Something, sometimes, drives a long knife through the heart and the life-sustaining organ grieves. It is one such thing that a number of public figures and even elders saw the protest that greeted the renaming of the University of Lagos after the late Moshood Abiola as “unbelievable agitation” against “any honour” done to the departed symbol of democracy. The dagger would only pierce even deeper as a section of the Abiola family got so carried away by this barely minimum honour as to describe the people’s indignation as “sponsored protest” against any whatever honour done to their martyr patriarch!
Even MKO himself is protesting in his sleep. Just “any honour” for such a national icon, martyr, lord and saviour of Nigeria ’s democracy? Just “any honour” for the one who loved the country so much that he gave up his only begotten life so that even a “minority” citizen like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan could access the highest office in the land as against the old order?
Newspaper reports, a few years ago, quoted a big politician as saying that “I was one of those who insisted that Obasanjo be made president. But now I’m beginning to wonder whether we made the right choice. …” That is to say our leaders are never elected by the generality of Nigerians; it is a cult of a few people that “insist”! Just “any honour” for the one who revolted with his life, on our behalf, against such barbaric and demonic arrangement?
Perhaps, President Jonathan deserves some commendation for marking a fair attempt at a significant national service, curiously, but not unexpectedly, avoided by his penultimate predecessor. The kinsman of Kashimawo, the biggest beneficiary of his martyrdom, of course, for reasons best known to him, would never acknowledge the position and greatness of Abiola and the late Obafemi Awolowo who are much more revered and adored by the people at home and abroad, both in life and in death.
Abiola might not necessarily be in the same class as Awo in terms of intellectual sophistication, commanding erudition and sagacity and visionary political craftsmanship. But the late eternal reference-point Premier of the old Western Region ultimately died a normal natural death. Same goes for the great Zik of Africa and some other founding fathers. Abiola, on the other hand, paid the ultimate price, laying down his life at his prime, for Nigeria and in defence of her democracy.
Thus any honour done to Abiola can only bear weight and meaning if it is the ultimate, not one that could as well have been done to anyone else out there. For years now, the generality of the Nigerian populace have been near unanimous in clamouring for the Abuja National Stadium to be named after Abiola. This is one national monument that sits right there next to the Abuja city gate where citizens and visitors from all over the world are ushered into our symbol of national unity.
So who is afraid of naming a national monument in the seat of power and the pivotal centre of our democracy after the president-elect that never assumed office? Who are we waiting to name the National Stadium or the University of Abuja after? The born-to-rule cabal? Those self-serving Nigerians who annulled the landmark June 12, 1993 elections? The elders who tacitly endorsed and justified the criminal annulment with such infamous statements as “Abiola is not the messiah”?
MKO Abiola was not a tribal, sectional, religious or regional champion. As a private citizen, he was, in spite of his own human short-comings, a national figure. As a president-in-waiting, he won the votes of all – the votes of Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Kanuri, Ijaw, Fulani, Nupe and others, the votes of Christians and Moslems, the votes of the rich and the poor, the votes of the young and the old.
From the preliminary results of the June 12, 1993 elections released before the enemies of democracy struck, Abiola floored his opponent in the latter’s home state. No other elected leader in the history of Nigeria has ever achieved such a massive feat, not even President Jonathan who has been described as a custodian of a pan-Nigerian mandate.
The chief umpire who conducted the 1993 elections, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, eventually came out of hiding in 2008 to carry out what the gun stopped him from performing 15 years earlier. He announced to the whole world what every six-year-old kid in the country already knew by June 13, 1993 – that Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola clearly, decisively and conclusively won the elections.
So the most deserving honour to do to Abiola is to go ahead to hand him back his mandate and make him president. We can still do this even as he rests peacefully in his grave. There are three significant ways of going about it, aside from exorcising the spirit of poverty from the system, as a daughter of Abiola would prefer.
First is the formal declaration of his victory which had always been acknowledged by all and sundry, at home and beyond our shores, save for the cabal who delight in appropriating the power to rule or choose unto themselves, clinging to it just for the sake of it. Then establish his place in the presidential lineage.
Second is to name the seat of power itself after the one who won the most convincing mandate ever to occupy the villa. Change Aso Rock Villa to Moshood Abiola Villa so that any Jonathan, any Obasanjo, any Babangida or any Atiku that corners the privilege to capture the Villa comes face-to-face with the name, the symbol, the ideal and the spirit of the permanent occupant.
The third is to take a step that celebrates the second. This involves Democracy Day and the ideal date for it. It is a brilliant idea to celebrate Democracy Day. But Nigeria ’s real Democracy Day is June 12. All the political intrigues, horse-trading, calculations and permutations culminating in the events of May 29, 1999 had their genesis in the pregnancy delivered on June 12, 1993.
If you desire to celebrate a loved one, you do so on his birthday. May 29 was born on June 12.