Mr. Jamiu Abiola is one of the sons of the business mogul and winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, who died on July 7, 1998. In this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE, he speaks on 21-year remembrance of his father, June 12, insecurity and the Muhammadu Buhari administration
Last Sunday marked 21 years after the death of your father, Chief MKO Abiola. How do you feel about his exit?
His exit was painful but we thank God that his life was meaningful. It is not how long you live that matters; it is rather the impact that we leave behind that counts. All in all, I strongly believe that he made a very positive impact throughout the 61 years he lived on earth.
What are those things you and the family members miss about late MKO Abiola?
We all miss his loving and caring nature which was what endeared him to Nigerians in the first place and made him a relevant topic of discussion and emulation to date. He was always interested in making anyone around him happy and, in order to achieve that objective, he was relentlessly willing to go the extra mile.
Has your family been able to recover from Chief MKO Abiola’s death 21 years after?
We have been able to recover, albeit with difficulty. Twenty-one years is a long enough period to learn how to cope with any reality no matter how painful or dismal. This is the first time MKO Abiola remembrance would be celebrated after the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day.
How do you feel about that? June 12 is a positive thing now; before we were fighting for recognition but now we have gotten the recognition.
What I want is for us to look at the positive aspect of June 12, not the negative or who betrayed who. Let us talk about how we can look at the unifying factor of June 12 to further unify our country. So, I want us to focus on that.
That is the message I have today. We don’t really care anything about anybody that played negative roles. All we want now is how we can look at the fact that Nigerians voted without looking at tribes and religion, and all other issues. June 12 is now positive; it belongs to Nigerians and it is Nigerian Day. So, let us build up on it and use it as a way to unify the country. And we should also be grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari because if he didn’t do it, nobody else would have. It took a very revolutionary and a very different kind of president to do what he did.
So, I see him as ultimate hero of June 12. President Buhari is the ultimate hero of June 12 because he is the one that brought closure to this matter and we should be grateful to him for that. I want us to be optimistic to know that the same Federal Government that was able to take such a giant step would not stop at that and they are going to do the other things that Nigerians want.
The problem we have in this country was a result of a lot of decadence over the years. So, it is not easy to just solve the problems just like that. So, I urge us to be a little bit patient and we should also be optimistic. It is right for people to clamour for a lot of things but they should also look inward as well.
Would you say Nigeria is better today than it was 26 years ago when your father ran for presidency on June 12, 1993 on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to serve the country?
Since Nigeria is located in this world, let me answer that question in a global context. The world as a whole is not better off today because of numerous challenges primary of which is terrorism.
When my father declared his presidential bid in 1993 the world in general, and Nigeria in particular, was not confronted by such complicated challenges. I remain optimistic, however, that we will come out of the woods through this current democratic dispensation. MKO Abiola’s political slogan was “Farewell to Poverty.”
Do you think poverty would have been reduced in Nigeria if he had become President in 1993? Poverty would have certainly been reduced.
He despised it with unbelievable scorn and was determined to eliminate it completely. He would have succeeded in reducing it drastically but eliminating it completely, as he had wished to do, would have depended on the input of other stakeholders such as his political associates and Nigerians in general.
There have been several stories and accounts on June 12 and MKO Abiola, and last month, your brother, Mr. Kola Abiola granted an interview in the Sun Newspaper, where he revealed a lot of things surrounding June 12 and late MKO Abiola, among other issues.
Do you totally agreed with some of his revelations and positions of other people about June 12 and MKO Abiola?
Everyone has his or her own account on June 12, so I would rather not dabble into answering the question as regards my brother’s account. From my own perspective, June 12 was a classical and painful tragedy because unlike him I lost both my parents and not just one.
That crisis had a lot of twists and turns but trying to make allegations against anyone at this point in time, to me, would take the glow away from the beauty of the fact that June 12 has now become Democracy Day.
That feat, thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, has come to stay so let us all focus on the positive aspects of June 12 instead of making unverifiable allegations and using it as a means to settle actual or imaginary scores. It took the Federal Government 20 years to properly recognise and acknowledge the significance of June 12 and MKO Abiola.
How do you feel about the inability of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umar Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan to properly recognise the date and Abiola?
This question, once again, can be answered in part through my response to your previous question. Former leaders incurred my wrath by not honoring June 12 and they were no doubt partly responsible for my writing two books on June 12, entitled “The President Who Never Ruled” and “The Stolen Presidency”.
However, since June 12 has now become Democracy Day, I have chosen to adopt a brand new attitude. I will no longer tolerate bitterness in my heart towards anyone as regards whatever transpired before, during and after the landmark election and I will put my mind solely on the positive aspects of the elections.
This includes the determination of Nigerians then to disregard religion and tribe as factors determining their votes during that historic presidential election.
Do you think Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari has done enough to immortalize Abiola and the June 12 struggle by declaring it Democracy Day and posthumously honouring him with GCFR, the highest national honour in Nigeria?
The Federal Government has done enough. Many people might not fully realise that the action taken by President Buhari was no less in scale than an Old Testament miracle in view of the forces against June 12. May God reward the President in this world and in the hereafter.
Looking at the present state of the nation, will you say this is the democracy your father and other progressives sacrificed and died for? Of course it is. This is something I know for a fact without an iota of doubt. Separation of powers is a vital key for democratic survival and prosperity and this president has clearly demonstrated his determination never to dabble into the affairs of other tiers of government.
This is very unlike some other previous democratically elected presidents. Considering that many Nigerians today are lacking some things, what do you think is the way forward?
The way forward is for all of us not to only look at government, we should also look at ourselves because like they say it takes two to tangle and there is always a saying that it is more than one tree that makes a forest. We as Nigerians also have to improve the way we act, the way we think and the way we are because at the end of the day, we don’t expect to get leader that is going to do everything for us. We have to also think about what we can do for our country. That way, we need our leaders half way and we can make progress.
That I think is what we have to focus on at this point. At presently there is insecurity challenges in different parts of the country, what do you think should be put in place to tackle the issue of insecurity in Nigeria? I think we have to do a lot.
We have to look inward and share information. We have to be able to report to authority whenever we notice anything in our communities that are what I call dark signs. We should point it out and scream out so that we can do what they say; prevention is better than cure.
We shouldn’t wait till things happen because a lot of time security is link to information. If we have the information and we give the right information to the right authority, then the crisis that would have happen would not have happen.
So, we have to look inward so that we can actually combine or cooperate with the government efforts. Nigerians are expecting a lot from the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
What are your expectations and advice to him?
My expectation from the president is for him to maintain his fierce resolve to continue tackling the country’s longstanding problems. My advice for him is to try as much as possible to ignore critics who only criticise in order to remain relevant.
What is your take on the delay in the release of ministerial list by President Buhari, considering that the president has spent over 40 days in office without constituting his cabinet?
I think it is important for him to do the job in getting the right people. We want to get the right people and if it is going to take a little bit time, it is better for us to take that time and get the right people so that we can have optimum results.
But many believe that the appointment is getting too late …
People would say that but then it is possible that they are looking and they are actually looking very hard. I am sure that definitely in the next couple of weeks, we will get the list of the ministers and they will not only be chosen, they will be cleared and they will also do fantastic jobs.