Journalism in the service of society

Remembering MKO Abiola: Thirty years after

MY June 12 day was hectic as usual; it started very early in the day as I led my parishioners to pray against destiny destroyers. There are many intriguing cases of destinies that were, well, inexplicably destroyed in the Bible; a few examples were Abel, whose offering God accepted but who, as a result, got killed by his brother Cain whose own offering God had rejected; a thoroughbred and conscientious soldier, Uriah the Hittite, whose brutal murder was orchestrated by a loafing King David to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife; and the conspiracy of King Ahab and his notorious wife, Jezebel, that led to the gruesome murder of Naboth. In all the three cases, the victims were blameless as far as ordinary eyes can see; yet, they were victims of destiny destroyers. In His manifest wisdom which no mortal can query, God punished the vile offenders but only after the deed had been done. That must be an object lesson for all of us!

A similar fate befell Chief MKO Abiola who won the June 12, 1993 presidential election fairly and squarely but was not allowed to enjoy the fruits of his labour. The military junta in power, led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), annulled the election. As he was “stepping aside” from office under a barrage of protests by Nigerians led by civil society groups and activists, IBB installed an inept Interim National Government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. Gen. Sani Abacha, the most senior military officer after IBB’s exit, wasted no time in dismissing Shonekan and taking over the reins of office. Abiola’s protest and effort to retrieve his mandate led to his arrest and detention, where he eventually died. He was not allowed to fulfil his destiny by destiny destroyers.

From church I landed at the Lagos State Television (LTV) where I was one of an array of analysts that discussed the various angles to the June 12, 1999 presidential election, the protests that followed its annulment, the political impasse or logjam that dragged for years, the eventual return to civilian rule on 29 May, 1999 and the progress made so far, if any. If anything, the current Fourth Republic is the longest-running in the history of the country and if it is true that experience is the best teacher, then, Nigerians must have learnt one or two lessons on how to sustain and nurture our renascent democracy. Challenges encountered so far, and the roadmap for a better tomorrow, were also dissected.

From there, I moved to the Oodua People’s Congress commemoration of June 12, the 30th in a row, at the Excellence Hotel, Ogba. The place was jammed packed and the atmosphere was electric. It was my first participation in OPC’s commemoration of June 12. Activists and civil society organisations, traditional rulers and various chapters of OPC from far and near made the hotel premises too inadequate for the event. Leader of the OPC and Aare Onakankanfo, Iba Gani Adams, said in his speech that Nigeria cannot achieve much if our democratic aspirations are tied to the 1999 Constitution. He enjoined President Tinubu to find a way to get the constitution reviewed. Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin encouraged June 12 activists not to give up the struggle. She demanded that Abiola be placed on the same pedestal as former presidents of the country. On fuel subsidy removal, she counselled that the sacrifice demanded by our leaders should flow from top to bottom and not the other way round.

Dr. Tunji Abayomi described the 1999 Constitution as the fruits of a poisonous tree and urged the National Assembly to pass a law that will vest the Nigerian people with the powers to give themselves a Constitution. The Guest Lecturer, Dr. Oseni Taiwo Afisi, said June 12 transcended the identity politics of ethnicity, religion and such other primordial instincts. Veteran journalist, Otunba Gbenga Onayiga, also supported the demand for a new Constitution while also calling for the immortalisation of other heroes of democracy, which included journalists. Another veteran, Dare Babarinsa, said answers must be found to why the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar regime that succeeded Abacha failed to release Abiola from detention when other detainees were being released. He urged President Tinubu, the first activist to become Nigeria’s president, to order an investigation into this.

There were many other speakers, including this writer, but space will not allow us to mention them. I left the gathering resolved to attend future activities of the OPC as I find convenient.

NCC chairman, Prof. Adeolu Akande’s golden advice to 10th National Assembly

Election of principal officers into the 10th National Assembly has come and gone and everyone must have simmered now, as they say. The next battle will shift to the composition of Senate and House committees. That will be the first litmus test of how competently Godswill Akpabio (Senate President) and Tajudeen Abass (Speaker of the House of Representatives) can bridge the gulf created by the keen competition for their respective seat and rally the chambers behind themselves. The robust intervention of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was what made what had initially threatened to be a fight-to-finish look eventually like a storm in a tea cup, judging by the ease with which Akpabio and Abass sailed through. But the wisdom of our people says you can help someone to land a job but you will not be the one to execute the mandate for him. So, the ball is now in the court of Akpabio and Abass and the task of rowing the boat rests squarely on their shoulders. Can they rally their colleagues? Do they have the required leadership skills? Are they selfless? Will they be listeners who will be patient servant-leaders and not dictators? I came across the advice given by Professor Adeolu Akande, chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and felt that not just Akpabio and Abass but the entirety of the 10th National Assembly need it to succeed.

