Friday, 28 August 2015

Why I wrote MKO’s story — Son, Jamiu | Says ‘Dad Never Stole ITT Money”

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The GDA with the MKO's scion displays both the Arabic and English editions of The President Who Never Ruled'
Abdul Jamiu Abiodun Abiola is the 5th son of the late symbol of democracy Bahorun MKO Abiola. He is equally an old friend of mine. Our friendship dates back to 2002 when I was a society correspondent with FAME Magazine. A chance encounter with him inside his father’s Moshood Abiola Crescent, Ikeja-Lagos home in the summer of 2002 while trying to interview his sister, Hafsat dovetailed into a friendship that has survived many challenges in 13 years.

Jamiu who is equally the second son and third child of late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola (Martyr of Democracy) has went through several transformations in the last 13 years of our friendship.
From a humble interior decorator importing Venetian Window blinds into Nigeria for the interior fulfillment of various homes to an oil marketer with NNPC, managing two of her filling stations in Lagos and Ogun state and now an author who have authored two books “Realistic Hope” and “The Prisoner of Conscience” our friendship has sailed through many waves.
Sometimes last year, Jamiu briefed me of his passionate intention to author a book on his father, the book which he intends to use as correction to so many ill-perception bandied around about his father was going to be his biggest service as a son of the late Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, which he said is very germane to the image of his family and memory of the winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election.
Sometimes in June, Jamiu handed me a copy of the Arabic edition of the book and promised to deliver the English edition before his father’s next birthday on August 24. He worked tirelessly to make the project meet up with time but due to logistic problem from Beirut the capital city of Lebanon where the book is printed, the book came on the eve of August 24th. Instantly, Jamiu put a call to me, inviting me over to his Ikeja home for a private review session which fell on Monday August 24th which was the 78th birthday of the man he wrote about.
It was few hours after the review session that I took him on the project. He took a ten minutes break to have his 7pm Muslim prayer before returning for the interview.
Jamiu who speaks 12 international languages including Swahili, French, Spanish and Arabic told me for the first time why he took the decision to write a book on his father and why it is very important at this moment.  Jamiu who became a bundle of emotion through out the encounter said the inability of majority to understand certain aspect of father’s life lead to the publishing of his new book The President Who Never Ruled. Enjoy the excerpts on your Africa’s number 1 celebrity encounter blog Asabeafrika

Alhaji Jamiu Abiola explainig a point as Asabeafrika's GDA listents with rapt attention

Let me salute your courage for putting yourself forward for the task of being the first person to write an interesting account of the life and times of your dad, why did you published The President Who Never Ruled?
I was born a linguist and I have always been in love with writing, in love with languages that is why I have always wanted to write, not just in one language but in two languages.  And later on, I am going to even write in more than two languages. Currently, I write in English and Arabic and I write about a lot of issues but the most important issue is the issue of my father because as a child, the first thing is about our father, father is the one that is responsible for our fundamental development. Even in Islam, is believed that if we want to go to heaven, our parents have to be happy with us and we owe them a responsibility. In my own father’s case, I owe him a lot because a lot of things I am doing today in terms of my business or my language career, he is the one that encouraged me and told me that I have to do this things and I learnt from his diligence, from his hard work and he has passed away but that doesn’t mean I should forget and I can never forget him. 

“People bring their wives to come and meet him and they will start disturbing him. It is not that he even fell for that trap but even if he did sometimes, you don’t just look at it like ‘oh, he was somebody that was going out looking for women”
When I see people talk about my father and issues are weaved around his personality I feel a sense of responsibility to react. You know how it is in life, when someone is not alive to defend himself, so many things will come up. Then, as a son, this kind of thing will only happen over my dead body. I cannot allow my father’s name to be talked about in any way apart from a positive way. So, this book was written to set the records straight, it is the most important project of my life and I am happy that I have done it; it was a very sad experience that my dad left that way. It is a tragedy that I am writing the story of his demise but at the same time, it is good for me to clear the records and put history straight for him so that generation unborn can have the real version of MKO Abiola’s history.

Jamiu Abiola to Asabeafrika....'My Father and Mother's Death is the biggest sacrifice that gave us democracy in Nigeria'

I want to believe writing this kind of book didn’t come so cheap. Apart from setting the record straight, what other things fired you to write a book on your dad?
 You know democracy is a very big thing and whenever a big thing wants to come, it has to come through a big break. The development of democracy in Nigeria and the way it broke even, I know the role my father and mother played. Democracy didn’t just fall from the sky; when you are talking about people that believed in looting the treasury, people that believe in using force to control other people, it is not just by miracle that such people will walk away from power, it takes a bigger sacrifice. A bigger sacrifice has to break forth for them to leave; those people left power because something monumental happened and that monumental thing that happened were June 12.  If my father had not stood up to defend his mandate, June 12 would not have been monumental because it is a day people gave their freest expression and will to a national project, they voted before national and international observers and it would have gone like any other day. But what made it monumental was the fact that the man that won the election said ‘no, I would not be cheated’ at the end of the day, he died and his wife also died with him.

