Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Life and Time of MKO Abiola

18 years after the death of late business mogul and winner of the Jun12 1993 presidential election MKO Abiola,AYODELE SAMUEL date back his life and time Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and often referred to as M. K. O. Abiola was born in August 24, 1937. Chief Abiola was a popular businessman, publisher and politician. He was born in his native Egba town, Abeokuta the Ogun state capital at the south-western part of Nigeria. Chief Moshood Abiola was his father's twenty-third child but the first of his father's children to survive infancy, hence the name 'Kashimawo' which means "Let us wait and see". It was not until he was 15 years old that he was properly named Moshood, by his parents. Chief Abiola at the tender age of nine he started his first business selling firewood. He would wake up at dawn to go to the forest and gather firewood, which he would then cart back to town and sell before going to school, in order to support his old father and his siblings. He later founded a band at age fifteen where he would perform at various ceremonies in exchange of food. He eventually became famous enough to start demanding payment for his performances and used the money to support his family and his secondary education at the Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta, where he excelled. He was the Editor of the school magazine The Trumpeter and former President Olusegun Obasanjo was Deputy Editor. At the age of 19, he joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons ostensibly because of its Pan-African agenda. In 1956 Chief Abiola started his professional career as Bank Clerk with the then Barclays Bank plc in Ibadan, Oyo state, south-west Nigeria. After two years he joined the Western Region Finance Corporation [WRFC] as an Executive Accounts Officer before leaving for Glasgow, Scotland to pursue his higher education. He received 1st class in Political Economy, Commercial Law and Management Accountancy in Glasgow. He also received a distinction from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. On his return to Nigeria he worked as a Senior Accountant at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital and then went onto Pfizer, before joining the ITT Corporation, where he later rose to the position of Vice President, Africa and Middle-East of the corporation which has its headquarters in the United States. He founded: Abiola Farms, Abiola bookshops, Radio Communications Nigeria, Wonder Bakeries, Concord Press, Concord Airlines, Summit Oil International Limited, Africa Ocean Lines, Habib Bank, Decca W.A. Limited, and Abiola Football Club also known as Abiola Babes. In addition to this he also managed to perform his duties as Chairman of the G15 Business Council, President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Patron of the Kwame Nkrumah Foundation, Patron of the WEB Du Bois Foundation, trustee of the Martin Luther King Foundation and Director of the International Press Institute. From 1972 until his death Moshood Abiola had been conferred with 197 traditional titles by 68 different communities in Nigeria, in response to the fact that his financial assistance resulted in the construction of 63 secondary schools, 121 mosques and churches, 41 libraries, 21 water projects in 24 states of Nigeria, and was grand patron to 149 societies or associations in Nigeria. In this way Abiola reached out and won admiration across the multifarious ethnic and religious divides in Nigeria. In addition to his work in Nigeria, Moshood Abiola was a dedicated supporter of the Southern African Liberation movements from the 1970s and he sponsored the campaign to win reparations for slavery and colonialism in Africa and the diaspora. Chief Abiola, personally rallied every African head of state, and every head of state in the black diaspora to ensure that Africans would speak with one voice on the issues Abiola's involvement in politics started early on in life when he joined the NCNC at age 19. In the 1980s, he was elected as the Chairman of the ruling National Party of Nigeria [NPN]. After an aborted initial primary, Chief Abiola stood for the Presidential nomination of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] and beat Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to secure the presidential nomination of the SDP ahead of the June 12th 1993 Presidential elections. Unfortunately no Wednesday, June 23, 1993 General Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election without allowing the Professor Humphrey Nwosu-led National Electoral Commission [NEC] to release the rest of the results which was supposed to usher the country into democratic rule never saw the light of day. The June 12 Presidential election was believed to have been in favour of the Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party [SDP], late Chief M.K.O Abiola. He overwhelmingly defeated his rival, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention [NRC] in an election that was declared to be the country's freest and fairest election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponent home state and over two-thirds of Nigerian states. The June 12 1993 presidential election was signalized. It remains a historical watershed in Nigeria polity. For the very first time, Nigerians voted massively in a threat-free atmosphere, not only choosing a Southerner, but also endorsing a Muslim-Muslim ticket. This in itself was proof of the reach and penetration of the Abiola personality. Prior to the elections, Nigeria was in the grasps of iron-cast dictatorship. Through mind-blowing prevarication, and foot-dragging we finally arrived at an election that must remain a national standpoint. In 1994 Chief Moshood Abiola declared himself the lawful President of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island, an area mainly populated by impoverished Nigerians. He had recently returned from a trip to win the support of the international community for his mandate. After declaring himself President he was declared wanted, accused of treason and arrested on the orders of the Military Head of State, General Sani Abacha. He was detained for four years, largely in solitary confinement and during that time, the late Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activists from all over the world lobbied the Military ruler General Abacha for his release. MKO Abiola has been referred to as one of Nigeria's greatest statesman who later passed on in prison on Tuesday, July 7, 1998. Moshood Abiola was twice voted international businessman of the year, and received numerous honorary doctorates from universities all over the world. In 1987 he was bestowed with the golden key to the city of Washington D.C., and he was bestowed with awards from the NAACP and the King center in the USA, as well as the International Committee on Education for Teaching in Paris, amongst many others. In Nigeria, the Oloye Abiola was made the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. It is the highest chieftancy title available to commoners amongst the Yoruba, and has only been conferred by the tribe 14 times in its history. This in effect rendered Abiola the ceremonial War Viceroy of all of the Yoruba people. According to the folklore of the tribe as recounted by the Yoruba elders, the Aare Ona Kakanfo is expected to die a warrior in the defense of his nation inorder to prove himself in the eyes of both the divine and the mortal as having been worthy of his title. Late MKO did, he die defending his June12 mandate.