•Those who killed Abacha killed Abiola
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has been berated for not immortalising the late Chief M.K.O Abiola over the role he played in the struggle to enthrone democracy in the country.
Making this declaration in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, an ex-NADECO chieftain and former General Secretary, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Union, NUPENG, Chief Frank Kokori described Obasanjo as very selfish for failing to accord Abiola his dues. The labour leader said recent attempts by Major Al-Mustapha to wash his hands clean of the death of Kudirat Abiola will not stand. Kokori also spoke on other national issues.
The 24th anniversary of the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election comes up on Monday, but it is the opinion of some Nigerians that years after the annulment, the man globally acknowledged as the symbol of that historical event, Chief M.K.O Abiola who eventually lost his life in the struggle is yet to be immortalised or even given posthumous national award, what’s your take on that?
I share the same view and opinion. It is very shameful, a big shame and even a national embarrassment that 24 years after M.K.O Abiola’s death, this nation is yet to immortalise him. It is a big shame.
Without M.K.O Abiola’s struggle following the annulment of that June 12, 1993 presidential election in which he was adjudged to have won by local and international monitors and observers but which was criminally annulled by the military regime under General Babangida, it won’t be possible to have this democracy we are enjoying today. Our political elite who know the right thing to do but have failed to do it don’t have conscience. All those leaders and members of the political class starting from 1999 up till 2015 are ingrates – I’m talking of those years when PDP was in power. The political leadership under PDP between 1999 and 2015, failed to do it.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is the worst culprit. He had all the opportunity to immortalise M.K.O Abiola but he failed to do so. Obasanjo was a powerful president, nobody would have challenged or raised voice against it if Obasanjo had honoured Abiola, but he refused to do so perhaps out of envy or hatred for Abiola, I wouldn’t know. I just can’t understand why Obasanjo failed to honour Abiola.
But unfortunately, what Obasanjo failed to realise is that he was a major beneficiary of Abiola’s death. Obasanjo and other political leaders who refused to accord Abiola his dues are ingrates. Without June 12 and Abiola’s death, Obasanjo may not have become president of this country again after serving as a military Head of State. Obasanjo didn’t want Abiola to be turned into a hero, but whether Obasanjo likes it or not, M.K.O Abiola has become a big hero in the political history of Nigeria. Not even only in Nigeria, M.K.O Abiola has become a global icon, an international hero, a man of honour who will continue to live in the minds of millions of people till eternity, while the conscience of these political leaders who have refused to honour him by doing the needful will continue to torment them.
It is a big shame that in this country, our true and genuine heroes are not recognised and honoured. Instead of giving honour to whom it is due, these clowns and jesters who paraded themselves as our political leaders have continued to honour and immortalise themselves by giving themselves national awards, and naming national monuments after themselves instead of those who genuinely deserve it.
For me, whether these political leaders honour or refuse to honour M.K.O Abiola, the man can’t die — Abiola can’t die. He made history and those who made history never die. They will continue to be remembered forever.
Obasanjo is mean, he refused to honour M.K.O Abiola because he doesn’t want any other Yoruba leader to be greater than him. Thank God that some states in the Southwest geo-political zone have declared June 12 as a public holiday, that’s another form of recognition for Abiola, but I believe that June 12 should be declared officially as a national public holiday.
But former President Goodluck Jonathan named UNILAG …
Cuts in … As for former President Goodluck Jonathan who renamed University of Lagos, UNILAG after M.K.O Abiola, to me that was a greek gift — whosoever advised Jonathan to do that was his enemy. You can see how Jonathan’s announcement boomeranged, and in the process caused him serious embarrassment. Why go for UNILAG when there were other national monuments Jonathan could have named after M.K.O Abiola like the National Stadium in Abuja, National Assembly, Eagle Square and a host of others. Those who advised Jonathan to name UNILAG after M.K.O Abiola wanted to embarrass him greatly – UNILAG has become a special brand, a unique one that you don’t touch such an institution or attempt to change the name, and this is why Jonathan’s decision was resisted and it failed. I’m sure Jonathan today would be regretting his action. He might have good intention but the way it was carried out was not proper – he failed to do the right thing and that’s why his renaming of UNILAG after M.K.O Abiola was a greek gift. Look at the uproar, controversy and division that decision by Jonathan caused. It was a wrong decision, Jonathan should not have listened to those advisers that put him in a mess over that UNILAG issue.
How best do you think M.K.O Abiola can be immortalized?
He can be immortalized in several ways, and one of such is to declare June 12 a national public holiday and Democracy Day every year. This is even what everybody thought Obasanjo would do when he assumed office, but curiously, Obasanjo declared May 29 as Democracy Day.
But what relevance has May 29 to do with our political history compared with June 12? May 29 means nothing in Nigeria’s history. June 12 is it. It is the day that should be declared as Democracy Day with a public holiday to go along with it in honour of M.K.O Abiola. Abiola should not be denied this honour which he truly deserve. M.K.O Abiola can also be immortalized by having the National Stadium, Eagle Square, or the National Assembly all based in Abuja named after him because he was not a national figure but a genuine hero, and a committed patriot.
