Today marks exactly 29 years since the June 12, 1993 presidential election was held. Adjudged to be the freest and fairest election ever held in Nigeria, the presumed winner of that election, Chief Moshood Kashimowo Olawale Abiola was, to many, Nigeria’s hero of democracy. In this piece, LADESOPE LADELOKUN writes on the legacies of the business mogul and consumate politician
- An encounter with domestic staff, neighbours at MKO’s house
Sunday Telegraph: Good evening. Is this the late MKO Abiola’s house? Neighbour
1: Yes, it is. Sunday Telegraph: I need to speak with a member of his family. Neighbour
1: You can go in. It’s not a place you should be scared of entering. People go in and out of here every time. Sunday Telegraph: I hope there’s no dogs inside Neighbour
1: No now. Just go in. Abiola’s house is like a public place. You can interact with whoever you see. Neighbour
2: Yes now. No problem. Neighbour
2: That’s her daughter-in-law coming. You can see her. Sunday Telegraph: Okay Domestic Staff 1: What are you doing here? Domestic Staff
2:You know you can be accused of theft? Is this your house? Sunday Telegraph: Baba’s daughter-in-law just walked in. I would appreciate if you can help facilitate a chat with her. Domestic Staff
2: Oga, get out of this place now. Domestic Staff 1: What are you still doing here? Sunday Telegraph: Haba! Neighbour
1: So, how did it go? Sunday Telegraph: I was harassed and sent out Neighbour
2: When dem come start that one now? Neighbour 1: E shock me o.
Once a Mecca of sorts for the down and out that daily thronged his Ikeja residence for succour, one could almost hear a pin drop on stepping into the compound of the expansive house of the late Chief Moshood Kashimowo Abiola during a visit on Monday, June 6, 2022.
Except the newly painted building and fence, perhaps in preparation for the 29th remembrance of the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election, nothing signified the acclaimed winner of that presidential election lived in that vicinity as quietude had sacked the once boisterous atmosphere.
Barely twenty-four years after his demise, stories are still told of his uncommon philantropy. Tongues share testimonies of the selflessness of the late business mogul. But, like the certainty of death, change, they say, is the only constant in life.
Baba Omitogun, a roadside vulcanizer, has plied his trade beside the office of the old Concord Press- producers of the now defunct Concord newspapers owned by the late business mogul and Philanthropist, popularly known as MKO-for 40 years. For him, having his business right beside the company has been a bitter-sweet experience. But, counting his blessings, he said, they far outweigh the pains to him, saying having his business beside a company owned by MKO has in no small lifted him to heights he never imagined.
But things took a different turn when the company went under. The once-bubblingwith- activities company had, according to him, became a shadow of itself after the demise of Abiola, as it played host to weeds and dangerous animals. Behind Omitogun is an unused piece of land overgrown with weeds,which shares boundary with MKO’s property.
But, right on the body of the gate of the property is a banner hung that read “FOR LEASE”; something that advertises the business of the new occupants of Concord Press. “This place has been leased out to the present Secretary to the State Government in Ogun State, Tokunbo Talabi,” a manager of the property, who pleaded anonymity told Sunday Telegraph.
“There are more than six companies here. There’s Courier Plus here. We have American Corner, Regus and so on. That’s all I can say.” Reliving memories of the philanthropist in the days of Concord newspapers, Omitogun said he demonstrated his love for people by allowing them to sell their wares right in front of his company, adding that he never left without offering everyone at the gate some financial assistance.
“No one is completely perfect but he was a good man. I never went to him for financial assistance but I know many people he helped. People I know personally. During Ramadan, people would queue here – in front of Concord newspaper office-waiting for him and he would make them happy. This place was like a market place. People sold their wares.
Whenever he stepped down, he would give all of them money. “The company was looking horrible before it was leased out. That was about five years ago. And it is understandable when you lock up a place for a very long time. It is expected.
This place was overgrown with weeds. Personally, my business benefitted from the presence of Concord newspapers here. When the paper got defunct, things were very difficult because people here would always patronise me. Though there were auto-mechanics in the compound, many artisans were in the compound,my business still boomed.”
