Reflections On June 12: Did MKO Abiola Commit Class Suicide?

by Ephraim Adinlofu

First and foremost, the thought to write this piece were inspired by George Onmonya’s, The Conspiracy Theory of Abacha and Abiola’s death, published online on the May 16, 2008; second, by Major Hamza Al-Mustapha’s recent outburst that Abiola was beaten to death; third, by my active involvement in that June 1993 election; fourth, by Karl Marx’s very appropriate thesis, that “the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle…”, and finally, by the election of Barack Obama as the presidential candidate of the US Democratic party.

Barack Obama’s recent nomination as the presidential candidate of the US Democratic Party and MKO Abiola’s victory on the 12 June 1993 election appear similar but not the same. Similar in the sense that a committed, unbiased and unprejudiced people can pull themselves together against all odds to effect a qualitative change worthy of a country. This was what happened in Nigeria in 1993 but was truncated and is about to happen in the USA by November 2008 {all things being equal}.

Working objectively on the side of Obama was the fact that the American people are just tired of the BUSH/CLINTON dynasties and needed a change for good. Working for Abiola was the fact that almost all Nigerians were tired of the operating status quo bestowed on us by the British coupled with the pervading spread of injustice, hunger, misery and poverty occasioned by IBB’s structural adjustment programme {SAP}.

To the real gist! I was a strong and mobilising member of the Social Democratic Party {SDP} in my home town of Ibusa and its environs in Delta state. The late Chief MKO Abiola was the presidential flag bearer of the party. In my occasional random musings, I’d never ceased to meditate on that election and its outcome, coupled with the series of events, meetings, backstabbing and betrayals that went with it.

The heart of man is like the English weather, unreliable. I never blamed an English friend who ones told me that he trust his trained Alsatian dog more than human beings. He has his reasons. It was after that election and its aftermaths that it actually dawn on me in a hard way that in politics there is no permanent friend but permanent interest. It made me realised quite quickly too that there is a wall of difference between theory and practice. What I’d read in my school days was not what I’d witnessed.

That election was a classical example of a study in political betrayal. A betrayal by an undisciplined, crude and unprincipled political class that has neither decency nor decorum in its vocabulary. And since that election, this same shameless class that thrives more on debauchery have been behaving true to type. Their members have refused to change for better. How will they, when we have a combination of strange chameleons parading as politicians.

Let me in retrospect, briefly re-examined that election ones more. On the 12th of June 1993, two presidential candidates, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the {NRC} and Chief MKO Abiola of the {SDP}, went into a democratic race to succeed IBB. Before then, Professor Humphrey Nwosu had distinguished himself with his innovation of OPTION A4 electoral system. The outstanding features of that option were at best, as follows; first, was the absence of ballot papers and ballot boxes, the abuse of which, had become recurring decimal in our political landscape.

Second, was the absence of the award of dubious contracts that would have gone into millions of dollars for the procurements of printed ballot papers from South Africa and ballot boxes from perhaps, Togo. In the process, Professor Nwosu saved money for the country. Third, security agencies, whose copious allegiance was to any government in power, were not needed to escort any ballot boxes because there were none to be escorted. Finally, the election process could neither be manipulated nor rigged, at least then.

On the D-day, the electorates went to their voting centres, checked and confirmed their names and had one of their thumps, inked. They re-assembled, if I’d recollected correctly, at 12noon, queued up in front of their candidate’s poster and in a jiffy, were counted by the electoral officer, accompanied by the representatives of the two political parties. The results were entered in a result sheet and signed by the three of them. It was thereafter, promptly forwarded to the council’s headquarters were they were been collated.

At the council’s headquarters, the result is submitted to the Council’s electoral officer in the presence of party agents. They are authenticated, entered and relayed to the state capital. That was how the election went through out the federation. No rancour! No bitterness! Nigerians applauded it; representatives of the International Community and ECOWAS, praised it and different observer groups eulogised and commended the process. The option, was devoid of suspicion and doubts, killing, rampaging, and vandalism. It was a free and fair election and the best so far in our history.