The GDA meeting The Shetima Rasheed of Borno, Alhaji Abdul-Jamiu Abiodun Abiola

So, that is what broke the heart of this people who had suddenly turned themselves to animals because of their love for power. They don’t have a conscience but when something like that happened, something they cannot ignore, certainly they are going to walk away and say ‘let democracy happen’ and that is exactly what happened, the fact that my parent did something that was so big and so monumental, they couldn’t ignore that fact and that is why 11 months after my father died, there was a president in this country and that president actually came from the same place my father came from because they know that ‘this thing, we are giving it to Chief MKO Abiola indirectly’ which is what actually happened. And now that democracy is fully entrenched in Nigeria, it is good for us to actually document events that led to the actualization of this new breath. This is one of the reasons Africa is always backward in the trajectory of continental history. Africa never writes their own history, they allow other people to always write their own history for them but in this case, this matter involves my father and I am the one that is going to write the history and I have made sure it is a true history so that nobody will come and tell me I am writing nonsense. People have been asking about June 12, they want to know how it happened, why it happened. If you want to know, read the book and you will know everything about June 12. From there on, nobody needs to ask any question about June 12 anymore. It has already been revealed in the book, all that happened on June 12 is there. Of course I cannot say that every detail is there but the one that is most important which is 95% is there. So, you will see it there.

Alhaji Abdul Jamiu Abiodun Abiola-Shetima Rasheed of Borno with his new book on Dad, MKO

There have also been arguments in some quarters that your dad actually did not deserve the position of the president of Nigeria; for instance, you hear people say “Oh, MKO stole ITT contract money; he took people’s women and all sorts. Do you think such opinions count?
Look, opinion or oppositions are normal with the lives of great people, they will always come up. Even the great Indian freedom fighter that we always talk about, Mahatma Ghandi was killed by somebody. So, if despite his good intention, somebody actually killed him it should let you know that some people in India actually even hated him. Despite all that he has done for India, it was somebody from that country that killed him and even before he was finally shot dead, four or five attempts had been made on his life. So, that last attempt was the final one that took him out. Even Jesus Christ and our great Prophet Muhammed (PUH) were not loved by anybody. So, I am not going to start saying that my father is perfect or this and that; but in terms of ITT, I have clarified it there. He didn’t take kobo from that company.

The GDA engaging the Abiola scion, Abdul Jamiu Abiola

How sure are you?
I am very sure, it is in the book. I discussed it, we made investigations and we found that to be the real truth. What you will find out about the ITT contract will shock you; besides that, it is common logic, if he had taken such money, his enemies were so powerful and they would have used it to nail him. This people were powerful enough to kill his wife, this people were powerful enough to keep him in jail. Even though they knew he was a president elect of this country, they did so much. Definitely they would have unveiled or revealed whatever it is about him. And definitely, ITT was a big company with history of transactions, they do contracts and a lot of business men were contractors and if they do a contract that worth N5, they are going to make profit from it, that is why they are in business but at the end of the day it is not what you make from the business it is what you do from what you make from the business and everybody in Nigeria knows that this is a man that at the end of the day, if he makes One Naira, he gives away 80 kobo. What are we talking about? How many people did business in Nigeria and out of 100% of them, how many of them gave so much to charity like MKO?; Out of their N1 they can’t even give 5kobo. So, why do you want to blackmail a man who took time to think about others? He could have been settled by the government; he could have gotten his money and walked away if he was a greedy man that didn’t care about the masses.  But we all know MKO is not like that, and to buttress my point, a lot of people that actually gained a lot from him, financially, are people you don’t even know about. People that met him at the airport, people that met him on their hospital bed somewhere. People he ran into on the street; some of them got houses, some of them got millions but was he going to use all those for political gains? Obviously not, he was just a genuine giver and a man who cares much about the pains of the ordinary people and cared less about what the world says about his disposition to the ordinary man on the street. His primary aim of going into politics was to use political power to deflate poverty after using much of his wealth to battle mass poverty.