Hear the professor of Comparative Politics: “Now that the winners have clearly emerged after all the horse trading, I want to enjoin all the lawmakers to put Nigeria first and collaborate with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in actualising his “Renewed Hope” agenda. So far, the country is moving in the right direction. I expect members of the National Assembly to collaborate with the Executive in moving the country forward. President Tinubu, since his inauguration on May 29, 2023, has left no one in doubt on his vision and mission to make Nigeria one of the best economies in the world. This can only be achieved with a cooperative and collaborative Legislature” It couldn’t have been better put!

Prof. Akande then assured that the Board of the NCC, which he leads, will continue to initiate lofty ideas that will lead to poverty reduction, wealth creation and employment generation. Since every politics is local, Akande did not forget his home base of Oyo state as he also felicitated federal lawmakers from the state on their inauguration as members of the 10th National Assembly. He told them “to consider this as a rare opportunity and call to serve our fatherland. I pray God grant you the wisdom and good health to succeed in this national assignment!” Again, well said!

FEEDBACK on “Will Osinbajo rue missed opportunities?

Hello, Bola, o t’ojo meta! Just read your piece on Osinbajo in today’s Tribune: Sobering, poignant, and VERY instructive. Kuu’se o! -Niyi Osundare.

I pity Osinbajo, our gentleman professor of Law. He was a prisoner of power while in Aso villa. I believe he became a target of jealousy the few times he stood in for his principal; they were worried by his brilliance and potentials in power. That’s why they ended up taming him while ensuring that he lost friendship with Tinubu. Like you, I await his memoirs on his travails in power. It would be an interesting read. More ink to your pen, as usual. Please send the e-copy of your UI lecture to me after delivery. – Dipo Onabanjo.

Very sad story! He was marked out by the cabal. – Prince Suyi Olateru-Olagbegi.

Thanks very much, Sir. Osinbajo, like Obasanjo, needs to tell us the type of devil that resides in Aso villa that makes them forget their ancestral home. – Bello Mohammed Adeola.

I greet you once again for always standing on the side of not just the fact but also the truth! To start with, those who brought Obasanjo to power only gave him the office of the president but kept the authority and power of the office to themselves. Obasanjo was only able to grab and snatch 70% of the power towards the end of his second term; that was why he longed for third term! Under the Nigerian system, vice presidents are like spare tyres. Everything you said about Osinbajo is 100 per cent true. Keep the good work going, Sir! -Titus Kosemani Ayojesu.

Osinbajo was a disappointment all the way… There was no sign of a pastoral understanding on his part. He was put in position for “such a time like this” but… he was not sensitive to the Holy Spirit and had no sacrificial calling of “if l perish l perish” in order to do the needful. I am sure he and his cronies will have tons of lame excuses. I pray God will forgive him for being a bad example of a Christian in position of authority! By the way, let me have a link, if available, to your upcoming lecture at U. l. I will like to watch it either live or later. If that is not possible, please avail me an electronic copy to read. Blessings, my big brother! Reminder, please work on the compendium of your works. Or will you want me to do it? -Dr. Revd. Demola Sodeinde.

You can now see the deceit in human behaviour! Where are the youths shouting and hailing him on the APC primaries ground in June last year? Some of us didn’t like his steps at that time but where are those defending his actions as the right thing to do? Why have they forsaken him so soon? That’s a peculiarity of the Yoruba race. Similar story followed Aregbesola but as a politician he has started to apologize and shift the blame of his misbehaviour on Satan! I wish Osinbajo would follow suit! Everybody likes power; however, it was rumoured that (Borno state Gov. Babagana Umara) Zulum was approached to be VP (to Tinubu) but he said no; that they should first approach his boss, (Kashim) Shettima. If Shettima was not interested, Zulum said he would then accept the offer; unlike Osinbajo that did not look back, even when his (former) boss had signified his intention. I did not expect him to grab the offer. It was a very grievous mistake. The performance of Osinbajo as VP and a Christian made me to conclude that the religion of the VP is immaterial. When people were raising objections to the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Tinubu/Shetima, I was not bothered. Also as a lawyer of repute, he disappointed me. Nevertheless, he has done his best. Thank God he returned home safe and sound! Welcomed by a crowd or not, he has acquired the big title of “EX-VP”! Welcome, Your Excellency! -Kola Oloye.

Sir, don’t mind the ex-VP, Yemi Osinbajo; he was just there for eight years for himself and his family only! l do not see anything to remember him for. l pray he sees this your write-up one day! So, the day he passes through Lagos/Abeokuta road or Shagamu/Ikorodu road, who is he going to blame or accuse of abandoning those roads? So sad that all our past leaders from the South didn’t do anything tangible there! l pray President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s case will be different for good. -PST. Austin Igharoro.

  • Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Directo/r Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine.He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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