(24 August 1937 – 7 July 1998)
The late Aara Ona Kakanfo was often referred to as M.K.O Abiola , was a popular Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher,politician and aristocrat of the Yoruba Egba clan. He ran for the presidency in 1993, and is widely regarded as the presumed winner of the inconclusive election since no official final results were announced. He died in 1998, after being denied victory when the entire election results were dubiously annulled by the preceding military
president Ibrahim Babangida because of alleged evidence that they were corrupt and unfair.
His name, Kashimawo, means “ Let us wait and see “. Moshood Abiola was his father’s twenty-third child but the first of his father’s children
to survive infancy, hence the name
‘Kashimawo’. It was not until he was 15 years old that he was properly named Moshood, by
his parents. MKO showed entrepreneurial talents at a veryoung age, at the age of nine he started his first business selling firewood. He would wake up at dawn to go to the forest and gather firewood,
which he would then cart back to town and sell before going to school, to support his old father and his siblings. He later founded a band at age fifteen where he would perform at various ceremonies in exchange for food. He eventually became famous enough to start demanding payment for his performances and used the
money to support his family and his secondary education at the Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta, where he excelled. He was the editor
of the school magazine The Trumpeter , Olusegun
Obasanjo was deputy editor. At the age of 19 he joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons ostensibly because of its stronger pan-Nigerian origin compared with the Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group.
In 1956 Moshood Abiola started his
professional life as bank clerk with Barclays Bank plc in Ibadan, South-West Nigeria. He joined the Western Region Finance Corporation as an executive accounts officer
He went toGlasgow University, GlasgowScotland to pursue his higher education. He
received a first class degree in accountancy. He also received a distinction from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of
He worked as a senior accountant at the University of LagosTeaching Hospital, on his return to Nigeria.
He worked at Pfizer, He joined the ITT Corporation, where he later
rose to the position of Vice-President, Africa and Middle-East of the entire corporation,which was headquartered in the UnitedStates.
Moshood Abiola spent a lot of his time and made most of his money in the United States, whilst retaining the post of chairman of the corporation’s Nigerian subsidiary. In
addition to his duties throughout the
Middle-East and Africa.
Moshood Abiola invested heavily in Nigeria and West Africa. He set up
Abiola Farms, Abiola bookshops,
Radio Communications Nigeria,
Wonder bakeries, Concord Press,
Concord Airlines, Summit oil international ltd, Africa Ocean lines,
Habib Bank, Decca W.A. ltd, and
Abiola football club.
In addition to these, he also managed to perform his duties as Chairman of the G15 business council, President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Patron of the Kwame Nkrumah Foundation, Patron of the WEB Du Bois foundation, Trustee of the Martin Luther King foundation and
Director of the International Press Institute.
Moshood Abiola sprang to national and international prominence as a result of his philanthropic activities. The Congressional Black Caucus of the United States of America
issued the following tribute to Moshood Abiola:
Because of this man, there is both cause for hope and certainty that the agony and protests
of those who suffer injustice shall give way to peace and human dignity. The children of the
world shall know the great work of this extraordinary leader and his fervent mission to right wrong, to do justice, and to serve mankind. The enemies which imperil the future
of generations to come: poverty, ignorance, disease, hunger, and racism have each seen effects of the valiant work of Chief Abiola.
Through him and others like him, never again will freedom rest in the domain of the few. We, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus
salute him this day as a hero in the global pursuit to preserve the history and the legacy of the African diaspora.
From 1972 until his death Moshood Abiola had been conferred with 197 traditional titles by 68 different communities in Nigeria, in response to the fact that his financial assistance resulted in the construction of 63 secondary schools, 121 mosques and churches, 41 libraries, 21 water projects in 24 states of Nigeria
And was grand patron to 149 societies or associations in Nigeria. In this way Abiola reached out and won admiration across the
multifarious ethnic and religious divides in Nigeria.
In addition to his work in Nigeria,
Moshood Abiola was a dedicated supporter of the Southern African Liberation movements from the 1970s and he sponsored the campaign to win reparations for slavery and colonialism
in Africa and the diaspora.
Abiola’s involvement in politics started early on in life when he joined the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) at age 19. As Abiola was already involved in politics, he joined the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in 1980 and was elected the state chairman of his party. Re-election was done in 1983 and everything looked promising since the re-elected president was from Abiola’s party and based on the true transition to power in 1979;
Abiola stood for the presidential nomination of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and beat Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to secure the Presidential nomination of the SDP ahead of
the 12 June 1993 Presidential elections. Abiola had managed to work his way out of poverty through hard work and symbolised the aspirations of many downtrodden
Nigerians. His commitment to the plight of ordinary Nigerians included establishing Abiola bookshops to provide affordable, locally produced textbooks in the 1980s. When imported textbooks became out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians as the naira was devalued. He also made available daily necessities such as rice and soap at affordable prices in the market.
Presidential elections 12 June 1993 Presidential elections, Abiola’srunning mate was Baba Gana Kingibe. He overwhelmingly 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.
