"M.K.O. na him we want o!" A number of people have suggested MKO now, and even though we were reticent (for what we thought to be obvious reasons) to give in to their requests, we have decided to let the rest of The Afro Beat decide whether he is worth remembering and what he should be remembered for.
Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was a Yoruba businessman, publisher and politician, though he was an accountant by training. His early career was with ITT (ironic when you consider the Fela song), whereby he later rose to the position of vice-president, Africa and Middle-east.
In the presidential elections of June 12, 1993, Abiola was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (his running mate was Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe) and overwhelmingly defeated his northern (Hausa) rival, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. However, the election was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, and subsequent events led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.
MKO is believed by many to have won Nigeria's freest and fairest (presidential) election ever held - June 12, 1993.
Abiola died in captivity of a heart attack on July 7, 1998. Some of his supporters claim that his death – immediately following that of his captor, Sani Abacha – was masterminded by western powers through the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) to level the political playing field in Nigeria.
Moshood Kashimawo Abiola is an icon of democracy in Nigeria. He was the first Southerner to cross the political bridge by aligning otherwise opposing political forces from the North and South to form a political coalition in 1993's election. Many Southerners had earlier attempted this but without much success.
From journalist, Reuben Abati...
The annulment of the Presidential election of June 12, 1993, which Abiola had won to all intents and purposes transfigured him into a national icon for the expression of grievances and rebellion against the excesses of the military elite, and even more importantly, the limitations and disconnections at the heart of the Nigerian state. M.K.O. Abiola became at that moment, the hero of the masses.
It was a task in retrospect, for which he was hardly prepared, but he found in the task a challenge which he willingly embraced. If Abiola had wished, he could have abandoned the struggle, but he had become hostage to the popular will, to the very mandate which he insisted upon and he found himself on a lonely road where every indicator pointed in only one direction. Herein lay the substance of his heroism: His resolve that is, to turn himself into a sacrificial lamb, and thereby atone for whatever may have been his own personal excesses.
From journalist, Seyi Oduyela...
I think the earlier we separate the person of Bashorun Abiola from the real issue of June 12 the better for us. June 12, to me is greater than any individual. It does not represent Bashorun Abiola, no it does not. It was a day Nigerians said SABENA- Such A Bitter Experience Never Again. But unfortunately, we have not come over it because we still mix sentiment with the truth.
(Please Note: the information presented in this section included unconfirmed allegations widely believed to be true among some Nigerians in journalism (Mr Oduyela included)...however, The Afro Beat does not claim these to be grounded in facts.
•In 1978 he was at the Constituent Assembly where he walked out because the likes of Baba Awolowo and others refused to include Sharia in the Nigerian constitution at the Federal level. It is on record that he did not sign the constitution of 1979 because of this.
•Unconfirmed reports speculate that MKO ALLEGEDLY financed and supported the coup that toppled President Shehu Shagari in 1983, as well as the bloody coup that brought Yoweri Museveni to power in Uganda.
•He became more visible during Ibrahim Babangida's 8 years of misrule. He was seen to be an astute defender of Babangida's policies until after the annulment of June 12, 1993 elections.
In our opinion, the pivotal contribution MKO made to Nigeria was not only through his political career, but through the people he left behind.
Several of his wives and daughters are still on the scene, perpetuating his legacy through laudable humanitarian organisations.
His wife, Kudirat Abiola, was murdered during a demonstration for the release of her husband in 1996.
In her honour, his daughter Hafsat Abiola founded the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) and became a democracy activist. KIND sponsors leadership programmes for young women leaders that it hopes will be the new generation of pro-democracy and people-centred development in Nigeria.
M.K.O. Abiola lives in the hearts of millions of Nigerian men and women for various reasons, and today, The Afro Beat Remembers his legacy...and lets YOU DECIDE.