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Tribute: Moshood Kashimawo Abiola: A Life Fulfilled By Dele Momodu

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Say what you will, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola has finally achieved apotheosis. Not many humans are so lucky, or that endowed in life or in death. It is common to hear ordinary mortals say, in moments of deep frustration, Abiola should not have joined politics. In theory, such proponents believe he would be alive today. That is normal, because no one likes to lose a loved one, no matter how old. But there is never a cast-iron guarantee about life and death. No one ever chose when to be born and when to die.

Abiola’s life was a stuff of fairy-tale, and eerily mythical. He was the 23rd child of his dad when he was born on August 24, 1937, to the family of Salaudeen Abiola, in the Gbagura compound of Abeokuta, Ogun State. All 22 children born before him had died in infancy under varying and mysterious circumstances. His parents doubted if Moshood would stay or go the way of the other 22 children, the reason he was promptly and grudgingly named Kashimawo. But as fate would have it, Moshood not only stayed, other children born after him also enjoyed the same grace, making him a harbinger of good tidings. As was the norm in those days, his parents were not economically buoyant, but they nevertheless struggled to send him to school.

Abiola showed much promise early in life. He was gifted with a magnetic brain, and photographic memory, and also had an unusual ability for entertainment. Indeed, his musical performances enabled him get money that helped him and other siblings fund their education. The beginning of the great entrepreneur that he was to become was already sowed, and germinated, from such business dexterity. Abiola did not allow his under-privileged pedigree to affect him. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable. He spent his most formative years at the famous Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta. That was where he encountered Christian teachings and assimilated the Bible alongside his Koranic background. He became a versatile man who never discriminated against anyone on account of tribe or religion.

After secondary school, he worked briefly as banker with Barclays Bank in Ibadan. Thereafter, he proceeded to Scotland in search of the golden fleece and obtained a First Class degree in Accountancy from the University of Glasgow and a distinction from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. He worked briefly abroad before returning home to work at various companies, including University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, Pfizer Nigeria Limited and eventually, ITT Corporation where fortune and fame smiled on him. His was a meteoric rise from grass to grace because of his boundless energy, prodigious brilliance, great tenacity, never-say-die attitude, clear-headedness and uncommon ability to make and keep friends, in low and high places. He rose to become Vice President of ITT in Africa and the Middle East and Chairman of ITT’s Nigerian subsidiary.

Abiola’s business interests were humongous. He was more than an octopus with long fingers in many pies. He had substantial investments in telecommunications, oil and gas, media, music, farming, shipping, banking, sports, real estate, bookshops, airlines, bakery, bulk deliveries, printing, and so on. In his time, Abiola was probably the largest employer of private labour in Nigeria, with offices and homes in several countries abroad.

Abiola was the quintessential philanthropist and a most generous giver who gave unconditionally to people, organisations, institutions, communities and societies of different persuasions. He contributed to building many churches and mosques across Nigeria, water projects, medical facilities, libraries, sports facilities and so on. On a single day, he donated N1 million each to 30 Nigerian universities, an unprecedented and most remarkable move that endeared him to students and parents nationwide. Abiola changed the stature and status of journalists in Nigeria by elevating them from Press boys to gentlemen of the Press through incredible wages, training, exposure and incentives.

Abiola was a self-appointed Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary of the black race. He championed the causes of Black people all over the world by leading a ceaseless campaign for Reparations from the Western world for the many decades of slavery. He was specially recognised by the American Black Caucus and was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree by Tuskegee University, USA. He was a special friend of Lords and Royals and met many world leaders in recognition of his leadership and statesmanship. He was one of the most decorated Africans ever and possibly the man with the highest number of Chieftaincy titles on the continent of Africa.

Abiola’s foray into politics was never an accident. It was clearly planned and meticulously orchestrated. He had been a member of the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) at the age of 19. He was therefore not a tyro when he rejoined politics in the late seventies. However, he was soon frustrated out of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) by the shenanigans of a powerful cabal in 1981, because they saw the grave threat he posed to their obsession for power, as control freaks. He had set his eyes on the Chairmanship of the party as a launch-pad to his Presidential ambition. He was told in unambiguous terms that the Presidency was not for sale. He went back home to lick his wounds with equanimity and waited to fight another day. But he was already a marked man who was being keenly watched by the Nigerian Mafia. He had occasional brushes with the government of his supposed best friend, President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who dribbled and waltzed his way through the labyrinth of power and left everyone dazed with his wizardry. Babangida’s transition time-table was as confusing as it was befuddling. But everything is for a season!

