Abdul Mumuni Abiola, is the son of late Basorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola(MKO), winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. He speaks in this interview on corruption and how the fight against it may last for generations.
What is your assessment of the Federal Government’s efforts in fighting COVID-19 pandemic?
The Federal Government of Nigeria was quite pro-active in responding to curbing the spread of COVID-19. As cases began to trickle in, the President enacted the COVID-19 Regulation 2020 through the powers conferred on him by section 2, 3 and 4 of the Quarantine Act. This allowed the imposition of restrictions on movement of people and throughout the country, with stricter measures imposed on certain states that had higher COVID-19 cases, namely Lagos, Ogun and Abuja. We must also recall that most of the initial cases recorded and the index cases in the country were foreigners or people that had come in contact with them. This prompted the Federal Government to shut the Nigerian airspace until further notice, thereby preventing more cases.
The Federal Government also introduced some economic stimuli and measures to help individuals and businesses cope during the pandemic. For example, direct food and cash distribution and extension of tax filing deadlines.
We must also recall that the WHO commended the Federal Government on the timely response to the first case of COVID-19 in the country and on ranking NCDC as one of the best disease control centres in Africa.
However, there have been strong criticisms against the Federal Government especially on the poorest demographics in the country. Most believed that the government did little or nothing in terms of providing palliatives and incentives to keep the poor masses who feed from hand to mouth at home. I do believe the government could have done better bearing in mind that about 107 Nigerian companies and notable individuals donated the sum of N25.8 billion to assist the Federal Government of Nigeria in the fight against COVID-19.
In effect, this feeling of neglect by the poor could jeopardize a significant part of the Federal Government’s efforts, because some people were still going out during the lockdown period to “hustle” for their daily bread.
My advice is that we don’t substitute pandemics; In Nigeria, there are two pandemics namely : Poverty (hunger virus) and COVID-19; so our response to this problem should be multidimensional.
It is 21 years into democracy, how has democratic governance fared in Nigeria?
Democracy is all about participation. The key factor is the proportion of voters on election day in comparison to those who own voter cards. There is a saying “ the people get the leaders they deserve.” That is true to an extent. I believe that the more we engage in democracy, the more active our participation and the more the likelihood of seeing the dividends of our collective democracy. Come 2023, I encourage all Nigerians of voting age to troop out like their parents did 30 years ago. By so doing, Nigerians will once again choose credible leaders to advance democracy in the country.
What is your assessment of the fight against corruption of the present government?
It is funny; corruption in Nigeria is endemic. It is in every sector. We have collectively since 1993 contributed directly or indirectly to create this nightmare we live in today. Corruption is a war that would be waged for generations and I am glad that this war has began in earnest.
Gen. Ishola Williams (Rtd), former Chairman, Transparency International (TI), Nigeria chapter, said beyond the Federal Government’s declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day in recognition of Chief Abiola, the family of Chief MKO Abiola could set up a foundation to honour his struggles and teach youths the ideals that Chief Abiola stood for, how do you see that?
Wow, it is a small world. I am working on the same thing, I mean an organisation geared towards the evaluation of the youth through sports. It is called the MKO Abiola Centre for Youth and Sports Africa. Kindly feel free to explore the website mkoabiolacentre.org.
We believe just like the Late Chief MKO Abiola that the nation’s prosperity lays in the youths. The MKO Abiola Centre for Youth and Sports development Africa is a non-profit initiative with a passion and responsibility for nurturing young people into transformational adults and leaders who will impact positively the various sectors of our nation through youth development and sport engagement. I will encourage all Nigerians to support this initiative and join hands with me in building a foundation worthy of our youths and the Late Chief MKO Abiola’s legacy.
What is your take on the various agitations for power to shift to the South come 2023?
I believe that power should be based on Merit rather than what part of the country one is from. The late Chief MKO Abiola said : “ round pegs in round holes”. May the best candidate win.
What is your assessment of the 9th House of Representatives under Gbajabiamila in the last one year?
I would like to first of all to congratulate the Speaker of the House of Representatives and its members for a successful 365 days in office. This is a proof that with the right leadership, our democratic process would flow seamlessly and unimpeded. The Speaker is a seasoned lawmaker and definitely capable of moving the nation’s agenda forward.