“When Abiola was alive, he was even happy that people were selling wares in front of his office. Whenever he came here then, he would tell his driver to stop. He would alight from his car and give people selling wares in front of his company money. If it were some people, they would just send them away. But he was accommodating and selfless.
But now that this place has a new occupant, you can no longer see people here. It is not everyone that would allow people to turn the front of their office to a marketplace. Things have changed.”
Today, his investments and children are scattered all over the world. Some of his business interests were the Concord Press, Banuso Fisheries, Abiola Farms, Abiola Bookshops, Radio Communications Nigeria, Wonder Bakeries, Habib Bank, Concord Airlines, Summit Oil International Ltd, Africa Ocean Lines, among others. In Nigeria and the West African sub-region, Abiola’s firms and companies employed over 5,000 people.
His first son, Kola Abiola, is the 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples’ Redemption Party (PRP). Expressing gratitude to his party for the confidence reposed in him by choosing him as the flagbearer, Kola said:“We must now move to the next stage of our journey. To achieve the results that we know we are capable of, as a Party, we must secure broad support across our diverse and divided nation.
We must compete and win at the local, state, and federal levels. We will do this because our secret weapon as PRP is our people and their commitment to our great Party and its ethical foundations. I promise to campaign with every PRP candidate, from the ward, local government to state level, to achieve our collective goals.
How defunct Concord newspaper made me -Vulcaniser
“Abiola’s house was like a market place. Except you don’t see him, once you see him, you are sure to smile back to your house. People slept over at his house. His house was always busy. You know he was everywhere. Sometimes, he could be out of the country but people waited for him to return from his trip in his compound because they knew they would not be the same person again after meeting him.
He loved people and accommodated them. Like I said, I never went to him for any help despite being my kinsman but his family members always invited me whenever there was a function and I honoured their invitation whenever I could. But, in all, Abiola was a loving person. He loved the downtrodden. “Despite the hardship the absence of Concord caused me, I still soldiered on. My faith in God was unshaken because I know it is from God that sweetness comes.
When things get sour or bitter, it is also from him. But I knew my God would always make a way for me. Look, even with the hardship the demise of Concord caused me, I never for once thought of leaving here.
With this job, I trained my kids. I gave them education. My children are graduates and I built my house. Every basic thing anyone needs in life, I have. Interestingly, in my 40 years of stay here, I never paid a kobo here,” Baba Omitogun said.
Children protest over sharing formula of properties
Displeased by what they called an unfair sharing of their father’s properties, children of the wife of the billionaire business man, Kudirat Abiola, had in a letter titled, ‘Report of A Decade-Long Fraud’ alleged that some family members had continued to deny them their rights to their shares of the late business mogul’s properties within and outside Nigeria.
Led by Lekan Abiola, the letter, which was addressed to President Buhari in 2021 partly read: “Your Excellency, we know you are determined to build a new Nigeria where there is law and order and as a result, you will want to be informed about the matter at hand before it gets out of hand. “Our father was a man of equity and, as such, he established companies that reflected this side of him. In all his companies, he made sure that no child was given one single share and that no child was even officially made a director.
Even in Habib Bank (now Keystone Bank), he gave equal shares to children of different mothers (Kola and Lekan were given equal shares and this can be verified).” They argued that after the death of their father, some members of the family fraudulently and criminally inserted their names into their father’s companies, including the most active one called RCN.
“Having taken control of this company, these individuals were able to tamper with the Bank PHB shares and borrow monies from commercial banks using our father’s assets with the aim to default and impoverish his other children,” they added. “This is despite the fact that in his will, our father stated that his entire assets should be equally shared among all his children.
This is something that should have been done over two decades ago. They were also able to use their new status in RCN to exert influence on other companies like Abiola Farms and Abiola Bookshop, where RCN is also a major shareholder.”
“If they were to do it all over again, they would do it same way” – MKO’s daughter In an interview with the CNN, Hafsat Abiola, a daughter of the late business mogul, said her parents -MKO Abiola and Kudirat Abiola-would make more sacrifices for humanity despite paying the supreme price for the ethronement of democracy if they had another chance.
“I think that if they were to do it all over again, they would do it exactly the same way. Or if not, they would even make more sacrifices because I think we only live once, and we must do what we can.” Also, in another interview monitored on television, a son of the politician, Abdulmumin Abiola, said MKO stood for better Nigeria, describing him as a man who tried to better everyone he came across.
