By Abiola Rufai
Kola Abiola, son of acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 General Election, Late Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola, has pointed out that former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu aimed to become Lagos Administrator under the government of military regime of Late General Sanni Abacha.
According to an interview published recently in Sun, Kola affirmed that Tinubu who did not get Abacha nod for the said position, decided to go for Deputy Administrator and later the post of Commissioner which according to Kola were to no availed.
Kola said, “At the very beginning, Tinubu was part of the Yar’Adua PF group from Jos. He was a Senator then, and as far as the group went, we related. The crisis started during post-election. When Abacha came, one of the things he wanted to do was to be the administrator for Lagos.
“I am sure you have seen pictures of Tinubu and my dad. He was hoping that there would be civilian administrators like we had under IBB, but Abacha said no, that he was going to have military administrators. So he (Tinubu) said okay, in that case, can I be a deputy administrator? But Abacha said that there wouldn’t be deputies. Then he wanted the post of a commissioner.
“Then it was a choice between him and someone very close to Jakande who has passed on now. I can’t remember his name, but because Babagana was already in the government, that guy was picked as commissioner. But really, Senator Tinubu had lost out already”.
When asked if Tinubu was very close to MKO, Kola said, “Yes, he was close enough. He and Adeniji Adele, a very good guy, were close to my father. In fact, Adeniji was closer to my father and more dedicated to the process than anyone of them. When my documentary comes out, you will see Tinubu’s take on issues. So once he lost out, automatically, he became a NADECO member and Adeniji was incarcerated”.
When asked if NADECO was actually working for Abiola, the first child of the late business mogul stated that, some members were working for him, adding that the body was like a pyramid where the bottom is used to feed the top.
He pointed out that, “the bottom generates all the funds and comes all the way up and then they enjoy the loot. It is exactly the same process. In the process of taking the public sentiments of ‘oh, we want June 12’, they all appeared as if they were supporting MKO.
On Gen. Diya involvement in his father’s debacle, Kola has this to say, ” Diya’s imprisonment cleans him offmy father’s problem. I went to welcomed Diya after he was released from prison, shortly after Abacha’s death.
“I used the opportunity to interviewed him to give him chance to state his own side. I told Diya that it was good he went through that process, because if he had stayed with Abacha till he died, he might not have been alive today or may not be able to come back to the South West without being lynched.
“And Diya looked at me and said he thought he could come in quietly to Lagos, but that he was shocked at the reception he received. It was the imprisonment process that cleansed Diya, but God has a way of showing his power. I said what I said from what I know”, Kola stated.
He said that the family never saw late MKO where he was incarcerated as against the rumour that late Abacha kept him in an open grave during the trying period, adding that whenever they went to visit him, they always waited at the police headquarters, Abuja sometimes for two weeks and that they usually brought him to the station at old CBN and was allowed to stay with them for an hour or more.
On Kingibe, Kola said, ” my father was not surprised when Kingibe joined Abacha’s government because I had already told him. Knowing what I had known, I met my father in his room and told him to handle the situation right because if he didn’t, we would be the biggest losers. He then asked me what I meant. I pointed out people around him who were already gone; so he wasn’t surprised when it happened.
“When my father was arrested after the declaration, I went to see Abacha and I must say that he received me well. He asked me why my father declared himself President; I told him it was not a matter of why, but that the deed had been done already. I asked him what the way forward was and he said if I was able to correct it, that he was willing to let everything go.
“By correcting things, he meant that I should come out publicly and tell the country that my father made a mistake by declaring himself President, but there was no way I would do that. I had to stand by my dad and that was the beginning of his four year incarceration”.
Kola Abiola however stated that recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day in honour of his late father and the election won by MKO by President Muhammadu Buhari was an end of a long journey started in 1991 at the Hilton Hotel which his father’s personal assistant back then, Olu Akerele, tried to convince him to participate in the election.
He said, “at the very beginning, I was not involved; I knew what my father was planning, but I just carried on like I didn’t know what was going on because he didn’t tell me directly”.
Kola further said that the family had an understanding that late MKO would let the Ibrahim Babangida transition programme go before they participate in any election, stating that it was not the case of whether they should go into the contest or not, but the Abiola family wanted Babangida transition to go through before they participated and after a lot of pressure, late Abiola then went to Abeokuta to get a form to contest for the election.
Late MKO’s son said that, the democracy date (June 12) signifies a lot of things that does not exist today. According to him, “the national date signifies a lot of things. Firstly, he had a Muslim-Muslim ticket, which meant that religious bigotry is out of the window. We had a South West person. The country and people voted for him across ethnic groups.