Abiola won at the national capital, Abuja, the military polling stations, and over two- thirds of Nigerian states.
The reason why the election was so historic, was because men of Northern descent had
largely dominated Nigeria’s political
landscape since independence. The fact that Moshood Abiola (a Southern Muslim) was able to secure a national mandate freely and fairly remains unprecedented in Nigeria’s history. However, the election was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, a political crisis that
ensued which led to General Sani
Abacha seizing power later that year. During preparations for the 2011 Nigerian Presidential elections there were calls from several quarters to remember MKO Abiola.
In 1994 Moshood Abiola 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 an arrested on the orders of military President General Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody. MKO Abiola
has been referred to as Nigeria’s. greatest statesman.
His second wife Alhaja Kudirat
Abiola was assassinated in Lagos in 1996 after declaring public support for her husband. Moshood Abiola was detained for four years,largely in solitary confinement with a
Bible, Qur’an, and fourteen guards as
companions. During that time, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights
activists from all over the world lobbied the Nigerian government for his release. The sole condition attached to the release of Chief Abiola was that he renounce his mandate, something that he refused to do, although the military
government offered to compensate him and refund his extensive election expenses. For this reason Chief Abiola became extremely troubled when Kofi Annan and Emeka Anyaoku reported
to the world that he had agreed to renounce his mandate after they met with him to tell him that the world would not recognise a five-year-old election.
Abiola died under suspicious circumstances shortly after the death of General Abacha. Moshood Abiola died on the day that he was due to be released, on 7 July 1998. While the official autopsy stated that Abiola died of
natural causes, Abacha’s Chief Security Officer,
al-Mustapha has alleged that Moshood Abiola was in fact beaten to death. al-Mustapha, who
was detained by the Nigerian government, but later released, claims to have video and audiotapes showing how Abiola was beaten to
death. The final autopsy report, which was produced by a group of international coroners
has never been publicly released. Irrespective of the exact circumstances of his death, it is clear that Chief Abiola received insufficient medical attention for his existing health conditions.
As recounted at the time in a BBC interview with special envoy Thomas R. Pickering, an American delegation, which included Susan
Rice, visited Abiola and during their meeting with him, Abiola fell ill, with what was presumed to be a heart attack which caused his
death. A clause in Abiola’s will required that his heirs
could prove that he was their father. Over seventy people were able to show that Abiola was their father using DNA tests. Seven
children were descended from his second wife, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.
On the 29/02/2016:
Former President Thabo Mbeki gave his views on what happened. President Mandela resisted all this until news came through that on the very first day of the 1995 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in New Zealand CHOGM, the Nigerian Government had
executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his Ogoni colleagues. He then immediately joined others strongly to condemn the Abacha Government and approved the suspension of Nigeria from
Remembrance of M.K.O. Abiola:
Chief MKO Abiola’s memory is celebrated in Nigeria and internationally. 12 June remains a
public holiday in Lagos and Ogun states. There are also remembrance events arranged across
Nigeria. MKO Abiola was known for his charisma and for being a man of the people. As a prominent social activist, democratic freedom
fighter, and successful business figure, the continuing support for MKO Abiola is part of
his legacy. MKO Abiola Stadium and Moshood Abiola Polytechnic were named in his honour.
There were also calls for posthumous presidential recognition. A statue, MKO Abiola
Statue was also erected in his honour. Despite his popularity or because of it, MKO Abiola occasionally attracted criticism from political activists and detractors. Controversy was caused by a song by Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti. Kuti was a charismatic multi-instrumentalist musician, composer and human rights activist – famed for being the pioneer of Afrobeat music as well as a controversial figure, due to his unusual lifestyle
and apparent drug use. It is believed that Kuti had entered into an acrimonious dispute relating to a contract with MKO Abiola’s record label.
He used the abbreviation of International Telephone & Telegraph (IT&T) in a song criticising big multinational corporations. The
song, ITT accuses such companies of draining Africa’s resources and makes specific referenceto MKO Abiola (“they start to steal money Like Obasanjo and Abiola”).
Awards and honours Moshood Abiola was twice voted
international businessman of the year, and received numerous honorary doctorates from universities all over the world.
In 1987 he was bestowed with the golden, key to the city of Washington D.C. He was bestowed with awards from
the NAACP and the King center in the USA, The International Committee on Education
for Teaching in Paris.
Aare Ona Kakanfo by Alaafin of Oyo:
The Oloye Abiola was made the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland. It is the highest chieftaincy title available to commoners amongst the Yoruba, and he has only been conferred by the tribe 14 times in its history. This in effect rendered
Abiola the ceremonial War Viceroy of all of his tribes people. According to the folklore of the tribe as recounted by the Yoruba elders, the Aare Ona Kakanfo is expected to
die a warrior in the defence of his nation to prove himself in the eyes of both the divine and the mortal as having been worthy of his title.
He was awarded the third highest national honour, the Commander of the Federal Republic posthumously in 1998.