For those enemies of Nigeria and democracy who think M.K.O Abiola would be forgotten in the course of time if no national monument is named after him, they are deceiving themselves, both M.K.O Abiola and June 12 can’t be wished away. Both can never be obliterated from our memory. Both have come to stay as part of Nigerian political history. Abiola can’t be forgotten because he refused to trade away or surrender the mandate given to him by millions of Nigerians on June 12, 1993 when he won that presidential election which the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida annulled.
Some people claim that those politicians that took over in 1999 after military disengagement were not Nigeria’s best eleven, as they and many others that have taken over from them have not lived up to expectation in terms of delivery of dividends of democracy to the citizens, do you agree?
That’s true. In terms of performance, these politicians have not done well. Instead of working for the interests of Nigerians, they have been self-centred. They have been looting the treasury at will. Corruption has been the order of the day. It was even worst under former President Goodluck Jonathan. Under Jonathan’s administration, looting was taken to another level and these criminals parading to be politicians almost stole Nigeria blind and Jonathan was there unable to assert himself as the president; he was unable to stop the looting. That was very unfortunate.
At times I’m almost saddened to the extent of crying when I see the rubbish, the atrocities these politicians are committing. I’m moved to tears because I’m among those who suffered in order to entrench democracy in this country. I almost lost my life as a result of torture and detention I suffered under Abacha’s military government. Abacha kept me in solitary confinement at Bama Prison in Yobe State for four years. Apart from Abiola, I was the only pro-democracy activist that was detained for that long. When I look at my suffering, and the mess these politicians especially Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders put this nation into, at times I would be tempted to ask myself if I had known that this is how these politicians would bastardise democracy, I wouldn’t have suffered myself in order to enthrone democracy.
Again, those people that are more competent and committed who should have taken over the political space in 1999 refused to enter politics for two reasons, one, following series of annulment of previous political experiments by the military, people became skeptical as to whether truly the military were committed to handing over to the civilians, and secondly, most of those who are committed, and who are serious minded politicians who would have served this nation very well don’t have money to spend on campaigns and other aspects of contesting elections, and they don’t want to be sponsored by the so-called godfathers who will now turn to them to be giving them state money after winning election as if government money is free.
Honestly, Nigeria’s best eleven were not there in 1999, and the country is paying the price for not having the right people in positions of authority and leadership.
On the issue of M.K.O Abiola’s death, it has become controversial and subject of debate again following comments and counter-comments by the former Chief of Army Staff Lt-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi and former Chief Security Officer to late General Sani Abacha claiming that Abiola’s death was unnatural, and that some important personalities that were in government when Abiola died have questions to answer, what’s your view on that?
That one is an open secret. It is not news again. Everybody knows that Abiola’s death was not natural. Abiola was murdered, and those who killed Abiola also killed General Sani Abacha. There is international conspiracy to both murders. It is the Nigerian oligarchy that killed Abiola following his insistence of claiming his mandate and resolve not to surrender the June 12 mandate given him by Nigerians; he had become a thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian oligarchy who felt that Abiola had become a threat to their entrenched interests. Therefore, they conspired with the international forces to eliminate Abiola – they also eliminated General Abacha. These forces started with Abacha first, before finally wasting Abiola. I still believe that everything will be revealed one day.
As for Major Al-Mustapha and General Bamaiyi were they not part of that Abacha’s rogue regime that wasted the lives of many Nigerians especially pro-democracy activists. Both Bamaiyi and Al-Mustapha, their hands are full of blood of innocent Nigerians murdered in cold blood for fighting for democracy.
Al-Mustapha should shut up his mouth, if he truly has any tape on Abiola’s last moments as he is claiming, he should release it. His hands are not clean. He should explain his role in the cold murder of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola. His hands are not clean. Does Al-Mustapha think Nigerians would forget the ignoble role he played in the evil regime of Abacha. He was a terror in that regime.
I’m even shocked that Dr Fredrick Fasehun, the OPC leader can be fraternizing with Al-Mustapha – what does Faseun want from Al-Mustapha, a man that detained and tortured you almost to the point of death. What is the basis of Fasehun’s friendship with Al-Mustapha? Al-Mustapha was a source of sorrow to millions of Nigerians. Al-Mustapha destroyed many homes and wasted several destinies using his terror gang inside Aso Rock during Abacha’s regime to deal with any perceived opponent of his despotic boss. It is only that some Nigerians have short memory, how can anybody that suffered so much under Al-Mustapha terror machine now say that the man is now his best friend. Al-Mustapha should keep quiet. He should not try to make any hero out of himself. Whenever the history of Abacha’s evil regime is being written, Al-Mustapha would occupy a prominent place because of the rogue roles he played. He was so powerful in that regime that he was even feared by Army Generals when in actual fact he was an ordinary major who was so junior to the generals. For many of these generals who bow before Al-Mustapha, the fear of Al-Mustapha then was the beginning of wisdom. Al-Mustapha should confess his crimes and seek forgiveness from God rather than trying to portray himself as a hero or saint which he is not.