Abiola resolutely had his sight on the Presidency but bided his time patiently. Before he took the leap of faith in January 1993, he had made wide and extensive consultations and was reasonably assured that President Babangida was ready to hand over power, finally. Abiola bought the assurance hook, line and sinker and took what turned out to be a kamikaze plunge. He fought with everything to upstage both Alhaji Babagana Kingibe as well as Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his two main rivals within the Social Democratic Party. He won the ticket eventually but had to contend with the Governors of his party who were rooting for Kingibe. He ended up with a Muslim/Muslim ticket but his charisma, panache, affluence and legendary generosity meant that he got away with this huge risk and gamble, in a religiously volatile country. He won the June 12 Presidential elections convincingly and resoundingly. Although the results have never been formally declared by NEC, the full details were before the High Court which ordered NEC to declare them. The military responded with such savagery and bestiality that nobody could have predicted or anticipated.

Abiola had managed to get very close, in fact too close, to touching distance of his holy grail when the military top brass struck and annulled the election, the first of its kind in Nigeria, because it was free and fair. The annulment was as audacious as it was reprehensible. Abiola and his civilian army of supporters pushed hard against an obstinate and vicious military that ostensibly had nowhere to go, and rigidly insisted that it was not ready to go. A lot of water passed under the bridge and Abiola went through so much trauma trying to retrieve his stolen mandate. The world community watched in total bewilderment and anguish as Nigeria went through its season of anomy. Unknown to Nigerians, and friends of Nigeria, Abiola was on his road to Golgotha. World figures came from the United Nations and the Commonwealth Office but neither Dr Kofi Anan nor Chief Emeka Anyaoku could convince Abiola to forget his mandate. He chose to die fighting like a man, a brave warrior in the forest of a thousand daemons, after all, he was the fabled and fabulous Aare Ona Kakanfo, the generalissimo of the Yoruba race. He had crossed the Rubicon and could not afford to let down the Nigerian people. The Generalissimo is not expected to shy away or run away from a fight. Abiola’s wit and wisdom were surreal. His courage and devotion to the cause of Nigeria were never in doubt. His humility and generosity were clearly unparalleled. In short, in his own inimitable way, Chief MKO Abiola was nonpareil!

Abiola was last visited by two august visitors from America on July 7, 1998, Thomas Pickering and Susan Rice, and the unexpected happened. They announced that Abiola had died of “apparent heart attack.” That was it. Abiola instantly became a martyr for democracy. Abiola left the world in a dramatic fashion, just as he came. The shockwaves of his death reverberated across the oceans to far flung places. Abiola was physically out of circulation, but the spirit and soul of June 12 was very much alive. Every effort to kill it remained abortive and aborted and could not be obliterated.

Abiola’s mandate stood ramrod for 25 years. Justice was delayed, but this one was never denied. President Muhammadu Buhari was probably haunted by the ghost of June 12, privately, as are a lot of others, both military and civilian. For whatever reason, or possible motives, he did the unthinkable, by recognising Abiola as the true winner of that watershed election. He recognised that it has never been the case of a presumptive winner, but that of an outright and undeniable winner. He finally brought the ghost to rest yesterday, in Abuja, and got a thunderous ovation for his courage and vision.

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Akpabio Lied, No State Received N30bn from FIRS – Makinde

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Oyo State Governor and Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Seyi Makinde, on Thursday, declared that there was no truth in the claim by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, that states of the federation got an additional N30 billion each outside of their statutory revenue allocations, to address food insecurity in their states.

A statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Suleiman Olarenwaju in Ibadan, the state capital, said the state has not received any N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service or the Federal Government, and that his administration has been and will always be open and transparent to the people of the state.

The Governor, who added that he has been doing everything to cushion the effects of the economic hardship on the people, warned that leaders should instill confidence and hope in the citizenry in this trying time rather than playing the blame game.

Makinde stated this in Iseyin where he commissioned the newly-renovated multi-billion naira Iseyin Central Mosque facilitated by a legal icon, Ahmed Raji, SAN, hailing the religious harmony in the state as being exemplary.

The Governor decried Akpabio’s reliance on unverified reports, clarifying that states couldn’t get funds from the FIRS, since all revenues go into the Federation Account and belong to the FG, states and local governments.

“The only fund that Oyo State got from the Federal Government outside of statutory allocation was N2 billion out of the N5 billion promised to all states in the wake of the removal of fuel subsidy, adding that the Federal Government had even been asking for the refund of the N2 billion,” he stated.

Makinde added that his government has been doing its best to mitigate the hardship on residents of the state, having been the first to announce and implement measures to cushion the effect of the hardship through the Sustainable Action for Economic Recovery.

