Monday, 23 May 2016

Meet your hero: People in my community.

(M.K.O. and Late Nelson Mandela)
Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, a popular Nigerian tycoon, publisher, philanthropist and widely regarded winner of the annulled 1993 Presidential elections, was born on August 24, 1937. Abiola was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State to the family of Alhaji Salawu Abiola and Mrs. Zeliat Abiola. He was not officially named until he was 15 years old. Prior to this age, he was known only as 'Kashimawo' meaning 'Let us wait and see' in the Yoruba language. Abiola was his father's twenty-third child but the first of his father's children to survive infancy, hence the name 'Kashimawo'. His journey into politics started early in life when he joined he joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) at age 19.

Abiola exhibited a tenacious and entrepreneurial attitude in his early life when at the age of 9, he started his first business selling firewood to support his aging father and his siblings. By the age of 15, he started performing (with his band) at various ceremonies in exchange for food at first and then later demanded cash payments for his performances as his fame grew. Abiola will use his cash payments to support his family and his education at the Baptist Boys High School (BBHS), Abeokuta. Abiola excelled at BBHS and eventually became the editor of the school magazine, The Trumpeter while Olusegun Obasanjo (future two time Nigerian President) was the deputy editor.

After completing secondary school (also known as high school), he left home to work as a bank clerk with Barclays Bank PLC in Ibadan, South-West Nigeria. His mother passed away the same day he left home but he was determined to surge ahead and still relocate despite the sudden his sudden loss. After two years at the bank, he would join the Western Region Finance Corporation as an executive accounts officer before leaving for Glasgow University, Scotland to pursue a degree in accountancy. At Glasgow University, Abiola earned a first class degree in accountancy and also gained a distinction from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

Energized by his academic success in Scotland, Abiola returned to Nigeria in 1966 and worked as a senior accountant at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital. Abiola would go on to work with Pfizer, before joining the ITT Corporation, where he later rose to the position of Vice-President, Africa and Middle East for the entire corporation. During his tenure at ITT, Abiola started investing heavily in Nigeria and West Africa. Abiola was able to establish Concord Press, Concord Airlines, African Concord, Concord Bulk Deliveries, Wonderloaf Bakeries, Banuso Fisheries, Abiola Football Club, Abiola Farms, Abiola Bookshop, ITT Nigeria Limited, Radio Communications of Nigeria (RCN), Habib Bank, Decca W.A. LTD., Africa Ocean Lines and Summit Oil International LTD. While he was setting up and running these companies, he also managed to execute his duties as Chairman of the Presidential Monitoring Committee, Chairman of the G15 Business Council, President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Patron of the Kwame Nkrumah Foundation and the WEB Du Bois Foundation, trustee of the Martin Luther King Foundation and Director of the International Press Institute.

As Abiola's business success grew and his philanthropic activities became more noticeable, so also did his islamic and traditional titles. It has been reported that Abiola was conferred with nothing less than 200 chieftancy titles by 70 different communities in Nigeria alone! These titles included the Bobagunwa of Egbaland (1972), Bada of Gbagura Muslims (1972), Oganla of Ojoo, Gbagura (1973), Jagunmolu of Egba Muslims (1978), Turbanned by the Sarkin Katsina (1979), Bobajiro of Ode Remo (1979), Turbanned by the Sultan of Sokoto (1980), Ozemoya of Auchi (1982), Balogun of Ojoo, Ggagura (1983), Baba Adinni of Yorubaland (1983), Adaidaha of Ke Eb Rutu of Calabar (1986), Ithevuegbe of Weppa Wano, Agenebode (1986), Bashorun of Ibadanland (1987), Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland (1987), Jagungbola of Lagos (1989), Balogun of Aramokoland (1990), Asalu of Remoland (1991), Amirul Mumini of the United Muslims Council of Nigeria (1991), Magayakin of Katsina (1991), Otunba Tayeshe of Osogbo (1991), Magayakin Zauzzau of Suleja (1991), Odole of Idanreland (1991), Obong Eduek of Akwa Ibom (1991) and Ajagunla of Ado Ekiti (1992) just to mention a few. His monetary assistance led to the establishment of at least 60 secondary schools, 120 mosques and churches, 40 libraries, 20 water projects in at least 23 states in Nigeria. As a result, Abiola was admired across the diverse ethnic and religious factions in Nigeria. He was also widely lauded by most African head of states and global leaders. In September 1989, the Congressional Black Caucus of the United States congress paid tribute to Abiola for his commitment to improving the lives of Africans both on the continent and in the Diaspora

Abiola's stance as a statesman took shape when he started making financial contributions to organizations fighting white minority rule in Southern Africa. He was sponsoring anti-apartheid organizations and the African National Congress (ANC) as far back as 1976. In 1980, he joined the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and was elected the chairman of his party. After years of intermittently suspended and sometimes delayed civilian rule, Abiola would run on June 12, 1993 as the Presidential nominee for the Social Democratic Party (SDP) against his opponent, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (RNC). Abiola crushed his rival winning 19 out of 30 states including Kano State; the home state of Bashir Tofa. Abiola's landslide victory in states many people thought was implausible for a Southerner clearly portrayed the extent to which the Nigerian tycoon and statesman had become a unifying voice in the country. However, the election results were nullified by General Ibrahim Babangida and a political impasse arose which led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.

Following the annulment of the June 12 election and the insistence of the Abacha regime not to acknowledge the results, protests erupted within Nigeria and Abiola received support from a vocal international community that called for Abacha to relinquish power. The growing tensions between Abiola and Abacha came to a head when on May 10th, 1994, Abiola sat in the seat reserved for Nigeria's head of State and consequently declared himself the legitimate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on his return to Nigeria. In the unfolding turmoil of Abacha's rule, Abacha ordered the arrest of Abiola for treason on June 23, 1994. Abiola will remain imprisoned and die under bizarre circumstances on July 7, 1998. Alleged reports indicate that Abiola received inadequate medical attention for his existing health conditions while in imprisonment.

According to Dele Momodu, June 12 "was a day Nigerians had their own Obama before Obama, but we wasted the opportunity. We could have easily shown the world that Nigerians was not a colony of monkeys, but we aborted the pregnancy when we should have shown the world what Nigerians could really do." Several states today observe June 12 as Democracy Day in Nigeria and a number of streets, buildings and structures have been named after Abiola to celebrate his short-lived life of political, international and business accomplishments. He was definitely one of the greatest Africans ever and the President Nigeria never had. He died at the age of 60.

By The 234 Project.

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