Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. GCFR, also known as M. K. O. Abiola 24 August 1937 to 7 July 1998.
A Nigerian businessman, publisher, and politician in the Yorubaland. He was the supreme military commander of the Oyo Empire, and an aristocrat of the Egba clan.
M.K.O. Abiola ran for the presidency in 1993, for which the election results were annulled by then military president Ibrahim Babangida because of allegations that they were corrupt and unfair.
Abiola was awarded the National honour Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR), an honour awarded to only Nigerian heads of state, posthumously on 6 June 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria’s democracy day was changed to June 12.
Abiola was a personal friend of Ibrahim Babangida and he is believed to have supported Babangida’s coming to power.
Abiola’s support in the June 1993 presidential election cut across all geo-political zones and religious divisions, among a few politicians to accomplish such a spread during his time. By the time of his death, he had become an unexpected symbol of democracy.
Abiola announced his candidacy for president in February 1993, this was after a previous round of presidential primaries had been cancelled by military President Babangida.
His party of choice was SDP, though he was an outsider who was new to the partisan politics within the party which at the time was dominated by two major factions, People’s Front(PF) and PSP. Both SDP and its opposition, NRC held presidential primaries in March 1993.
SDP’s primaries was held in Jos and was largely a three-way contest between Abiola, Kingibe and Atiku even though there were more aspirants.
Abiola was heavily supported by the People’s Solidarity faction (PSP) within SDP while Atiku was supported by PF faction led by Shehu Yar’Adua and Kingibe was supported by a loose coalition of party members.
During the first ballot, Abiola was able to score a slim majority vote of 3,617 to Kingibe’s.
A second round was contested two days later and Abiola again emerged victorious with a slim margin and he became the party’s presidential candidate for the June 12 election.
Abiola’s political message was an optimistic future for Nigeria with slogans such as “Farewell to poverty”
“At last! Our rays of Hope” “Burden of Schooling”.
His economic policy included negotiations with foreign creditors and better management of the country’s international debts, in addition, increased cooperation with the foreign community while presenting himself as someone the international community can trust.
For the 12 June 1993 presidential elections, Abiola’s running mate was his primary opponent Baba Gana Kingibe.
He defeated his rival, Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention. The election was declared Nigeria’s freeest and fairest presidential election by national and international observers, with Abiola even winning in his Northern opponent’s home state of Kano.
Abiola won at the national capital, Abuja, the military polling stations, and over two-thirds of Nigerian states.
Men of Northern descent had largely dominated Nigeria’s political landscape since independence; Moshood Abiola, a Western Muslim, was able to secure a national mandate freely and fairly, unprecedented in Nigeria’s history.
However, the election was annulled by Ibrahim Babangida, causing a political crisis which led to General Sani Abacha seizing power later that year.
During preparations for the 2011 Nigerian Presidential elections there were calls from several quarters to remember MKO Abiola.
In 1994 Moshood Abiola, M.K.O. declared himself the lawful president of Nigeria in the Epetedo area of Lagos island, an area mainly populated by Yoruba Lagos Indigenes.
He had recently returned from a trip to win the support of the international community for his mandate.
After declaring himself President he was declared wanted and was accused of treason and arrested on the orders of military President General Sani Abacha, who sent 200 police vehicles to bring him into custody.
M.K.O. Abiola has been referred to as Nigeria’s greatest statesman. His second wife Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was assassinated in Lagos in 1996 after declaring public support for her husband.
Moshood Abiola was detained for four years, largely in solitary confinement with a Bible, Qur’an, and fourteen guards as companions.
During that time, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activists from all over the world lobbied the Nigerian government for his release.
The sole condition attached to the release of Chief Abiola was that he renounce his mandate, something that he refused to do, although the military government offered to compensate him and refund his extensive election expenses.
For this reason Chief Abiola became extremely troubled when some international figures reported to the world that he had agreed to renounce his mandate after they met with him to tell him that the world would not recognise a five-year-old election.
Moshood Abiola died unexpectedly, shortly after the death of General Abacha, on the day that he was due to be released.
While meeting group of American diplomats including Thomas Pickering and Susan Rice at a government guesthouse in Abuja, Abiola fell ill and died.
Rice had served tea to Abiola shortly before his collapse, and later wrote of an enduring belief in Nigeria that she had poisoned Abiola.
Independent autopsy carried out and witnessed by physicians and pathologists from the Nigerian government, Nigerian Medical Association, Canada, UK and the US found substantial evidence of longstanding heart disease.
General Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, Hamza al-Mustapha has alleged that Moshood Abiola was in fact beaten to death and although Al-Mustapha claims to have video and audiotapes showing how Abiola was beaten to death, he has yet to come forward with the release of such tapes or how it was procured in the first place.
Regardless of the exact circumstances of his death, it is clear that Chief Abiola received insufficient medical attention for his existing health conditions.
Investigation, Edit A number of different perspectives exist on Abiola’s death.
Renowned writer and playwright Wole Soyinka in his autobiography You Must Set Forth at Dawn, categorically asserted that Abiola was presented with a poisoned cup of tea during his final interview with the BBC.
He was certain about the fact that Abiola was poisoned, although information on what entities were behind the poisoning, have yet to come to light.
Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary General of the United Nations who had been in a meeting with Abiola at Abuja on the 29th of June 1998, mentioned that Abiola had been denied adequate medical care throughout his incarceration.
This was in some corroboration with the findings of an international team of pathologists who posited a heart condition as the cause of death.
The Human Rights Violation Investigation Commission of Nigeria, conducted a series of hearings aiming to discover the truth of events leading to the Abiola’s death, concluding that the Abubakar regime probably knew more than it revealed.
June 12 declared Democracy Day edit On 6 June 2018, Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria declared 12 June as the new date for the celebration of Democracy Day.
Nigeria’s Democracy Day was formally celebrated every 29 May, the day in 1999 that former military Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, handed over power to an elected president, Olusegun Obasanjo of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the date when, for the second time in the history of Nigeria, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government.
On 6 June 2018, Muhammadu Buhari in a public statement changed the Democracy Day to June 12 in honor of the June 12, 1993 presidential election and it’s winner, Moshood Abiola, who died in prison.
Buhari’s statement partly read: “for the past 18 years, Nigerians have been celebrating May 29, as Democracy Day.
That was the date when, for the second time in our history, an elected civilian administration took over from a military government. The first time this happened was on 1 October 1979.
But in the view of Nigerians, as shared by his administration, June 12, 1993, was far more symbolic of democracy in the Nigerian context than May 29 or even the October 1.
June 12, 1993 was the day when Nigerians in millions expressed their democratic will in what was undisputedly the freeest, fairest and most peaceful elections since our independence.
The fact that the outcome of that election was not upheld by the then military government doesn’t distract from the democratic credential of that process.
Accordingly, after due consultation, the Federal Government has decided, henceforth, June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day.
Therefore, the government has decided to award posthumously the highest honour of the land GCFR, to the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 cancelled election”.
On 11 June 2019, Muhammadu Buhari assented to a Bill amending May 29 previously set aside as a public holiday for the celebration.
The public holiday amendment Act was passed by the National Assembly of Nigeria following a Bill introduced and sponsored by Kayode Oladele, Human Rights Lawyer and Member of the House of Representatives ( Eighth Assembly) representing Yewa North/Imeko-Afon Federal Constituency of Ogun State.