Abiola’s son opens up: I asked Obasanjo to honour my father
•Even in death MKO has many enemies
•President Buhari is a special person
•Jonathan had good intention by honouring MKO
•How Abacha sent news of mum’s death to dad in prison
BY CHARLES KUMOLU, Deputy Features Editor
ALHAJI Jamiu Abiola, son of the late presumed winner of June 12 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, in this interview, speaks on the honour bestowed on his father, untold stories of his incarceration and his father’s enemies among others. Jamiu, who is the third child of the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, also spoke on the roles of certain actors in the June 12 saga. Before the latest immortalisation of his father, he had authored two books on Abiola’s mandate, The Stolen Presidency and The President Who Never Ruled.
You wrote a book, The President Who Never Ruled about your late father, Chief MKO Abiola a few years ago. Today, the award of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR, to your father seems to have brought some of your wishes in the book to reality. How do you feel?
Right now I can say that I am the happiest man, not just literally, but factually. I am the happiest man because for so long I felt that my parents died for nothing because there is nothing worse than somebody making a sacrifice and the sacrifice not recognised. It was recognised by Nigerians but those that got power after June 12 found it convenient to sweep it under the carpet for reasons best known to them. Initially, I was almost getting frustrated because some people were trying to rewrite history by ignoring my father. This is not the first time that a great man has been treated the way my father was treated.
For example, Julius Caeser did a lot for the Roman Empire. He went around conquering nations and building empires but the elite in Rome conspired and killed him. That is why I want everybody in Nigeria to give special respect to President Buhari. He is very fantastic. I am not flattering him because that is the truth. Some say that the truth is bitter, but in this case, the truth is sweet about President Muhammadu Buhari.
In this case, he is not only a good person but a perfect person. He is not a Yoruba man. He is from Katsina and has proven that he is more detribalised than any other Nigerian. He is of the same calibre with people like Mandela and Chief Abiola. Now he has shown that it is not about where anyone comes from, but about the fact that we are one. That is the symbolic meaning of what he has done.
25 years ago the election was held and nobody that got to power did what he has done. President Goodluck Jonathan tried by naming the University of Lagos after him but people felt that, UNILAG was too small for Chief Abiola. I was very happy when he did it because I believe that if someone is going somewhere, he must start from somewhere.
This honour bestowed on your father came 48 hours after the commemoration of the death of your mother, the late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, who also died in the struggle. What can you say about the coincidence?
MKO Abiola and Kudirat Abiola are one. This struggle is like teamwork. When MKO Abiola was arrested, his role in the struggle became limited. He was now fighting an internal struggle because at that time he was in solitary confinement. But the struggle was led by a woman who was 44 years old at that time. She was the one that led the struggle against the military which was the most powerful mafia at that time because they had wealth, power and other resources at their disposal. She did not give up. I called her several times when I was in America to quit the struggle because she would die.
I told her to take things easy. I told her to come to America. Her response was ‘’how can I leave when my husband is here.” Unfortunately, she got killed. I am so grateful that the American city of New York named a street after her. That was something that had never been done to any African in America other than Mandela. Even my father did not get that honour. The 44th Street in New York was named after her.
Another book you wrote about your father is The Stolen Presidency. In it, you also revealed some of the intrigues that contributed to the fate that befell your father. In that book, you stated the honours that your father deserved including this honour bestowed on him by President Buhari. What informed that?
“The President Who Never Ruled” and “The Stolen Mandate” were the most difficult tasks I have undertaken in my life because I experienced psychological trauma. What made it more dramatic was that after writing it in English, I translated it into Arabic. I did that so that people in the Arab world will know that Africa can actually produce quality and sacrifice. I wanted them to also know that Africans are not just barbaric. I wrote the book because I realised that Abiola’s name was going and nobody wanted to recognise him.
When I wrote the book, I dedicated it to President Youri Museveni and President Nelson Mandela for supporting my father, President Moshood Abiola when he was incarcerated. I referred to him as President Abiola in the book. It was in 2015. I gave the book to President Buhari, who had not become President then. I gave the book to Obasanjo and others. Some people called me after reading the book to ask if I was not scared of my life.
They said those who destroyed my father were still alive and I said the truth the way it was in the book. My response was that having lost my parents, even if I die for saying the truth about what happened to him, the struggle would continue. However, I did not have the premonition that he would eventually be given GCFR. I did it because as the son of Cheif MKO Abiola I owed him an obligation so that people will understand his story. I am happy that some of the things I said in the book have happened.
I actually said that the only good thing Abacha did in office was to appoint Gen Buhari as the Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund,PTF. At that time, there was no thought of Buhari doing something like this. I was just trying to be objective. Nigerians should respect and thank President Buhari.
How do you feel that Obasanjo, who was Abiola’s schoolmate, was in power for eight years without honouring Abiola, who was even his school mate?
When Obasanjo was the President, I visited him several times and called him several times. He also called me. Even when I wrote my first book, he did a fantastic review of the book and said the book gave people hope. There was a time I sent him a text message when he was President, telling him that peoples’ impression about his failure to honour Abiola was because he did not like him. Unfortunately, he did not do it. When I wrote the second book on my father, I gave him the book. I am sure he read it. All I have done for my father were not for a favour. They are the things I am supposed to do as a son. I saw it as an obligation. I will also want my son to do so for me.
