June Twelve, a date that holds so much for the country, and which unabashedly has been used synonymously with freedom, fairness, justice, equality, unity and togetherness over the years ran its full circle mid last week in a rather dramatic stupor when against all expectations a sworn enemy of everything it stood for, in kowtowed firmness, awarded the highest commemorative garland, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, GCFR posthumously to its symbol, (President) Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the enigmatic figure that headlined the struggle.
It is not that the late business mogul turned politician was short in supply of these awards and honours that were as steeply political as they were culturally and traditionally reverent. Indeed, at the time these innumerate awards and honour were bestowed on him, it spiritually elevated him so loftily in height and caused his ascension into higher realms; a level that dwarfs whatever the revisionist garland bestowed on him may hope to achieve.
It’s on record that Abiola tucked in hundreds of these awards including institutionalised international awards bestowed on him on account of his doggedness for his fight to actualise the June 12 mandate handed to him by millions of Nigerians who enthroned him on a Muslim- Muslim Ticket, a feat unheralded in Nigerians’ political history.
When we note that Chief Moshood Abiola was a Yoruba man; an Oloye who became Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, the highest chieftaincy title available to commoners amongst the Yorubas, we will understand where his patriotism was rooted in. MKO, as he is fondly called, married Christian and Muslim wives from different parts of the country and also lived in different parts of the country. There is no doubt that the Aare Ona Kakanfo title topped an assortment of traditional chieftaincy titles he took from many kingdoms in Nigeria. However, the incontrovertible truth is that he was a patriot, a humanist, a leader, a nationalist, a democrat, a dogged fighter and a hopeful politician.
MKO, indeed, was a patriot to me, because he was willing to do anything for the country. And at that time he fought the greatest battle of all and paid the supreme price of death. He was also a humanist that cherished a system of values and beliefs that is based on an idea that people are basically good and that problems can be solved using reason instead of religion. He was unrelenting in making active efforts to promote human welfare as he gave money and time to help make life better for less privileged people.
Furthermore, he was a man that wielded enormous authority and he directed it maximally both as a businessman, a father, a husband, a politician and a publisher of note. He carried the nation as a delicate pot even as he ensured that it never fell off from his head whilst he politicked during his lifetime. His nationalism was unparalleled and this he demonstrated boldly when after the 1993 presidential polls he tactically retreated to re-order his steps. He resurfaced later to announce triumphantly his victory and reclaimed his mandate aborted by the then military political establishment headed by General Badamosi Babangida.
A dogged fighter par excellence he was to me as he never gave up. He was at the thick of every fight – business, social and political – and was an adherent that believed in, and supported democracy till his death. His confidence was high at all times! So hopeful was he that he adopted hope as part of his campaign theme. We need not forget HOPE 93, the rallying slogan that did it for us!
One of his greatest shortcomings, however, was that he never paid attention to his environment. And as David Suzuki, aptly warned, “It’s time we stopped ignoring the environment. Let’s not let another election go by without making this a high priority.” Abiola fell for it.
MKO offered everything that Nigerian Democracy lacked.
We take solace that an election was even held at the period because all kinds of obstacles were put on his path not to contest but he did. For as Joseph Stalin envisaged decades ago, “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything”. They, the military-political establishment counted the votes with people who actually cast the vote alongside MKO losing the polls.
As we mark 25th anniversary of annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential polls, we will object Earl Wilsons’ counsel that “the fastest way for a politician to become an elder statesman is to lose an election.” Abiola won the election but did not win the concomitant political power that followed therefrom, and this in no way diminished his status as as enigmatic statesman.
The baton is already in our hands as “young people are key to this election”, so affirmed Kinky Friedman.
2019, here we come!
And it must BE TAKEN BACK!