How IBB asked MKO to run for Presidency in 1993

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Babangida and Abiola when the going was good

Moshood Abiola was smiling as he entered his private plane. The tall and handsome dark-skinned Nigerian billionaire with large eyes and ears was on his way back to Lagos after a short trip to Abuja. He was wearing a dark blue suit with a red tie and a white shirt. He was happy on that afternoon in the early part of 1993. His features had adopted a distinctive cheerfulness that was more pronounced whenever he smiled. Now was the time for joy since he had finally gotten the green light from “the powers that be” to vie for the Nigerian presidency. It was a dream that he had had for decades. It had even become an important part of him, known for a long time by all his family members, and of course by “the powers that be”.
His Caucasian pilot greeted him warmly, performed a theatrical bow then said jokingly, “I am sorry to have to announce that we are heading to Lagos, since I still haven’t located heaven on the map”
Moshood feigned a serious look, paused then replied sternly,
“Well in that case, you are fired”

They both laughed as the pilot made his way to his cabin to prepare for take off. Such cheerful encounters were common between them. Once by himself, Moshood reflected on what had happened earlier in the day to justify his optimistic glow. Was General Babangida, the military president serious when he asked him to run for the presidency? His smile broadened when he suddenly remembered that the military ruler had not just requested that he participate in the elections, it was more of a plea. Yes, it was. Moshood acknowledged that to himself in an effort to reassure himself that the Nigerian ruler and close friend had made up his mind that he, Moshood, was the right man to succeed him. Why not? After all Moshood had always donated his time and his money to any cause designed to move Nigeria forward.

MKO Abiola; The Enigma

Moshood’s ego began to swell as those self-glorifying thoughts raced through his mind, coinciding with the plane’s unpredictably swift movement across the runaway. As it was about to take off, it made a faint but familiar sound that cut off Moshood’s thoughts temporarily till he was airborne. But by the time he had adjusted his chair to a more comfortable position, his excitement started to fizzle away. In its place came a sharp feeling of unease because Moshood could not stop his mind from drifting toward the darker side of things. Maybe this green light was just a hoax, a set-up designed to humiliate him then destroy him. Had he not been receiving mixed signals from the same military ruler over the last couple of years? Signs that had convinced him, that his status as a friend to the government was uncertain? All of a sudden he felt a bitter taste in his mouth. Then he remembered the day when Nigerian air force officials had invaded his personal residence. Why had a minor disagreement between one of his sons and an air force officer lead to such a drastic measure? He remembered how his domestic staff was humiliated that day and how his home was completely ransacked. Moshood had never stopped believing that General Babangida was behind the incident.

That belief was confirmed when his troubles later worsened, his passport was seized several times at the airport on his trips out of the country. Even his businesses suffered because payments for executed projects were not forthcoming. Moshood tried to take a nap but he could not. He remained awake for the entire fifty-five minute flight.

His plane landed in Lagos at 4 p.m. His original plan had been to go home and rest before a later trip to Paris at 9 p.m. that same day but that had changed. He was now going to see a close friend whom he had always admired for his wisdom. He needed some good advice. No longer in the mood for joking, Moshood bid his pilot farewell with the wave of his hand and hurriedly entered his black, bulletproof Mercedes Benz parked at the tarmac. In a fit of anxiety, he told his driver where to go.
His ride to his friend’s house was longer than his trip from Abuja because of heavy traffic. It was days like this that he regretted turning down offers from his friends in the police to provide him with a siren. He finally arrived at his destination: a small, white, modest-looking bungalow with a single car and a security guard. Moshood rushed out of the car and greeted the guard, a weak- looking old man who probably could not hurt a fly or defend his boss from one. Moshood did not bother to ask whether his friend was at home because he had already seen his car in the compound.
As he entered, his friend was reading a book, which was not a surprise since that was how he spent most of his time. Hearing footsteps, his host glanced upward and smiled when he saw Moshood. He stood up at once and hugged him. “This is the first time that the earth did not tremble to mark your arrival. I wonder why”

Jamiu Abiola with the GD

Moshood hugged him again. He had a lot of respect for his host, who unlike most others, hardly ever made any requests of him. Beaming, Moshood announced, “I am very happy to see you but happier to bring you some good news.” They both sat down before Moshood added, “I have received clearance to run for the presidency”