“Today, we shouldn’t be talking about the things we talked about in 1993. I wouldn’t say we have not learnt. It takes time to change. It’s important to understand that we are basically where we were in 1993. My father used to say something. It goes: The most precious thing is not our oil or gold in Osun or cocoa in Ogun State. The most important thing in the country is our people,” he added.
Lived, died for masses
The National President and Convener of ”my Nigeria e-passport’ project, Ambassador Tolu Ayodele, said there was need for wealthy Nigerians to emulate MKO’s selflessness.
According to him, MKO Abiola remains Nigeria’s hero of democracy, stating that he was an embodiment of a good Nigerian billionaire, who used his wealth for the people around him. “So many people benefited from his benevolence. Top politicians like Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu can testify to Abiola’s kind gesture. Abiola lived his life for the masses and he died for the masses, he fought and died for the democracy that we are all enjoying today.
“MKO Abiola made people. He produced great leaders. So many people stepped up through him.
When he was alive, his house at Toyin Street in Ikeja, used to be filled up with people seeking help and they always go back home smiling. Nigerian billion- aires and millionaires should learn from the good life of MKO Abiola- live your life for people. We brought nothing into this world and we are taking nothing back. Life is ephemeral.
Nothing on earth is forever. In this world, there is no amount of money that can buy life. That is why wealthy men and women should assist other people to rise up. The good or bad life you lived will live after you, use your wealth for humanity, it is God that gives wealth.
That is the only way we can stop crimes in Nigeria. “There are lots of graduates out there who are very creative. Some came out with First Class and the wealthy men around them know these people but they will never help them and most of this graduates laboured to pay school fees and after graduation, no job to keep body and soul together.
That is why they are into all sorts of criminal activities. Most of them don’t like to do it but they are pushed to do it. “The rich men and women should learn from Abiola, help people around you, invest in people.”
MKO Abiola International School
One thing will probably not be missed when a first time visitor stops over at Abiola International School- the massive land the school sits on. Founded by the late MKO Abiola on Monday, 11th of January, 1993, Sunday Telegraph gathered that the school started with 18 pupils, who were spread from Day-care to Primary two.
“We are a nursery/primary school serving families within Ikeja and its environs. AIS was founded in 1993 by the late Chief MKO Abiola to offer quality and affordable education, a legacy we have remained committed to.
Experiences in the early years have major impacts on the future; that is why we offer a haven where children are to develop their creativity and self-confidence and also fulfill their potentials,” the school wrote on its website.
MKO Abiola Bookshops
Before now, 362 Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos used to be known as Abiola Bookshop. But, not anymore. Right from the gate, pictures of UNICORN welcome visitors, suggesting that the property now has new occupants. “Abiola Bookshop is no longer here.
As you can see, this place has been leased out. If you need more information, come back tomorrow,” a security guard told Sunday Telegraph.
Meanwhile, in January 2018,at least four suspected burglars were arrested and arraigned before a Lagos Magistrate Court for allegedly entering the Late MKO Abiola’s Bulk purchase bookshop in Oshodi, Lagos to steal properties valued at N1 billion.
The properties allegedly stolen by the accused persons, according to the Police included a generator, welding machine, books, tank and printing machine. The Police said that the accused persons allegedly threatened the life of Mr. Ajayi Oluwatosin, a security officer attached with Pexion Security services and other staff guarding the bookshop to gain entry into the shop to steal and damaged properties valued at N500 million and escaped.
Our democracy’s Abiola’s legacy –Atiku
In a series of tweets, Nigeria’s former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, had opined that though Nigeria’s democracy was Abiola’s legacy, Nigeria must grow beyond democracy and Nigerians must make Nigeria work. See his tweets below: “For many of us who worked with Chief M.K.O. Abiola, his death was painful but it paved the way for enduring democracy #June12 “Our democracy today, is MKO Abiola’s legacy.
But we must grow beyond just democracy – our country must work. #June12 “On #June12, 1993, Nigeria was united in one cause, to defeat tyranny through democracy. We all believed. “The integrity of the #June12 electoral process also shows that we Nigerians can achieve great things, if we are united.