Interviews

‘You journalists should thank the President on our behalf’-Jamiu Abiola on MKO Abiola’s Centenary Award

ALHAJI Jamiu Abiola is the scion of late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and late Alhaja Kudirat Adebisi Abiola, the couple who died in the course of restoration of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election.

The young man, who is a dealer with NNPC, was at the Centenary Celebration and collected the post-humous award for his late father, Chief M. K. O. Abiola.  He told ENCOMIUM Weekly in this interview that he collected the award on behalf of the family because President Goodluck Jonathan was the first and only Nigerian president to give his father his due recognition as the symbol of the current democratic dispensation.

Jamiu Abiola

Jamiu Abiola

He, therefore, enjoined Nigerian journalists to thank the president on behalf of Abiola family.

We will like to know why you went to collect the Centenary award on behalf f your family?

Let me read to you what the Centenary award states here, “Symbol of modern democratic struggle in Nigeria.  He struggled for the restoration of his annulled mandate and his eventual death gave birth to the current democratic dispensation.”  The Federal Government, from this statement has confirmed that his (Abiola) struggle and eventual death led to the current democratic dispensation.  Based on this fact, of course, we had to go.

Was is it the consensus of the family that you should go?

Let me tell you something.  First, the family never sat or held a meeting to decide whether I should go or not.  It’s just normal that after all these 14 or 15 years of democracy, President Goodluck Jonathan decided to break the jinx by recognizing Chief M. K. O Abiola and said it directly that he (Abiola) is the symbol of democracy in Nigeria today. It is only normal and rational for anybody to collect the award.

But why you and not Kola Abiola, who is the first son?

First, nobody is competing with anybody.  Again, in the Abiola family, all of us are adults. If you remember that my mother, Kudirat Abiola also played a major role in the democratic struggle and the restoration of my father’s mandate.  So, definitely I am also qualified to represent the family.

But the award was for your father and not your mother?

This is not a competition between my mother and father.  The fact that it was given to my father is more than enough.  They were both in the struggle together and they both died in it.  If they gave my father, it’s good enough. He was her husband, although she was the one that kept the struggle going.

Does your sister, Hafsat agree with you on this?

All my siblings from my mother, agreed on this. We talked about it and we all agreed.  It’s just that I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with the other people (other children of MKO Abiola).

So, that means the letter of invitation was directly addressed to you?

Yes, I received a letter from the Federal Government and I went to receive the award from them.

When you received the award, where did you keep it?  Your own house or the family house?

The award is here safe in the family house.  There is no problem.  That is not the problem.  The truth of the matter is that since all these years of democracy, nobody has honoured Chief M. K. O. Abiola.  This is the first president that did so.  What you journalists should do is to help us thank President Goodluck Jonathan for doing what other presidents have failed to do.  Other presidents didn’t acknowledge this man (MKO Abiola) and you know this very well.  Just give credit to the president and thank him on behalf of Abiola family.  Kindly do that for us.

Did the family not consider the fact that General Babangida and General Abacha, the two people that deprived your father of his victory and even incarcerated him were also given awards that day?

One thing you have to understand is this, I am just relieved that somebody has found it within himself to do what should have been done from the beginning.  That is where my own attention is focused.  Our own is not to bother ourselves with what someone is getting.  I am not interested.  My interest is in the fact that for the first time, someone has recognized Chief M. K. O. Abiola as the symbol of democracy in this country.  Just help us to thank the president.

But Professor Wole Soyinka said one of the reason he did not go to collect his own award was the fact that General Abacha who killed your father and mother was also being given award.  What is your take on this?

What Professor Wole Soyinka said about Abacha was right.  If Abacha was alive he was supposed to be in jail by now.  But to me, as a Muslim I know that Allah is already punishing him for all the things he did.  Right now, I think people like Professor Wole Soyinka should be very happy that the Federal Government has finally honoured Chief M. K. O. Abiola.  They should focus on that aspect of Chief MKO Abiola’s life. I don’t want anything to overshadow this moment that the Federal Government has honoured our father.  What we have been clamouring for all these years somebody has finally given to us.

What does this award mean to you and the family?

I cannot speak on behalf of the whole Abiola family but for me and my siblings.  This award is a very good development.  If you remember, it is in this struggle that we lost our parents.  It is very painful after losing both parents for democracy and yet for a long time the beneficiaries did not deem it fit to honour my parents.  For the president to do this is like somebody pulling me out of a drowning water.  Come to think of it, President Goodluck Jonathan never knew my father.  Obasanjo and late Yar’Adua were very close to my father and yet they didn’t do anything to honour him.  Why then wouldn’t I appreciate President Goodluck Jonathan who did not know him or who was not close to him (Abiola) for honouring him.  May God reward him for that.

Will this also translate to reviving some of your late father’s businesses that were put in comatose by the same Federal Government?

The problem with we Nigerians is that we are too materialistic.  We love money too much.  As at this point, we have to be selfless.  We are not thinking about material gain.  Nobody cares about that.  All we care about now is how we are going to help the country to stand.  How we are going to help the country fight Boko Haram.  How we are going to help the country to address inequalities and a whole lot of other things.  The Abiola family is not suffering.  I am a dealer with NNPC.  My brothers are doing well.  We don’t have any reason to complain.

–   TOLANI ABATTI

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