 “The presidency is right in the center of everything. My wealth is decreasing because my charities are increasing. Aside from that, Nigerians are not only as poor as they were before, they are becoming poorer”….“My charities will not eliminate poverty but my presidency will”

His friend looked at him in disbelief. His smile vanished and a frown appeared. Moshood noticed the change in his facial expression and was not pleased. His fears in the plane resurfaced immediately.
“What a surprise!” his host replied. “But if I am to be honest, I am not so keen on knowing where this mysterious clearance came from because the only clearance that matters comes only from God... but that does not mean you should ignore the handwriting on the wall, Moshood. It speaks volumes”.
Moshood stood up, offended. “What do you mean by the handwriting on the wall and why are you speaking in riddles?”
His friend urged him to sit down, and when he did, he added in a milder tone, “These people don’t like you, Moshood. Deep down, you know how much they envy you and see you as a threat” He sighed. “So how will they ever hand over power to you? Maybe there is something I don’t know”

There was a heavy and unsettling silence. Moshood paused to think. He had to, because his host was right. Deep down, he knew it. It took him a while to say anything. “I am thankful that God is the giver of power, as you said earlier, and not army generals who believe they are gods. All I needed from them was their clearance and now watch me as I outsmart them”.
His host looked at him in bewilderment. “So you want to convince me that you can take on the Nigerian military, the most powerful institution in sub-Saharan Africa? I have never known you to be such a risk-taker”.

Gazing deeply at Moshood, he patted him on the shoulder and added, “Remember that you have industries and factories all over Nigeria. In other words, you have too much to lose if, or should I just say when, things go wrong”
Moshood rose to his feet. He walked around the living room, scrutinizing it as if he was searching for something vital. He suddenly turned back toward his friend. “You said that you have never known me to be somebody who takes risks. Maybe you don’t know me then”
He sat down and continued. “My life has always been about taking big risks, but not careless and reckless ones, because they have always been reasonable risks and I always win”


The Book that sets Abiola's Political Records Straight by Jamiu Abiola

Before either of them could speak further, a guest arrived. Moshood could have made his host delay attending to his guest but he decided to leave. He had heard enough and was beginning to have a headache. He told his friend that he had an urgent matter to attend to even though he was just going home. His friend escorted him out but once they were outside, he asked another question. “Since when did you transform from a careful accountant to a risk-taker?”
Moshood laughed. “I told you already that I have always taken risks. Where there is no risk or the possibility of pain there is no progress or possibility of gain” He opened the door of his car before adding, “That was how I rose to the top. I take business and political risks, sensible ones”

His friend raised an eyebrow. “And where does the presidency fit into all of this?”
Moshood smiled broadly. “The presidency is right in the center of everything. My wealth is decreasing because my charities are increasing. Aside from that, Nigerians are not only as poor as they were before, they are becoming poorer”. His smile disappeared. “My charities will not eliminate poverty but my presidency will”


The GDA & Abdul Jamiu Abiola in rare pose with The Book on The Birth and Death of MKO

His host nodded and hugged him. Moshood entered his car and headed home. But on his way there was heavy traffic so he placed a call to Kudirat, his senior wife, and told her to meet him at the airport and bring some documents that were on his bed. He told her not to pack any clothes for him because he had all that he needed to wear in his London house. Afterward he placed a call to his British driver and told him to bring his Rolls Royce from London to the Charles de Gaulle airport in France by 6 a.m. the following morning. He needed to think and the flight to Paris and the drive to London would enable him to do that.
Kudirat was at the airport before him. She was a slim, beautiful; light-skinned woman of moderate height. She was wearing a yellow traditional dress that matched her complexion. Once she saw him, she got out of her car and they both entered his plane together. She gave him his documents and he told her of his new ambition. She worried at first then advised him to pray over it. They spoke briefly about some domestic issues. She left him by 9 p.m. and his plane took off immediately.
By then Moshood was tired but he knew that sleep would evade him. He requested some coffee and once he took a sip, his thoughts drifted to the past, taking him to his childhood, a life of poverty and uncertainty. He was sure that his life was about to change. Was the change going to be for the better or the worse? He did not have a clue and even if he did, he did not believe that he could alter anything because he felt like he had already entered an unstoppable train.

(Excerpts from the book, The President Who Never Ruled by Jamiu Abiola; get copies in any book shop across the world or write Jamiu Abiola through jamiulinguist@yahoo.com. Read Untold Story of the Pregnancy & the birth of MKO Abiola in 1938 in our next post on this blog)

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