What Nelson Mandela told MKO about Abacha

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MKO Abiola the Enigma
Moshood had begun getting over the trauma of his annulled election. He was becoming his old self and his life was gradually taking shape once again. His focus had now shifted toward rebuilding his businesses. He traveled widely to achieve that. He had an oil block and was keen on developing it. He would start regaining the fortune that he had spent on the elections. A part of him was determined to put the elections behind him. But all that changed on the tenth of May 1994.

On that day Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the president of South Africa. Moshood, who had been invited to the ceremony, was not treated as a regular guest; he was received as a president. Moshood said that he met with Nelson Mandela after the ceremony and that the new South African leader advised him to learn from his own experience and never give up on his mandate. Moshood returned to Nigeria a different man. He became much bolder. He wanted to reclaim his mandate. This shift was evident in the new sharpness of his criticisms of Abacha. His remarks became harsher and more personal. Sometimes he even called the military ruler an illiterate whom he would make to realize how unimportant he was.


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Another development that strengthened Moshood’s resolve during that period was the emergence of NADECO, a new and broad group whose members cut across different tribes and professions. The group was comprised of retired army personnel, businessmen, activists, and many other types of prominent Nigerians. The primary objective of this group was to put and end to military rule by helping Moshood to become the president. Aside from this group, labor and petroleum unions gave Moshood’s course a major boost when they warned the government that they would bring the country to a standstill unless Moshood was sworn in as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Realizing how vulnerable the government was Moshood decided to launch his strike. He made up his mind to declare himself the Nigerian president on the eve of his election’s anniversary. Contrary to a lot of advice, he insisted that he would make the declaration on Nigerian soil, and not abroad.

 “On that day Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the president of South Africa. Moshood, who had been invited to the ceremony, was not treated as a regular guest; he was received as a president. Moshood said that he met with Nelson Mandela after the ceremony and that the new South African leader advised him to learn from his own experience and never give up on his mandate”

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Kudirat knowing that his action would be a treasonable offense, strongly objected to it. “I think you should be patient. This is not the right time, and if you insist on doing it, do it from abroad and set up a government from there”
That suggestion did not please Moshood at all. “That is not an option. If Mandela was scared and set up his movement from abroad, it would not have had any impact. People would have labeled him a coward as they labeled me a coward when I traveled after the annulment. Have you forgotten?”


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She knew he was right but she was now afraid and did not know what else to say or do. Things were escalating too fast and they could suddenly get out of hand. “But what if something goes wrong? What if you are arrested or killed?” By then she was sobbing. Moshood looked disappointed. “I am already a dead man and you know that more than anyone else. How many times do you enter my room and see me staring at the ceiling?” He paused to look at the ceiling then pointed at it. “Is there anything spectacular about this ceiling? Of course not! But I always look at it because I plead with God to end my life and free me from the bondage of this misery. I am going to search for my presidential mandate, with or without your support”


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She became defensive. “Why will I not want to help you? All I said was that the timing might not be right. There is rising opposition against the military government, I know, but how serious are these people? I don’t want you to be used and dumped by opportunists who might want to use you as leverage to strike a deal with the government; that is what I am ...”


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She stopped talking because someone had entered Moshood’s room. She dried her tears and excused herself. She went downstairs toward her own quarters. She wanted to see her aged mother to ask her for advice. She quickened her pace as she came closer to her mother’s room. She knew that she and her husband were about to embark on a tough journey. Tears began falling again but this time she did not bother drying them.

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(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 Fred Eno helped MKO to jump fence to escape Abacha’s killer squad in our next post on this blog)

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