Don’t you think you are biased?
Anybody that feels I am biased about my father should write his own book. I have to be biased because I did not come to this world by accident. These were the people that brought me to this world.
When Jonathan named UNILAG after MKO Abiola a lot of people thought it was a big honour, but it was opposed. Jonathan later succumbed to pressure. How did you feel when it happened?
Half a loaf of bread is better than none. President Jonathan did what he did because he had good intention. Unfortunately, MKO Abiola has a lot of enemies, who claim to be his friends. Those were the people causing the problem. Imagine a President of Nigeria making a statement and less than five minutes later, people were in BRT Buses protesting against the announcement. They were on Third Mainland Bridge causing problems. How were they mobilised?
A lot of people, who did not want Jonathan to have goodwill in the Southwest, opposed it. That is to show that MKO Abiola was so powerful that even in death, he has so many enemies. That is why I said we have to thank President Buhari specially. I am not saying he is angelic but he should be supported to excel.
There are insinuations that this honour is a political missile targeted at Obasanjo, and other former leaders, who have spoken against the president’s re-election bid?
Even before MKO Abiola ran for the presidency, some people said he was just being generous because he wanted to become President. People will always say what they want to say. What President Buhari has done is an indication of the fact that he is a great man. Because he is a great man, people will love or hate whatever he did. Those of us who know the truth understand that if he was not a good man, he would not have done what he did. Some people have the political advantage of doing that but they did not do it. We are not looking at it in a way that he wants to score political points. It is better late than never.
Since the honour on your dad was announced, some are of the opinion that he should be named a posthumous President. The way people are talking seems as if many people are now scrambling to take glory in the imortalisation of MKO Abiola. Do you see it in that way?
This is Africa where many bad things overshadow good things. But when good things happen in Africa they have spiral effects. Those talking now are just doing the right thing. I am not seeing it that anybody is scrambling for anything. They are politicians but a lot of people don’t trust politicians in this country. Sometimes they do things because they actually want to do them for a good reason. It is important we give them the benefit of the doubt so that we can come together and solve the problems of this country. If we don’t come together to do the right thing, we may never get it right.
If you find yourself with Obasanjo and other leaders, who played roles in the June 12 saga in a common room, what will you discuss with them as the son of MKO Abiola?
The wise people in this world have always said that it is good to find a middle ground. I will find what I have in common with them and discuss. We have to focus on good things.
Today, June 8, 2018, is very symbolic. As I am interviewing you now, the Abachas are observing the anniversary of their father’s death. Considering that the incarceration of your father for five years was among the factors believed to be instrumental in his death, have you forgiven the Abacha family?
If I have not forgiven Abacha, the fact that I cannot do any harm to any of them means that my forgiveness is inconsequential. It is so complicated that I cannot say, yellow, blue or black. The most important thing is that if somebody is down, there is no point pushing the person down. Today, when people talk about Abacha is it not about looting? Unfortunately for Abacha even if he earned a legitimate living, nobody is talking about that now. All people are saying is Abacha loot. So, Abacha is already finished. What can I say about somebody in that situation? Now, everybody is talking about MKO Abiola. God has settled everything.
On MKO Abiola’s sacrifice
You will never know who you are until you get to a position where you can do whatever you want to do. A man can be nice but when he becomes rich, his true colours will manifest. Before my father became rich he was a businessman. He was into profit-making. The last time I saw him in 1995, Abacha asked one policeman to bring him to where we were. That was after we waited for three days. Before I saw him, the policeman said I should tell my father to forget about the struggle and move on with his life. He said we should beg him to forget about it because he didn’t want him to die.
He even said my father was nice to them before he was incarcerated. When he came and sat down with us, we asked him how he was doing and his response was ‘’me, I am doing fine.” We then asked him how he was going about his insistence on his mandate, he said, “I am ready to die.” When he said that, the policeman was disappointed.
My father said Nigerians were suffering adding that Abacha did not allow his doctor to see him. He also said they put him in a Black Maria. That was in 1995 when he had spent one year in detention. This was a man who would go to London twice weekly. His pilot and his crew lived in Sheraton. Sometimes he would fly to Paris to have his Rolls Royce so that he could drive to London to have a rest. He lived the highest life ever since 1975 until he was arrested. He was living in London and living in Nigeria. Sometimes, he would go to America and would leave after spending five hours.
During our visit, I reminded him that he once told me that if somebody was holding a sword and if I try taking the sword by force, I would get hurt. I also reminded him that he said that it was good to take the sword gently. He responded that he had taken the sword by the handle, adding that if they stabbed him, that was their business. He was not a shallow man. That was why he was doing so many things. He said he would not accept the position of a Prime Minister from Abacha.
They would have shared the government but he said he would not do it, saying that Abacha was very greedy. He said he didn’t want anyone that would soil his name. Abacha wanted to kill everything about him to the extent that a newspaper report of my mother’s death was given to him the next day.
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