Abdulmumuni Abiola, a son of the 1993 presidential election winner, Chief MKO Abiola, in this interview with BAYO AKINLOYE says that Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi’s book and other military officers’ revelations, indicate that there are unresolved issues about his father’s death
Was there any compensation by the Federal Government to your family following the death of your father in the custody of the military government in 1998 when Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.) was the Head of State?
I was very young when my father died. I was in the United States of America at that time. Also, I was not aware of his death until a couple of months after he had died. I really cannot say at this moment if anything was done, if anybody was settled. All I know is that my father, Chief MKO Abiola, died under controversial circumstances and we have yet to get to the root of the matter.
Recently, you called on the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to reopen the case of Chief MKO Abiola’s death, following Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi’s (retd.) book account that Abdulsalami should be held responsible for your father’s death. Do you think the government will answer that call?
Honestly, I have confidence in this current administration to do the needful. It is a reality that things have been very difficult for the people of this nation. While it is important to put a closure to the mystery surrounding the death of my dear father, I feel without being selfish that the current problems that we face in Nigeria at the moment are very important to the survival of our people and as a nation. I have put the tragedy of my parents – my father and my mother, Chief Kudirat Abiola – behind me. There is nothing I can do about the past but I can have a firm hold on the future; a future for myself, my children, grandchildren and the Nigerian masses. It is unfortunate that years after the death of my parents, the country is still being regaled with various versions of what happened and what did not happen.
Like I said, the last time I spoke with you on this issue, it does not matter how long it takes to get justice – justice must be seen to have been done. It is vital that the truth comes out. I have always known that the cause of my father’s death is questionable. I am interested in getting justice done for my father. It is not a matter of being violent but expecting justice to take its natural course. There is nothing wrong in having a second look at the matter. Justice delayed will not be justice denied in knowing exactly how my father died or who killed my father. My father left behind a great legacy for this country and for his children. I want President Muhammadu Buhari to do his best to find a solution to the mystery and above all to continue to strive to make Nigeria a better place for Nigerians. Nigerians too deserve justice.
Each year, your family commemorates the death of your parents and this year same thing will be done. How does it feel decades after their demise nobody has been brought to book?
What I will say is that my father and my mother are more than their death. My mother was brave and courageous; my father was always giving back to the society; I have to follow in their footsteps. I have learnt to stay humble like my parents. Let me digress, you see Nigeria is a beautiful country; everybody seems to have something to say these days about Abiola’s death. You’ll be surprised that people who were close to my father were involved (in his death). Gen. Bamaiyi has given his own account about Abiola’s death; other military officers are saying otherwise. What can I do? I can’t stop people from saying what they feel or claim to know. The most important thing for me is that we need to move the country forward. I am not interested in any vendetta – justice isn’t vendetta.
Can you imagine? My father died in 1998 and we’re still discussing his death as if he died recently. I feel there was something my father was trying to do and the powers that be then didn’t want him to do that. What could that possibly be? What did MKO do to deserve that death? We want to know. These were people from his own ethnic group; they cut him (Abiola) into pieces and shared his ‘meat’. The decision (to kill him) that they made back then, are they enjoying it now? We can’t go back in time but going into the future we can avoid making the same old mistake, which is the most important thing.
Do you think your father, being the winner of the 1993 presidential election, deserves to be recognised posthumously as a president of Nigeria as some people are advocating?
That might just be a symbolic measure actually; my father has been long dead. What’s the point of giving him back his mandate when he’s no longer alive to accept it? They should keep the mandate. The country has more pressing issues to deal with. The country will be a better place if our leaders can apply their heads as well as hearts to lifting the majority of the people out of poverty, injustice, hopelessness, insecurity and corruption. There is so much rot in the country. For me, any posthumous award is a distraction from the country’s present ugly situation. It might be fitting to honour with that if the country has changed for the better and people can look back with a smile. Forget about such mandate, people need to survive and they trust in the government to provide an enabling environment to explore profitable opportunities. It will be difficult to honour my father without the masses being given a new lease of life. My father wanted to give the Nigerian masses a better life. He needed to do something different from what Nigerian leaders were known for. He was an energetic man with dynamic vision. All the awards and titles that he had, did he take them to anywhere?
Are you happy with the country’s democracy which your parents and others gave their lives for?
I don’t like dwelling in the past; I love looking into the future thinking of what to do. In every campaign for change, there will be people who attempt to hijack the process. To be sure, I really do not think that those who fought for democracy are the ones enjoying it. Again, we must admit that democracy is not a fully built structure – it evolves. Even the American democracy did not start full-blown as they have it now. They have an ugly past. The most important thing is that we have a democracy and we all have to be committed to make it work. As Nigerians, we need to define who we are as a people and as a nation. Even if my father had been alive to rule the country I don’t think we would have had an ideal democracy. We have to keep moving forward; our hope lies in the future. We need to keep evolving with the system rather than remain stagnant.
In doing so, we need to strengthen our constitution and other democratic frameworks. We don’t just want democracy for democracy’s sake. We all need to be involved on personal levels. Despite what we may be going through at the moment, the beauty is that we have been able to keep our democracy. I have always been close to those who led the country. I try to support them in whatever way I can. I am a public servant, anywhere I find myself I am willing to serve. If I didn’t learn anything from my father, one thing I learnt is to always give back to the society – he was very engaging. He always wanted to interact. If I found an opportunity to engage with Nigerians, I will not shy away from that.