IBB, MKO, Abacha & the Power Game of June 12

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MKO Abiola; The Enigma

Times were changing. By the early nineties, Moshood was only a businessman in name. His real interest had shifted from commerce to activism. The only thing about him that had remained the same was his philanthropy. Most people did not recognize this change in his life but those who were closest to him not only saw it, they were afraid of it.
A big part of their concern was that Moshood’s new orientation led him to relinquish the daily running of his businesses to other people, including some of his family members, which caused his companies to record huge losses. To heighten the fears of those who were concerned about the state of his businesses, Moshood, instead of panicking as a result of those losses, went on a bigger donating spree. He funded a larger number of causes, institutions, and individuals. He even went so far as to distribute money among family members of victims of a plane crash. Some of his own family members, reacting to that, approached him and demanded to know if he was deliberately trying to become bankrupt.
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This was not the first time that such a confrontation would occur, and Moshood, as usual, not only ignored them, but increased his charities. Making money, unlike in his early years in ITT, was no longer a priority. It was now time to give it away. His legendary generosity, within a very short period of time, won him prestigious awards from notable organizations like the International Committee on Education for Teaching, located in Paris. He also became the recipient of the symbolic key, made of gold, to Washington, DC.

“But then, at the beginning of 1993-and to Moshood’s complete surprise-General Babangida gave him the green light to pursue his presidential ambition. The coast was finally clear after so many years of dreaming of the presidency. Moshood was completely thrilled at first but slightly weary shortly afterward”
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Another major achievement was an award that he received from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for his immense contributions to the black race. This international recognition and his rising clout at home rekindled his interest in the Nigerian presidency. He started making plans to get involved in the government’s transition program but had to postpone his plans because of the loss of his senior wife, Hajia  Simbiat Abiola, in 1992. He mourned her for a long period of time.
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General Ibrahim Babangida, who was still Nigeria’s ruler and a close friend of Moshood, was aware of his presidential ambitions. Many believed that this was why he had begun harassing Moshood through junior officers who seized his passport periodically on his way out of the country. They once even raided his house. But this suspicion was hard to prove because General Babangida maintained a very cordial relationship with Moshood and gave him unlimited access to him at the Presidential Palace.
But then, at the beginning of 1993-and to Moshood’s complete surprise-General Babangida gave him the green light to pursue his presidential ambition. The coast was finally clear after so many years of dreaming of the presidency. Moshood was completely thrilled at first but slightly weary shortly afterward. Unknown to him then, the so-called green light was an invitation to a power play between General Babangida and General Abacha, Nigeria’s chief of defense—a  man known to be greedy and bloodthirsty. General Abacha’s impatience to rule Nigeria and his rising influence in the army terrified General Babangida.
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General Babangida, desperate to neutralize him, decided to draft Moshood, Nigeria’s most popular and presumably wealthiest man, into his phony “transition program to civilian rule” That would make the program credible even though the general had no plans to hand power over to anybody. Being the only civilian candidate with enough clout to terrify Abacha, General Babangida’s aim was to put Moshood at loggerheads with him, creating a crisis between the military and civil society. After that he would put an end to the transition to civilian rule, as usual, and remain in power.
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The general had a solid plan but there were two things that he did not take into consideration: he never assumed that Moshood would fight ruthlessly for his mandate if he were to win the elections. He had always seen him as a businessman who was scared of his own shadow. He had also felt that General Abacha would not be able to capitalize on any annulment of the democratic elections and use it to force him out of power.

(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 How MKO Abiola raised Fifty Million Dollars for Presidential Election in our next post on this blog)

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