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General News of Sunday, 12 June 2022


FLASHBACK: MKO Abiola the beacon of Nigeria's democracy

MKO Abiola MKO Abiola

Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola popularly known as MKO has been remembered as the beacon of Nigeria's democracy following his long fight for the rights of citizens to elect their own leaders.

His name, Kashimawo, means "Let us wait and see". Moshood Abiola was his father's twenty-third child, but the first of them to survive infancy, hence the name 'Kashimawo'. It was until 15-years-old that his parent properly named him Moshood.

In 1993, Abiola announced his bid to contest for president under the party SDP.
SDP's primaries was held in Jos and was largely a three-way contest between Abiola, Kingibe and Atiku even though there were more aspirants. Abiola was heavily supported by the People's Solidarity faction (PSP) within SDP while Atiku was supported by PF faction led by Yar'Adua and Kingibe was supported by a loose coalition of party members.

During the first ballot, Abiola was able to score a slim majority vote of 3,617 to Kingibe's 3,225. A second round was contested two days later and Abiola again emerged victorious with a slim margin and he became the party's presidential candidate for the June 12 election.

Abiola's political message was an optimistic future for Nigeria with slogans such as "Farewell to poverty", " At last! Our rays of Hope" and the "Burden of Schooling". His economic policy included negotiations with foreign creditors and better management of the country's international debts, in addition, increased cooperation with the foreign community while presenting himself as someone the international community can trust.

Abiola's running mate for the June 12, 1993 presidential elections, was his primary opponent Baba Gana Kingibe. He defeated his rival, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. The election was declared Nigeria's freest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponent's home state of Kano.

Abiola won at the national capital, Abuja, the military polling stations, and over two-thirds of Nigerian states. Men of Northern descent had largely dominated Nigeria's political landscape since independence; Moshood Abiola, a Western Muslim, was able to secure a national mandate freely and fairly, unprecedented in Nigeria's history.

However, Ibrahim Babangida annulled the election, causing a political crisis which led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.

In 1994, Moshood Abiola, M.K.O. declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos island, an area mainly populated by (Yoruba) Lagos Indigenes. He had recently returned from a trip to win the support of the international community for his mandate. After declaring himself president he was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of military President General Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody.

He was detained for four years, largely in solitary confinement with a Bible, Qur'an, and fourteen guards as companions.

Moshood Abiola died unexpectedly, shortly after the death of General Abacha, on the day that he was due to be released. While meeting group of American diplomats including Thomas Pickering and Susan Rice at a government guesthouse in Abuja, Abiola fell ill and died. Rice had served tea to Abiola shortly before his collapse, and later wrote of an enduring belief in Nigeria that she had poisoned Abiola.

Independent autopsy carried out and witnessed by physicians and pathologists from the Nigerian government, Nigerian Medical Association, Canada, UK and the US found substantial evidence of longstanding heart disease.

M.K.O. Abiola has been referred to as Nigeria's greatest statesman.

President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria declared June 12 to be the new Democracy Day. He gave his inaugural address for his second term on June 12, 2019. These were done to commemorate the democratic election of MKO Abiola on June 12, 1993, in what has been adjudged to be Nigeria's freest and fairest elections.

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