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Immortalise M.K.O. Abiola now

Mr. Okeke, a public affairs analyst, writes  on the need to immortalise  Late M.K.O Abiola the winner of the annuled June 12, 1993 Presidential elections in Nigeria

All over the world, great men who made their mark on the sands of time of their country, be it in politics, economy, religion or any other human endeavour have institutions of learning, airports or other memorable structures in the country named after them.

Hence, there is Charles De Gaulle International Airport Paris France, J.F. Kennedy Airport in New York, etc.

Here in Nigeria, we have the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja; Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos; Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-ife and many others.

This is to call attention to generations yet unborn to the worthy contributions of these men of history to their countries.

The late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola towers much higher than his peers in the political, social and economic history of Nigeria. There is no geopolitical zone in Nigeria which has not benefitted from his philanthropic activity.

Apart from institutions of higher learning, religious organisations and sports development causes which Bashorun Abiola had assisted with substantial financial contributions, he had touched thousands of lives positively all over the country through employment opportunities, scholarship awards and sheer benevolence.

Bashorun Abiola broke the jinx of religious antagonism in the politics of Nigeria. In spite of the fact that, with Alhaji Babagana Kiugibe as his running mate, he had a Moslem/Moslem presidential ticket, he garnered majority of votes all over the country to win the 1993 presidential election. He even beat his NRC opponent Alhaji Bashir Tofa in his home state Kano.

Unfortunately, the election was annulled by the then Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida. Till date, no plausible and convincing reason has been given for this dent on our democratic process. Chief Abiola’s struggle for the exercise of the overwhelming mandate given to him by Nigerians cost him his life, that of his wife Kudirat and those of hundreds of Nigerians.

The country has since 1999 returned to democracy and enjoyed its dividends for the past 10 years. How do Nigerians remember this icon of democracy, exemplary philanthropist and pillar of sports in Africa?

Calls on successive Federal Governments in Nigeria to immortalise Chief Abiola by naming prominent institutions or structures after him have always fallen on deaf ears. If former military leaders of the country like IBB, Abacha, Buhari and even Chief Obasanjo (before his second coming in 1999) can have major streets in the Federal Capital and stadium named after them, it is a great disservice to the nation and to MKO’s memory to continue to ignore the contribution of this great man to Nigerian political history.

Ironically General Babangida only recently requested the Federal Government to immortalize the late Chief. This is nothing but sheer hypocrisy as it was his administration that annulled the freest and fairest election conducted in the country in 1993 which Chief Abiola won.

If in fact he and his gang in government then appreciated the worth of Chief Abiola, why didn’t his government immortalise him, before he “stepped aside” in 1993? Or does he presently consider that the period of his stepping aside is over and now that he wants to return to the presidential seat reserved for him and him alone as a military and civilian president, he should play politics with the revered name of Chief Abiola?

One Nigerian patriot, Oba D.A.Nwandu, the Regent of EnugwuUkwu in Anambra State had, in acknowledgement of the significant role of Chief Abiola in Nigeria’s political and economic development named his multipurpose complex in Falomo, Lagos the MKO Research and Resource Centre.

The Centre consists of a theatre, banking hall and five-storey office complex. Oba Nwandu, a close associate of Chief Abiola who accompanied him on campaign tours for the 1993 presidential election was incarcerated for some days during the clampdown on NADECO members and sympathisers by the General Abacha regime. He later went on self exile abroad and returned only when Nigerians breathed the air of freedom following General Abacha’s death in June 1998.

It is very unfortunate and regrettable that the MKO Research and Resource Centre has become subject of avoidable controversy, anti democratic and dictatorial actions by the Lagos State Government. One would expect that the Government should support and encourage Chief Nwandu, a non-indigene of Lagos State in his bid to make the MKO Centre a tourist attraction worthy of the great name it bears, if only in remembrance of Bashorun Abiola.

Since none of the state governments in the country and the Federal Government has thought it necessary to immortalise MKO by naming any airport or major street after him, the light shown by Oba Nwandu in this direction should not be extinguished.

It is worthy of note that many prominent Nigerians including the late Oba Adeyinka Oyekan of Lagos, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State, Chief Mrs. Opral Benson, Chief Ayo Opadokun, Otunba Bar. George Taylor and organizations like OHANEZE Ndigbo and Southeast Council of Traditional Rulers have all appealed to the Lagos State Government to reconsider its stand on the termination of agreement between Chief Nwandu’s company and the LSPDC in 2004, to no avail.

In matters like this, resort to the Court should be the last option. Since Chief Nwandu and officials of the LSPDC have reached advanced stage of negotiations leading to both parties endorsing agreement and only waiting for the consent of the State Governor, the Government’s action of forcefully taking over the property and locking out the tenants amounts to an “overkill”.

June 12 1993 election was a landmark in the history of Nigeria that eventually resulted in the Democracy we enjoy today. We should take every necessary action to remember MKO and what he stood for.

This is a humble appeal to Governor Fashola to consider the plight of this investor, his yeoman’s efforts to immortalize MKO Abiola in the nation’s business capital, the worthy contributions of a former NADECO sympathizer who suffered deprivations fighting for the cause of democracy in Nigeria and assist him in finding an amicable solution to the problem of forceful and illegal take over of his property by the State Government.

One of the main considerations behind the renewed thinking in Igboland for a handshake across the Niger is that there was no case of abandoned property of Igbos throughout what is now Southwest Nigeria. Let Chief Nwandu be allowed the continued use of his property or in the event of Lagos State Government acquiring it, pay him reasonable and adequate compensation.