He said, “This is a very difficult period in our nation’s history because all of us are aware of what we are going through economically. But for us as an administration, I can say we are the first in Nigeria to announce and implement measures on the 9th of June 2023, to cushion the effect of this policy through SAFER.

“We have been doing our bit. And the reason I came here is for us to talk to ourselves and intensify prayers. So, this is one of the edifices through which we can reach God, though we have done our bit. We have health insurance for our own people, we give farm inputs to our farmers but, at this stage, we need to cry to God.

“For the workers, we have been paying a wage award; N25,000 for workers and N15,000 for pensioners, and we have paid for close to six months. Only last week, I announced an extension for another six months so that we can have the time to conclude the discussion on minimum wage. Well, we know there is much to be done and we will continue to do everything within our power to support our people through this hard time.”

Makinde cautioned that “this is not the time to play politics, as we have real issues that deserve real solutions. But yesterday, I saw the video and read in the news where the Senate President, Senator Godswill Akpabio, made a statement, though he said it was an unverified report, stating that the state governments received an additional N30 billion from the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, outside of our statutory allocation, in the last few months, to address food security.”

The Governor added, “Please, listen to me loud and clear. I can speak for Oyo State and can also speak for any of my colleagues. This is because, as the Vice Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, I know when things are happening.

“If I want to play politics, I will keep quiet and let this slide, but I am not going to let this slide. FIRS cannot give money to any state. It is not possible. All revenues accruing to the country go into the federation account and it is distributed to all tiers of government.  The FG does not give states money. The money in the federation belongs to all of us; it does not only belong to the Federal Government.

“So, if the Senate President, who is the number three citizen in this country, could be quoting an unverified report, people are looking at us as leaders. This is the period that we are supposed to give confidence to our people. It is not the period to start playing politics or to start looking for scapegoats.”

“We need to engage with our people. If our policies are not working, we need to listen to the people and amend them. So, if the number three citizen had nothing but an unverified report, why did he need to say it? Does his statement give confidence to the people or solve the problem of hunger and anger in the land?” he queried.

“Let me say it clearly, as for Oyo State and for most of my colleagues, there is nothing like N30 billion being given to states for food security and I stand to be challenged.

“Yes, the Federal Government promised the states N5 billion and out of that, it only gave N2 billion and they are even asking that the N2 billion should be refunded right now.

“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to manage the fiscal situation in Nigeria and manage the inflationary trend we have in the country right now.

“We have been transparent about everything we are doing here and this is the time for us to stay together as a nation to solve the problems we are facing. It is not the time to engage in blame games and propaganda. Hunger and anger are real and, as leaders, we must address them.”

Also speaking, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, appreciated Makinde for attending the event and for speaking passionately as expected of leaders, saying the state governor is on the right track.

Earlier, the facilitator of the Iseyin Central Mosque renovation project, Raji, appreciated the governor for his presence, urging citizens of the country to continue to pray for its leaders and to pray to God to lessen the burden of the people.

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Enough is Enough, PDP Governors Tell Tinubu

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By Eric Elezuo

The government of President Bola Tinubu has continued to come under serious knocks across Nigeria’s geo-political zones, sectors, individuals and political parties. The latest of the knocks is coming from the main opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is serving a red card the administration, saying enough is enough.

The knocks and barefaced condemnation are not unconnected with the economic hardship in the country, which is a direct consequence of very unpopular economic decisions the administration has taken so far, ranging from the removal of petroleum subsidy and floating of the naira to removal of tariffs on electricity and other essential services.

As at date, the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) is floating between N617 and N650 depending on the part of the country. In the same vein, the dollar is worth a whopping N1600 as at date. The ripple effect has resulted in the exorbitant rise in the prices of essential food items such as rice, garri, beans, flour, sugar, tomato and other household items, and families are groaning in excruciating agony.

As a result, angry and hungry Nigerians have denounced the emilokun (meaning it’s my turn) slogan, and chose ebi mpawa (meaning we are hungry) in exchange.

Consequently, rising from a one day retreat on the state of the nation, the PDP Governors Forum, also found faults and looming loopholes in the nine months old administration of Tinubu, thereby asking the president to step aside as the challenges confronting the nation seems to have overwhelmed him and his team. The Forum advised the APC-administration headed by Tinubu to as a matter to ‘Throw in the towel if you can’t govern Nigeria anymore’.

The governors, who were elected on the platform of the PDP, noted that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu, has failed woefully, and should graciously throw in the towel if it cannot mobilise Nigerians as well as all organs and tiers of government for sustainable solutions to the various problems plaguing the nation.