The results of 35 of the 36 states were known by party representatives. It was clear that Chief Abiola had won. Alhaji BashirTofa, who had lost {even} his village and home state of Kano to Abiola, was so astounded by the outcome that he could not muster the courage, typical of Nigerian politicians, to accept defeat and congratulate his opponent. He was dumfounded by the magnitude of defeat that he simply went into limbo-never to come out of lime light.

All the excuses given by IBB for the annulment could not hold water. Of all the military officers who served IBB, it was only Col. U.K Umar, who had the courage to tell the ” evil genius” that he erred. He tried his best { even at the risk of his life} to convince the General to de-annul the election and announce the winner but to no avail. Having reached a dead end, Col. U.K Umar, honourably resigned from the Nigerian army thus ended a promising military career. Since then, he has remained a man of principles and integrity, two scarce commodities in Nigeria’s democratic lexicons.

Dr.Iyorchia Ayu, the Senate president during that most unfortunate period and a member of the SDP, was another victim. He had all the opportunity to abandon Abiola half way through, but he fought on, for the actualization of that election. Since IBB had boasted that “we are still in power and not only in power, but in authority,” he brought that enormous power of the state to bear on the Senate president. In the end, Ayu’s colleagues in the Upper House became sell outs and shove him aside. He left, with his honour, principles and integrity intact.

The two political parties were created and destroyed by the same government. In terms of ideology, the Social Democratic Party {SDP}, was described by IBB in a national broadcast as “a little bit to the LEFT” while the National Republican Convention {NRC} was “a little bit to the RIGHT.” IBB was especially scared of the emergence of an “extreme left political party”. He had earlier jettisoned the “Political Bureau” report, a bureau that he set up, which had earlier recommended, based on its members national tour, a socialist economic form of arrangement.

However, in recruitment of membership, organization, and mobilization, the SDP was more efficient, effective and coordinated. The party’s manifesto was the brain work of established scholars and was the most appealing and convincing to the electorates. The presidential aspirant was an outstanding achiever; a sound mind in a sound body with clout in the international business arena. Abiola was a gem and a brain. His analysis and understanding of the Nigerian economy was superb and mesmerizing. He dissected the economy in the national political debate that left a lot of people spellbound.

Come to think of it, here was a man who had risen from rags to riche

s; here was a man who in his childhood days had experienced misery, poverty, hunger, and understood their effects on the psyche of man; here was a man who had ejected himself out of poverty and had crossed the Rubicon to wealth and fame; and, here was a man who had made enormous and diversified investments in such areas as mechanised farming, communications, banking, philanthropy and oil, both at home and abroad. Anything Abiola touched in the business world turned to gold. His business acumen was just “too much”!

He appealed more to the electorates than Tofa, whose pedigree could not be fathomed. Some may argue that Abiola stole our money, supporting their arguments with Fela’s song, “International thief, thief” {ITT} or that he was made rich by the late General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, who had given him a major contract in the mid-70s to install street phones in the cities of Nigeria. However, most of the electorates knew his antecedents before they made their choice. After all, they must have remonstrated, there is “Honour among thieves” ala Sir Jeffrey Archer.

The point was that Abiola was among those who invested whatever they had made in Nigeria, into Nigeria. He was seemingly, a detribalised Nigerian. In most of his businesses, Nigerians of all tribes and religious background had worked for him. As a philanthropist, he was too generous to a fault. He was kind-hearted and always ready to help the poor and orphans. Those were the qualities that the electorates, who have been alienated and emasculated by IBB’s structural Adjustment Programme {SAP}, were looking out for.

After the annulment, MKO still had the opportunity to live if he had wanted to, but he stood his ground. All that the dubious military junta wanted was for him to sign an undertaking, that he was no longer interested in “our” mandate. He refused. Emissaries were sent, both local and international, appealing to him to sign and renounce “our” mandate, he refused. In the end, he died either, after taken a cup of tea or having been beaten to death- whichever! Let their conscience, if they have any, keep pricking them!

