…His words on

This week, specifically, Sunday, July 7, 2024, marks the 26th year remembrance anniversary of the death of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, simply known as MKO Abiola. He won the June 12, 1993, presidential election by a wide margin. Unfortunately, high-wire politics engaged by some forces of darkness chose to deprive Abiola of his victory. Like the Joan of Arc who was considered an heretic, only to be discovered to have been for real, Abiola has since been declared the winner of that election.

Unfortunately, one thing led to the other and Abiola died in detention.

However, Nigeria, being a country perpetually at war with itself, missed an opportunity to become great again – or, so it seemed.

The reason can not be far-fetched. For, Abiola, in his life time, was the epitome of industriousness, commitment, gregariousness as well as patriotism – although some Yoruba leaders who felt Abiola was complicit in the loss of that Yoruba socio-economic and political leader, Pa Obafemi Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, to Abiola’s National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in 1979 and Yet, because of the national mobilisation that Abiola was able to achieve, leading to his victory at the polls on June 12, 1993, even his worst critics rallied behind him when he was denied victory.

But Abiola is no more.

Before his incarceration and death, Abiola had said many things about his hopes and aspirations for a new Nigeria. In fact, had social media been as ubiquitous as it is today, it would have been difficult for that military regime to deprive Nigerians of that moment of glory. All over the world, the place of instant communication leading to mobilisation of the populace against or in favour of a government policy has proved to be very potent as a means of social change. Therefore, Abiola’s time came ahead of the tools that would have made him succeed. Even at that, his electoral victory was achieved by his deployment of technology such that even without the official result being declared, Abiola’s agents across the country had turned in the results to a command centre and the result had shown that Abiola won that election.

As Nigerians remember Abiola today, Vanguard has harvested just a few of his documented words on marble, from the economy to patriotism, sports and his place in history.

By Jide Ajani

On Ibrahim Babangida and June 12 imbroglio?

President Babangida is a friend. If you look at the house and take a snapshot of all the pictures, you will find more of his pictures in my house than my own pictures. We have been friends for over 20 years – very close friends. There has been quite a lot of effort by some people to create some friction between us. These are very trying periods, but friendship is made to last and be passed from one generation to another. I believe that should be the case in our situation too. These are temporary difficulties the nation is passing through and some in the armed forces are passing through it. But you will not allow that to affect our relationship.

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I don’t know who is asking him to apologise. Is anybody asking him to apologise? If a leader does what he thinks is the best thing to do in a given circumstance, but a leader when he has superior facts can change his mind. That won’t amount to an apology and nobody is asking him to. I’m not.

June 12 struggle continues

It will continue off and on until the military releases the result of the June 12 election and puts the democratically elected president – who is myself – in charge of affairs.

I won’t go to war, I won’t encourage my supporters to go to war, I will fight for peace and we will get peace.

We do not want the peace of a graveyard, a peace whereby somebody continues to ride on the rest of us with a gun.

We will get peace, but we will get it with decency and integrity and honesty and probity and democracy.

On nepotism and favouritism?

As President, it is none of my business what religious colour anybody wears.

In ITT, Concord, RCN, Summit Oil, in the bakeries, in the bookshops and in the press, we employed people purely on merit – round pegs in round holes. Period!

We have so many people who work for me whose hometown I don’t even know. I don’t even know them anyway and I don’t have to know them. We want to be objective. If I could do that in my own small business, I think Nigeria has every reason to expect from me a clear vision when it comes to the management of the affairs of the country as a whole.

On forex earnings?

Quite obviously, we need to earn more foreign exchange.

We shall therefore put in place policies that would broaden the foreign exchange earning capacity of the nation.

We will pursue export and local sourcing for industry. We shall aggressively pursue the implementation of the NLNG project if the logjam on the gas has not already been broken by this administration.

We shall maximise the nation’s return from oil by turning over future investments to the private sector and by removing the complex structures which make NNPC’S accountability and assessment of efficiency almost impossible.

Plans for transparency regarding crude oil?

There are so many layers upon layers built on the simple thing: crude oil. I don’t even know whether it’s oil or some mysteries around it that is taking the money from the Central Bank. I think we will demystify all these things. In my government, the daily export of crude will be published and the price at which it is sold will be published.

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On the economy and role of CBN?

The issue of planned implementation (of privatisation) is simple. Public things are not private. We have the National Assembly now, they will do their job. They will review the expenditure of the government and will hold a public hearing. We will no longer be hearing monetary circulars from the Central Bank without the bankers being told. The bankers will have to be involved. Like I said, every effort has been made in the past to shave people’s heads in their absence, it must stop. It won’t be allowed.

On IMF conditionalities?

The cumulative wisdom of all the bankers would have seen us out of the problems we have in the country today. Some people come from the IMF or World Bank, what do they know about Nigeria? The most brilliant doctor in Norway might not have seen malaria in his life, so bringing him here and imposing him as our medical director is like sending everybody to an early grave.

All that nonsense will stop. I rely on Nigerians to keep Nigeria running efficiently. There will be a few foreigners who will be recommended by our people, not those who will be imposed by some foreign authorities over us. We are an independent republic under God.

On commitment to sports (Abiola Babes Football Club Days)?

I want to see that it is very well done. I had to lead my footballers to play the Njanga Lions. They played the match at 2pm because they didn’t want our boys to rest – 2pm in the sun and our boys managed to play a draw and I drove straight to Lusaka to take the Zambian airline, another 11 hours flight to London for an important meeting.

So, I couldn’t sit with the boys being evacuated, but they were stranded in Addis Ababa. There is so much hassle in all these things because I am only one man. My father told me when my cousin was made a foreman. My father didn’t know it was FORE-, he thought it was FOUR. He said how can a man call himself a fourman? Every man is one man.

On popularity across the globe?

The name (MKO Abiola) is already well-known, thank God. You were in Dakar (Senegal). What other thing could anybody have wanted in his life? Only Nigeria refused to honour me and I am sure they will do that one day. The whole of Africa has honoured me.