nigeria participated in arguably the freest and fairest presidential elections. After the hotly contested primaries held in Jos by the SDP, A renowned business mogul and multi millionaire emerged as its presidential standard bearer, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola better known as MKO.

Perhaps, NRC hosts a little known Kano-born politician to vie against MKO, his name: Alhaji Bashir Tofa. Several events followed in quick succession and the country experience a robust campaign and mobilisation of the electorate for the elections.

The populace saw hope in Abiola, they saw action in Kingibe. MKO was the love, SDP was the party. Abiola would most time campaign in his billowing Agbada with horse crested/embroidered on it at the chest level. On every of his posters was “HOPE 93”. Professor Humphrey Nwosu set the date for the D-day,June12,1993: unknown to him he had set the date for a tragic history.

To prove his level of acceptability, MKO floored TOFA in his Kano ward(his homestead); Bashorun was accepted across all religions and ethnic groups in the country.

Alas! The worst happened, the cannon was fired from General Ibrahim Babangida junta. He declared the elections annulled on 26th June, 1993. He gave excuse such as election malpractices, rigging etc. Nigerians were sad, street protests upsurged, chaos took over as a result of the evil genius’ pronouncement of the annulment.

Afterwards, Babangida bowed out as a result of national and international pressures. Sonekan was fixed as the interim head of government with the dark-glasses Army General, Abacha, as its stabilizer. He saw it as his opportunity; he knew the interim leader was weak, he pounced on him and took over leadership of the country from him.
Struggle for the actualization of people’s mandate went unabated; people got jailed whenever they get hailed. If you were people’s mouthpiece in those days, you had rather get ready for persecution of all sort, with an option of incarceration in most cases.

In times of freedom, men seek bondage, wrote poet Unamuno. In times of bondage, men seek liberty. To his tragic end, Abiola set to take his mandate. he couldn’t allow himself be denied of his mandate and watch his people’s voice discarded. He saw it as unpatriotic and chaotic-breeding. On the strength of that, on June 11, 1994, he declared the government of National Unity at Epetedo in Lagos in a speech entitled; “Enough is Enough”. It marked the beginning of his end. He was hunted, hounded and eventually arrested.

Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola’s sun suddenly and forcefully set. Democracy got imprisoned; democracy got clubbed to death.

Kudirat Abiola was a devoted wife, she stood by her husband. She gallantly fought the evil despot behind her husband ordeal. She turned an activist and her activities were put to an end. Her blood watered the earth as she was assassinated and her children got orphaned.

Where corruption thrives, everything is possible, including a breakdown of all norms and practices : that was the case of Bashorun Abiola and the Babangida-Abacha regimes.
The crises and problems facing Nigeria, as a microcosm of the world, are rooted in corruption which is launched on the springboard of religion and ethnicity masked by the masses’ illiteracy and docility. We have learnt so much but we have not unlearnt the wrong things we have accepted as a fait accompli. We have all been fed with lies by mind manipulators that we hold pervert opinions and wickedly negative views of one another, which all result in strife, tension and conflict enveloping our dear nation. We have allowed divisive politics, ethnic-chauvinism and religious bigotry to divide us so far that the young ones are becoming increasingly the most heinous and despicable.

However, life is not just for the survival of the fittest but of all since everyone has a role to play. The end also does not justify the means; it is the means that justifies the end and no one should be under the illusion that any evil done by man to man will go unpunished, if not now, surely later, to paraphrase the late Dele Giwa.

Importantly, the June12 saga has proved to be a potpourri of betrayal of trust and/or friendship as demonstrated by the Abiola-Babangida relationship; Of ethnicity as evinced by the prevention of power shifting from the Northern to the Western zone.

Apparently, Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was the president who never ruled. He had the intellectual acuity to take the rudderless nation to its promise land. The political prowess was there, he was a business mogul, his philanthropy was exemplary. He really deserve laudation for his munificence. In spite of his movement from a humble background to becoming a moneybag, he remained humble, he didn’t fumble, he granted people assistance and never grumbled.

Commendably and timely, on June 6, 2018, eight days after May 29, 2018 had been celebrated as Democracy Day, the President Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria declared June 12 to be the new Democracy Day: Patriotism. And Abiola’s tenacity of purpose is finally fulfilled: Heroism.

Overall, A man, they say, dies a death that best befits his person. A soldier’s death is at a warfront; a mariner’s at sea; and immortal martyrs, like MKO, die standing on their beliefs in the face of tyranny. As today marks the 28th year that MKO was denied his mandate, we cannot but pray that he continues to Rest In Peace.

Folorunso, Fatai Adisa writes in from Abeokuta.