Based on the above context, I wish to submit that Chief MKO Abiola committed a kind of “class suicide” on the following inter-linked premises. First, the ruling cabal could not stomach the fact that he left the conservative party, which he rightly belonged, to join the progressives. Put sharply, Abiola was seen to have sacrificed, what Amilcar Cabral called, his “class position, privileges, and power through identification with the working class” and the poor people. He had been socially inclined and sympathetic to the plight of the downtrodden and the cabal believed he was going to do “something” substantial to alleviate the suffering of the generality of Nigerians.

Second, the ruling cabal, believed, rightly or wrongly, that power was about to slip out of their hands into the hands of radicals and moderate radicals and, may find it difficult to retrieve it. Third, the ruling cabal was afraid, again, rightly or wrongly, that Chief Abiola would perform so well that the past Nigerian leaders would have buried their heads in shame.

It was therefore, members of that cabal in military uniform, guided by their counterparts in the traditional institution, supported by a sell-out political class and some sections of the business community, that consciously annulled that election. That annulment was a complete coup against the people and a continuation of the class struggle in Nigeria; a struggle against the economic emancipation of the poor. It also gives credence to the thesis that in some historical settings, a ruling elite will never relinquish power to the people on a platter of gold. The people have to fight for it. Abiola’s physical elimination was a manifestation of extreme “class suicide”!

My dear Chief ABIOLA, as one of those Nigerians who had believed in you and your vision for Nigeria and had campaigned for you, I SAY, MAY YOUR SOUL REST IN PEACE! I also want you to know, that since you left to the great beyond, the country has gone from bad to worse. The country abandoned option A4 and returned to our usual kill-and-go. We are still groping in the dark in the 21st century. Even Ghana has moved ahead of us! Bye, bye until we meet to part no more. I miss your stunning and earth-shattering proverbs! I rest my case!

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calvin May 15, 2012 - 7:48 am

the article is commendable. because of mko generosity’s life style, if u give generously u will be nicknamed abiola. history will continue to speaks for mko who gave life because of our mandates. kudos to him

BOLA October 10, 2009 - 8:05 pm

He has gone,and d country has never been d same has now shown dat ppl behind his death are evils who ve a lot 2 steal frm d country rather than contributing to d growth and development.sun re o are ona kakanfo,we will never forget u,we luv u but Allah luv u most.

Nosa June 15, 2009 - 10:51 am

great and enlightening article

sounds strange, but could it be true? here is a link to an interview with the late chief's former protocol officer who said that in 1992, abiola met with T.B. Joshua who told him that he would win the election but never be president…

john paul June 11, 2009 - 11:28 pm

i expected the article to really expose the political evil deeds of chief mko abiola.did he or didn’t he ever practiced discursive politics and politics of acrimony.will any die hard fan of chief obafemi awolowo ever forgive abiola even in the world beyond ? where ‘who knows’ he might be dining and wining with the likes of abacha and adisa akinloye and only beg cheif awolowo from the other end of the bibilical bottomless pit for maybe same drop of water.well,kudos to him.may his soul rest in peace

adebowale funmilayo November 12, 2008 - 10:35 am

God Almighty is the great judge in this matter,God will judge both IBB that bastard,thief,harm rubber,muderer,frauldulent as a matter of fact his children will suffer for this while he was still alive.God bles this publisher of this article

Akin November 5, 2008 - 2:19 pm

Well thought out. But a question has to be answred…how can we begin to make the change in Nigeria. Could this be our generation ? The situation in Nigeria is no different from the slave trade era. How can this slavery be abolished and what can we do.

Efe Paul August 5, 2008 - 10:35 am

I couldnt agree more!

anthony August 1, 2008 - 7:47 pm

the article is a supreme specimen of sycophancy at its best. truly pathetic. The man danced with the devil throughout the evening and expected the devil to transform into an angel for his benefit. Only Nigerians would be grateful of being giving what was stolen from them.


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