The governors specifically noted that the hardship and suffering being faced by Nigerians have no tribal, religious or party colouration, stressing that “a hungry man is an angry man”.

They further reminded the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government of the need to be guided by the fact that it is (APC) that sought power to solve the problems of Nigeria, not to compound them or shift blame and use propaganda to confuse issues.

The PDP Governors Forum’s advice is contained in a statement signed by its Director-General, Hon CID Maduabum in Abuja.

The PDP Governors expressly pointed out that the buck ultimately stops at the President’s table as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Chief Salesman and leader of Nigeria.

The PDP-GF, nonetheless, assured that as stakeholders in governance, it would continue to work collaboratively with the President in finding lasting solutions to “a very difficult situation created or exacerbated by the APC since 2015”.

The PDP Governors frowned at the Minister of Information, APC Governors’ Forum and other officials of the APC-led Federal Government who criticised the the PDP-GF for their suggestions, advice and patriotic intervention on the way forward for the country in a communique issued at the end of their recent meeting in Abuja.

The Forum categorically declared, “It must be noted that though Nigeria is a Federation, there is indeed only one economy.

Accordingly, the governors said while all tiers of government have a role to play, the APC led Federal Government has a disproportionate role to mobilise Nigerians and all organs and tiers of government for sustainable solutions, adding that “If it cannot do so or is unable to do so, it should graciously throw in the towel.”

The statement reads in details:

“Hardship and suffering being faced by Nigerians have no tribal, religious or party colouration. A hungry man is an angry man.

“While all tiers of government have a role to play, the APC led Federal Government has a disproportionate role to play in mobilising Nigerians and all organs and tiers of government for sustainable solutions.

“If it can not do so or is unable to do so, it should graciously throw in the towel.

“Attempts by the Honourable Minister of Information, APC Governors’ Forum and other officials of the Federal Government who criticised the PDP Governors’ Forum for their patriotic intervention should be guided by the fact that the APC sought power to solve the problems of Nigeria not to compound them or shift blame, or grandstand or use propaganda to obfuscate or confuse issues.

“PDP governed States are comparatively the best in Nigeria in terms of developmental policies, programmes, and projects that benefit their States positively, regular payment of salaries, pensions, gratuities, and minimum wage to their workforce.
“State governments that are delinquent on these issues are not of PDP extraction. It is false to say so.

“Even the food crises are exacerbated by insecurity and high exchange rate issues, among others, which are largely federal subjects.

“The PDP Governors as stakeholders in governance would continue to work collaboratively with Mr. President to find lasting solutions to a very difficult situation created or exacerbated by the APC since 2015. We believe in co-operative Federalism.

“The buck ultimately stops at Mr. Presidents table as the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Chief Salesman and leader of Nigeria.

“We are not in doubt that he is trying his best. We only hope and pray that his best is good enough to take Nigeria out of the woods in the shortest possible time.”

The PDP, like every other Nigerian, has continued to lend its voice to what a major cross section of the nation has termed ‘total mismanagement’ of the economic fabric of the nation.

“Nigerians have not had a day of peace since Tinubu was sworn in on May 29, 2023,” a respondent told The Boss, echoing the lord complaints of majority of the citizens.

It would be recalled that Tinubu, on inauguration day, on inauguration ground, waved away petroleum subsidy, thereby throwing the nation into the darkness of hardship that has refused to ease nine months after.

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‘Bwala, Not Ex-Aide to Atiku Abubakar’

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The Atiku Abubakar Media Organisation has said that Mr Daniel Bwala, who worked for the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation during the 2023 elections, was never an aide of the former Vice President, warning that the media and members of the public should desist from addressing him as such.

A statement from the Atiku media office clarified that Bwala offered his services as a spokesperson for the campaign organization, and never an aide to the former VP, adding that he moved on with his career after the elections.

The statement reads:

Bwala is a former spokesperson of Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organisation and not a former aide to the former Vice President

It is important that the media and the general public take corrective note of defining Mr. Daniel Bwala as an aide to His Excellency Atiku Abubakar.

Bwala offered his services and support to the Atiku/Okowa Presidential Campaign Organization as a spokesperson – and it was a position he held during the last presidential campaign.

Subsequently, and after the election, the need for a campaign spokesperson has terminated, and Bwala has moved on with his career.

This, therefore, serves as notice to the media and the interested public to desist from defining Bwala as an ex-aide of Atiku Abubakar.

We duly urge the public to henceforth recognize, introduce, and define Daniel Bwala by his current vocation and alliance.

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