“The unique fact is that both of them wanted to be president but unfortunately for them, they did not make it but in my father’s case, history was fairer because there was an election and my father won that election and everybody knew he won the election and even his enemies knew he won the election”

Jamiu Abiola to GDA 'The President Who Never Ruled will shock a lot of MKO's critics'

So, what do you say to the perception that portrays your dad as a womanizer who has the capacity to take anybody’s wife?
Well, dad doesn’t have the capacity to take anybody’s woman and we tried to illustrate those insinuations in some chapters of the book and those are the real chapters you will find who and what MKO Abiola stands for. Of course in terms of his weakness for women, that is a general society thing. A lot of Nigerian men have weakness for women but even if you don’t read about his experience with women in this book, you should ask yourself this question; is he the one that is always looking for them or are they the ones that are always looking for him? At the end of the day, most men in this Nigeria, at least 90% or more, if women were chasing them the way they were chasing my father, they would have actually, perhaps fallen into the same trap. That is the turf of great men; they live with the reality of ferocious admiration from the opposite sex.  But whatever the case maybe, it is not how you start that you end and the fact that he became more religious at the tail end of his life and he did a lot of things and he actually became even a better person, that means he is human afterwards. And from our research, it might even surprise you that at times; he was actually a victim of conspiracy. People bring their wives to come and meet him and they will start disturbing him. It is not that he even fell for that trap but even if he did sometimes, you don’t just look at it like ‘oh, he was somebody that was going out looking for women’. No, he is not like that, he was too busy to engage in such pig-headed ventures.

Jamiu Abiola to Asabeafrika...'Myopic thoughts about my father's life is one thing i strive to stamp off with this book'

From what is stated in Chapter two of the book, it was like your dad had a premonition that his good friend President Ibrahim Babangida was going to disappoint him; do you think this was the position?
Yes, he was always worried about it but some times in life when you know where you want to go and you know that inside you, you want to go somewhere, even if you see signals that pointed that it might not end up being like that, definitely you will still want to go to where you think you should go. So, he had his doubt about the fact, weather the military transition is going to work out or not but as far as he was concerned, because of his clout and because of the fact that he has loads of good intentions he just prayed that God will see him through. But God has other plans and by the grace of God, if he is in heaven he is the one that laughed last.

The GDA displays of copy of the book on MKO Abiola as the interview went on'

The book is dedicated to two diplomatic personalities in Africa, late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, why this two?
I chose them because you know what they say in life, ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed. My father has always believed in Pan Africanism; he had always believed that African people are one and as a matter of fact, choosing this two people is something that would have even made him very happy. Because he will be pleased that I actually looked outside Nigeria to get people for him because he believed that Africa should be one, this is actually what he would have wanted me to do.  And those two leaders actually tried, they put a lot of pressure on the military government because of him and they actually wanted him to come out and rule but at the end of the day like I said, man proposes, God disposes.

Jamiu Abiola to the GDA...'My Dad was tempted by women and he was a man'

There were equally tales that your dad was the one that installed the government of President Yoweri Musoveni after the post Idi Amin crisis in Uganda. Does that mean your dad installs governments in Africa?
I cant really speak about that because I was in far away America schooling when Uganda was having her political turbulence and I wouldn’t say dad played a role because he was equally busy building his business empire in Nigeria but like I said my father was a Pan Africanist who believed in a United State of Africa. He was a passionate bridge builder and his role in African diplomacy cannot be wished away, of course President Yoweri Museveni was a friend, a great friend of my dad His friends cut across races and nations of the world. MKO was an enigma with a magnetic personality and that was why he was large, so, it won’t augur well for us to say my dad sponsored the revolution that brought Mr. Museveni to power. You will find a lot of the responses to this question in the book and I can only tell you that Mr. Museveni  is a very, very good man; don’t forget that both of them didn’t share same religion but shared same Pan Africanism idea. Mr. Museveni is a Christian while my dad is a Muslim.

Jamiu Abiola to Asabeafrika...'Those who said my father stole ITT money got it all wrong because we found the truth in this book'

Your book described your dad as “The President who never ruled” while late Emeka Ojukwu once described late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the “Best President Nigeria never had”. So, what is the different between “The President that never ruled” and “The Best President Nigeria never had?”
The unique fact is that both of them wanted to be president but unfortunately for them, they did not make it but in my father’s case, history was fairer because there was an election and my father won that election and everybody knew he won the election and even his enemies knew he won the election. So, in Dad’s own case it is actually more dramatic in the sense that he has already won the election. Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s own case was not too clear like my father’s own because there was a court case that was presided over by Chief Richard Akinjide where the out come of that election was highly debated. As far as I am concerned, dad crossed his own hurdle and the recent admission by the election umpire Humprey Nwosu has put the matter to rest.  They were both great men who did so much for humanity through their different disciplines. One was a lawyer the other was an accountant, one was a Christian and the other was a Muslim. They both hailed from same state of Ogun in the South West region and both had great educational background and aspired to rule their country but were never given the opportunity and today history has a page for both men. All I can say is to pray that Chief Obafemi Awolowo meet my dad in heaven.

