Twenty-six years after the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, which was won by Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, his first son and present head of the extended Abiola family, Kola Abiola, has opened up on his father’s struggle to win the election and reclaim his mandate after the results were cancelled.
In this exclusive interview with The Sun team in his Lagos residence, he revealed what transpired behind the scenes before, during and after the annulled election and the role played by different persons and interest groups.
Kola Abiola also denied accusations by some family members who alleged that they were living in penury because he cut off funds meant for them, saying he would soon address those allegations with facts.
Extract from the interview:
What role did Bola Tinubu play in all of these?
At the very beginning, he was part of the Yar’Adua PF group from Jos. He was a senator then, and as far as the group went, we related. The crisis started post-election. When Abacha came, one of the things he wanted to do was to be the administrator for Lagos.
That is Tinubu?
Yes. I am sure you have seen pictures of him and my dad. He was hoping that there would be civilian administrators like we had under IBB but Abacha said no, that he was going to have military administrators. So he (Tinubu) said okay, in that case, can I be a deputy administrator? But Abacha said that there wouldn’t be deputies. Then he wanted the post of a commissioner.
He wanted to be a commissioner?
Yes. Then it was a choice between him and someone very close to Jakande who has passed on now. I can’t remember his name, but because Babagana was already in the government, that guy was picked as commissioner. But really, Senator Tinubu had lost out already.
Was Tinubu very close to MKO?
Yes, he was close enough. He and Adeniyi Adele, a very good guy, were close to my father. In fact, Adeniyi was closer to my father and more dedicated to the process than anyone of them. When my documentary comes out, you will see Tinubu’s take on issues. So once he lost out, automatically, he became a NADECO member and Adeniyi was incarcerated.
Do you think NADECO was actually working for Abiola?
Some were working for him. It is sort of like a pyramid. The bottom is used to feed the top; like a ponzi scheme. The bottom generates all the funds and comes all the way up and then they enjoy the loot. It is exactly the same process. In the process of taking the public sentiments of ‘oh, we want June 12’, they all appeared as if they were supporting MKO.
We heard some of the people the media celebrates today fed fat on the June 12 struggle. Don’t you feel sorry for the media when you read about such people because we really didn’t know what happened behind the scenes?
If you take the Yar’Adua group as an instance, which was the first lesson I learned, you never see their guys in the news. But you see all the PSP people all over the news, yet they could not win in their local governments. The Yar’Adua guys never spoke in the news but they were all very formidable in their own enclaves; they delivered on everything. If they tell you that they have 10 numbers, they will deliver on eight of that 10 for sure. See what happened in Lagos with Sarumi; those were the guys that were holding the horns of the bull. All the other guys were making noise in the media.
Between June 12 and July 7 when he died, which date is more important?
Because it is a national date. That date signifies a lot of things that does not exist today. First, he had a Muslim-Muslim ticket, which meant that religious bigotry is out of the window. We had a South West person
country and people voted for him across ethnic groups. That date will always be relevant in this country as long as Nigeria remains one because it is the day the country came together as one tribe, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. My plea is that under the leadership of President Buhari, that irrespective of where we are coming from, we must come together and stop all the killings and the ethnic division. On June 12, people voted for a man that represented a true detribalised Nigerian. That is the significance of why he got the GCFR, anyway. When I started this process and the Jonathan government felt they could name University of Lagos (UNILAG) after him, I told the government that MKO was not a South Western man. Jonathan missed it because we already had Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Ogun State and we have a stadium there named after him.
Did you deal with Arthur Nzeribe at all?
I did. I mentioned him earlier as part of the governors’ group.
But he wasn’t a governor.
He wasn’t, but he and the late Olusola Saraki were part of the core of the governors’ group. When they went to court and got that adjournment to stop the election, I found a way to get the information across through the system that we were going to lose the election and that was how I truncated their move to stop the election.
From what you have said, we understand that Babangida didn’t want to go
That is my take, or rather, he didn’t know how he would go.
The second point we deduced from what you said is that Abacha played the double game. He promised to help MKO and he believed him.
Absolutely. He also put pressure on Babangida to go.
What role did Diya play as the most senior person from the South West in Abacha’s government? Did you have any interface with him?
I also interviewed him for the documentary to give him the chance to state his own side. When Abacha passed on and he was released from prison, I went and welcomed him and I told him that it was good he went through that process, because if he had stayed with Abacha till he died, he may not have been alive today. Or he may not be able to come back to the South West without being lynched. And he looked at me and said he thought he could come in quietly to Lagos but that he was shocked at the reception he received. It was the imprisonment process that cleansed Diya but God has a way of showing his power. I said what I said from what I know.
Would you consider serving under Buhari?
Honestly, I don’t know. I have a few years to round off the family issues. I am 57 years old now and I don’t want to get to 60 without resolving these issues. I have made a commitment to resolve the issues, including the legitimate outstanding debts owed the family and I only have three years to achieve that.