Democracy Day: Things to know about MKO Abiola

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Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, also known as MKO Abiola GCFR was a Nigerian Yoruba businessman, publisher, politician, and aristocrat of the Egba Clan.
MKO was born on 24th August 1937 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, he received his primary education at Baptist Boys’ High School and also earned a scholarship to study economics at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

Chief Abiola was reported to have four wives with over 40 children.

He was the Aare Ona Kankafo XIV of Yorubaland and got assassinated on 7th July 1998 in Abuja.
Notable are Abiola Farms, Abiola Bookshops, Abiola Football Club, Wonder Bakeries, Radio Communications Nigeria, Concord Press, Concord Airlines, Habib Bank, Summit Oil International Ltd, Africa Ocean Lines, and Decca W.A. Ltd.
MKO, a Yoruba from the South-west threw his hat into the ring in 1993 when he contested for the presidency during the regime of Ibrahim Babangida.

By January 5, 1993, over 250 presidential candidates, including MKO, had been screened by the electoral umpire, NEC. The NEC had earlier banned many candidates and parties from campaigning.

By June 12, after a lengthy process filled with controversies, MKO chosen by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) contested against the National Republican Convention (NRC) candidate, Bashir Tofa.

He had another Muslim, Babagana Kingibe, as running mate.

Abiola won by a landslide in the elections widely reported as free and fair but was denied his mandate by Mr. Babangida who wanted to extend his rule.

Babangida, wishing to truncate the process, subsequently petitioned the High Court to halt the process. On June 16, the announcement of the results was postponed.

But a group, Campaign for Democracy in defiance, released the ‘election results’, declaring Mr. Abiola as the winner, with 19 of 30 states ‘in his kitty’.

The NDSC voided the election, saying it wanted to “protect the legal system and the judiciary from being ridiculed both nationally and internationally”.

MKO’s tortuous journey to regain his mandate thus began.

On June 11, 1994, after months of waiting endlessly for his mandate to be actualized from an unimpressed Mr. Abacha, Mr. Abiola returned to Nigeria.

He declared himself president before a massive crowd. He also called for an ‘uprising’ to pressurize the military to hand over power.

Mr. Abacha, who himself was mulling a transition from military to a civilian president, immediately clamped him into jail charging him with treason.

Hundreds of demonstrators thronged the streets of Lagos to demand Mr. Abiola’s release.

Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and many other activists, who spearheaded the protests, fled the country after a subsequent clampdown on dissent by the regime.

Despite the bloody protests that erupted across the South-west, and swathes of the east and north, including a 10-day crippling strike by oil workers, Mr. Abacha refused to budge.

However, Nigeria remained a pariah in the global community.

Mr. Abiola remained in jail for four years. During that period, his wife, Kudirat, was assassinated while campaigning for his release.

Mr. Abiola eventually died under controversial circumstances.

On July 7, 1998, just a few days before his planned release from prison by the new regime, Mr. Abiola collapsed and died from alleged heart failure during a visit from a U.S. delegation.

Subsequently, on June 12, 2018, President Muhammedu Buhari declared June 12 as democracy Day in Nigeria.

 

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