It has been two years now since APC took over power at the centre, how would you assess Buhari and APC’s government?
For me, those two years of APC and Buhari have been refreshing for Nigeria’s polity. We must give the man his due. Buhari is trying his best in the last two years. For those who are saying that nothing has changed, those people are only playing politics and they are mostly PDP apologists. A lot has changed in the last two years. Boko Haram insurgency almost brought Nigeria to its knees. Bombings and terror attacks became the order of the day and this was more rampant during Jonathan and PDP’s era. Nobody and nowhere is safe from Boko Haram, motor parks, churches, shopping malls, even the police force headquarters in Abuja was bombed – suicide bombers working for Boko Haram were having a field day killing innocent people. Have Nigerians forgotten all these? If PDP was still in power, Boko Haram perhaps would have spread their terror machine to other parts of the country especially the South. But when Buhari came to power, he dealt effectively with Boko Haram, incapacitating them. Buhari deserves kudos for giving us security – that’s a very crucial area.
What about the abducted Chibok girls? Buhari through his deft statesmanship has been able to secure the release of some of these girls bringing joy and relief to the faces of their parents and millions of other Nigerians who all along have been sharing in the agony of the parents of those girls. Buhari has not stopped there, but is still working on securing the release of others still in captivity.
Buhari is also fighting corruption – looters are being exposed and some have been put on trial. Look at the level of looting under Jonathan – corruption was everywhere but Jonathan couldn’t do anything – Jonathan was very weak. He was a weak leader and some unscrupulous politicians took advantage of that to amass ill-gotten wealth. Jonathan left Nigeria in the hands of rogues and thieves who almost bled Nigeria dry. Jonathan misruled Nigeria for so long that people now forget to credit him some good things while in office. Nigerians only remember the dark aspects of Jonathan’s era.
But on the issue of fighting corruption, Buhari has been accused of being one sided…
That’s being unfair to Buhari. As far as I’m concerned, and from what I have seen, it is people that have questions to answer that are being arraigned. Moreover, PDP was in power for 16 years, and its members were controlling the government and were in charge of the nation’s finances and resources, so it naturally follows that you have more of PDP members being arraigned for corruption related offences. But for those claiming that corruption war is one-sided, what about the Senate President, Dr Saraki that is also on tria?, Is he not an APC member, the same political party like Buhari? What about the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal, who is also very close to Buhari and who Buhari has suspended over alleged corrupt practices. Those people accusing Buhari of being one-sided in the anti-corruption war are PDP members and their supporters. They should not be taken serious.
I will only appeal to Nigerians to exercise patience with Buhari, he has just been there for two years, and has recorded these feats. PDP destroyed this country for 16 years. Sixteen years of PDP in power were years of waste, but just under two years, Buhari has provided a refreshing change and the nation’s polity is fast changing for the better.
Jonathan and PDP should be blamed for putting Nigeria in a mess, but Buhari is now clearing that mess – but he can’t finish clearing the mess overnight.
The issue of restructuring has come to the fore again with many for it and others opposed to it, where do you stand?
We need to restructure in order to move forward as a nation. There are some defects in our present federal arrangements, which need to be addressed. In actual fact, our federalism has been corrupted as a result of military rule, and what we have in place today is like a unitary system of government, and that’s why you have all these agitations here and there, and these agitations will not go away unless we restructure.
What some people don’t know and which they are misinterpreting is that restructuring will or may lead to a break-up of Nigeria, but I say NO. Break-up is not the answer – it is better for Nigeria to remain as one entity.
What we just need to do is to ensure that justice is done to correct some anomalies in our current federalism. We need to devolve power to move component unity in the federal structure to be stronger and financially independent and this is why people have been clamouring for fiscal federalism.
In fact some of these positive steps that will help move Nigeria forward were contained in that Jonathan’s Confab Report and Recommendations. Implementing those good aspects will augur well for Nigeria as a nation.
But some northern delegates to that confab have asked President Buhari to dump that confab report
That’s very unfortunate. Buhari should ignore them – were those Northern delegates not part and parcel of that conference? They stayed there from the beginning to the end, and not only that also ratified and endorsed the confab recommendations, so why the sudden U-turn now? Buhari should not listen to them.
Why are they just waking up three years after the confab to disown it, these Northern delegates should be ignored. They are selfish and self-centred. Buhari should ignore them. This is one of the reasons I disagreed with Jonathan. Jonathan should have implemented the confab reports and recommendations before leaving office.
But he couldn’t do so. Maybe because he didn’t have the time again to do so after his defeat in the presidential election. But if he had organized the confab early in the life of his administration, he would have been able to have the time to implement the confab’s report and recommendations.