Arabic Edition of Jamiu Abiola's Book on Dad

Do you think Nigeria has done enough for your dad in terms of immortalization?
Well, I schooled in America and what we learnt in America is that ‘don’t wait for anybody to do something for you, do it yourself’. I have immortalized Chief MKO Abiola by writing his biography with details of events that characterized his life from birth to death. I have written about him and I have written the fact. What is immortalization? It is to do things people will remember about a person. This book was published in Arabic and we have the intention to translate it into more languages across the globe. People are reading the book in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Dubai and other parts of the world. I am not going to wait for anybody to immortalize my father. I have already done it and I have moved on because that is the most important thing to me.

“I mean to have a street in Manhattan just like a walking distance from the United Nations named after an African woman and that woman is my mother Kudirat Abiola. People can actually steal all the billions of dollars in the world and they will die without their names being immortalized in the best pages of history”.  

Back Cover of the  English Edition of Jamiu Abiola's book on Dad

Today August 24th is his birthday, what does that say about him?
MKO would have been 78 years today and one thing I tell people is that a good name is more than riches. If he had lived to be 78 years, only God knows what would have happened if he got the presidency. What he has now is greater than what I think he could have gotten in his life because people know him and people appreciate him and even my mother, Kudirat; she would have been 65 two days from now because they shared the same month. But now if you go to America and you say you are going to Kudirat Abiola Lane by 44th Street, they know where it is. You know she was 44 years old when she died and the street is also named 44th Street as well. You know the American government named the street in New York where you have South African embassy after Nelson Mandela. The same way they named the street where the South African Embassy is situated after Nelson Mandela for his anti-apartheid struggle is the same way they named the street where Nigeria Embassy is situated after Kudirat Abiola for fighting against the military hegemony in Nigeria. So, what honor can I ask again for my mother? Who else again has gotten that kind of recognition from the American government? I mean to have a street in Manhattan just like a walking distance from the United Nations named after an African woman and that woman is my mother Kudirat Abiola. People can actually steal all the billions of dollars in the world and they will die without their names being immortalized in the best pages of history. 

Jamiu Abiola holding the Arabic edition while the GDA holds the English edition

How is the book being received in the Middle East where you first launched it?
The Arab world is very happy my literary work because from time memorial Africa has always been miserly with her history. We don’t write our own history and we are like the only continent that never her history because if you look at China, they write their history for 2000 years but in Africa it is other people that writes our history for us. So, a lot of people don’t know what is happening in Africa and whenever they find out, it is always distorted. For example, somebody might want to write his own version of history and use that to score some kind of stupid political points. But this one, because I am a Muslim and I have a conscience and my conscience is clear that everything I wrote in this book is true. So, the Arab world is very happy with the history of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the Nigerian President that never ruled. I was interviewed on several of their mainstream journals and today in the Middle East, I am the big case study and one individual that emerged from Africa with such kind of pedigree and I am well remunerated for it in terms of media mention and social hype. Don’t forget this is my third book, my first two books “Realistic Hope” and “The Prisoner of Conscience” is all doing great in the market but this is the greatest book I ever wrote because it is like revealing a hiding scroll.

Back Cover of the Arabic Edition of Jamiu Abiola' book on Dad

So, when and how are you going to launch the book?
We are going to launch it no doubt but the most important thing is that this book is now everywhere and can be assessed in major book shops and I will make sure that it is officially launched sooner than later. The most important thing is that I have done it and my conscience is clear. It was a very sad and tragic experience. I had sleepless nights writing this book, you can imagine writing a story about how your mother was killed; you can imagine writing something like that and describing it. It is like living the memory over and over again and I thank God, it is over. I have done it and I have moved on with my life.
A copy of the book by Jamiu Abiodun Abiola, 'The President Who Never Ruled'
You are relieved?
I feel a lot of relief because all those buried wounds are now gone and I will never write a book like this again because it is very, very emotional and very, very engaging. But whatever it is, at last, Nigerians will know the truth and they have the right to know because this is the president of their country; the president that never ruled.

The English Version of Jamiu Abiola's new book on Dad


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