“That date will always be relevant in this country as long as Nigeria remains one because it is the day the country came together as one tribe, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. My plea is that under the leadership of President Buhari, that irrespective of where we are coming from, we must come together and stop all the killings and the ethnic division.
“On June 12, people voted for a man that represented a true detribalised Nigerian. That is the significance of why he got the GCFR, anyway. When I started this process and the Jonathan government felt they could name University of Lagos (UNILAG) after him, I told the government that MKO was not a South Western man. Jonathan missed it because we already had Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Ogun State and we have a stadium there named after him”.
When asked if he believes that MKO was murdered or died a natural death, Kola Abiola said, “I think that is very irrelevant, to be honest. If you know my father well enough, he walked with a first aid kit. He knew his body so well and when anything was out of order, he hopped into a plane and demanded to be taken to his doctor. If he walked past a clinic, he would stop and tell you to take his blood pressure.
“Now, if you lock up such a man for four years without getting him medical attention, you have already killed him. You don’t need to put a gun to his head or poison his tea, which was what he meant when he said Abacha had locked him in a coffin. We all knew he had high blood pressure, so it’s a given that such a person should have had frequent medical attention.
“I think, at a point, we were successful in getting him to go for treatment, but then his lawyer came and decided to challenge the conditional release that was brokered. I did not see the sense in that. Would you also blame his lawyer for being part of the conspiracy or not? Abacha even said on live TV that he didn’t know what my father’s lawyer was doing, but that he certainly wasn’t working for the government. You can go and check the clip”.
On how the family heard the news of MKO’s death, Kola stated that the family was called from Abuja collectively except him which could not be found at that period and indirectly later heard of his father’s death which was then confirmed to him through a call from the Villa.
Kola who affirmed that it was terrible for him at the period confirming that his father was dead on arriving the Villa said that, “for me as the first son and the head of the family, I needed to be strong. They didn’t beat us and to do otherwise would make it look like we had been defeated.
“I went in there and saw the body and I asked if we could take him for burial. They told me that we had to go and meet with General Abdulsalami who pleaded that they should be allowed to carry out an autopsy. I initially said no because, as a Muslim, he should be buried immediately. But he pleaded and I later agreed and that was arranged. I had come to terms with it and, emotionally, I was strong because, before then, I had seen the death of my mum who died at 54”.
When asked of the total number of Abiola’s children, Kola said, “You can’t count the number of children one has. There was a lot of uniqueness in MKO; to him, nothing is a mistake. It may look like an excessive thing, but over the years, it turned out well. I have a sister married to a Deltan. I am married to a Deltan. I have a sister married to Ijebu. I have a brother married to an American. I have a brother married to the Kanuri. I have a brother married to someone from Zimbabwe, and before you know it, we would be presidents all over the world. We don’t joke around”.
Responding to the acrimony in the family of one of his siblings accusing him in the media recently, that he is not giving them the opportunity to run in their late father’s businesses and that the businesses are in ruins, the first son of late MKO said, ” I’m glad you brought it up. All these businesses did not start in one day, but the government shut everything down in one day. A lot of these businesses were created by the eldest of Abiola’s children; Deji, me and others.
“My sentiment is totally different from any other kid who was just there spending money. If I was like them, I would have sold everything and nobody would query me, but I need to leave a legacy beyond the fact that our father was a philanthropist and a creator of value added wealth.
“I kept quiet because it is a family issue and my responsibility is not to put the family out there. But it has gotten to a point that something has to be said, not so much because of them, but because I now have kids and they are grown up and would also have their own kids and people would ask them questions about what they have been told about their father. I don’t play sentiments at all; so I am going to come forward with facts to show all that they are doing”.
Kola Abiola further said that, many of his late father’s debtors are yet to pay back their debt, adding that if he was to consider the interest accrued on the said debt, it should be approximately $400 million which is from one business alone. He said that the family were still in the process of recovering the money.
“I have cleared the June 12 issue, but I will now face the debt recovery issue squarely in the next four years”, he pointed out.
Whether late Abiola have a will, Kola stated that, “Yes, he had a will, which ought to have been executed by the bank, but the bank rejected executing it; so I had to take it on. We are still in the process, but in the mean time, we had so many people suing over which will is fake and which is real. They said it was my idea but the truth of the matter is that when the man was alive, those kids were made to take DNA tests. Was I also the one that asked for it? The kids that took the blood test know and their mothers know that their kids took blood tests.
“Even in his will, he named a particular child from a particular woman, saying the child was not his. How would he have known if he didn’t do a blood test when he was alive? Is that also my making? All the payments to the wives and brothers have been made, but when they were collecting the money, they didn’t tell me that it was a fake will. What is left to my mum, I couldn’t even collect because she died before my dad”.