By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
CHIEF Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, MKO as he was simply known was a true phenomenon. Businessman, philanthropist, and politician, he was voted president in what has unarguably turned out to be the freest and fairest presidential election in the history of Nigeria. Remarkably, the same election turned out to be the most controversial following the action of the General Ibrahim Babangida military regime after it was annulled.
The June 12, 1993, election defied all odds and geopolitical sentiments that had and still challenge Nigeria’s aspiration to take a deserved place in the comity of nations. A Muslim who picked another Muslim as his running mate, he, however, won the vote of the many Christians who defied religious slant of his ticket.
A Southerner from Ogun State, MKO won votes from across the country even beating his challenger, Bashir Tofa in his home state, Kano.
A very wealthy man with business tentacles in several pies and several continents, he, nevertheless appealed to the majority of the poor who saw his philanthropic gestures as an unusual outreach from the bourgeoisie. His campaign theme: Hope 93 had a subtheme, Farewell to poverty.
Abiola was also a man of style as evidenced by his memorable campaign jingles
It was an election whose result if actualised would have positioned Nigeria towards greatness. A successful businessman, chartered accountant, Abiola was at that time set to become the first university graduate to preside over the fate of Nigeria.
However, the demons conspired against him and the nation leading to the annulment of the election. Remarkably, Gen. Babangida took responsibility for the annulment and has till date not given the reason or reasons for his action supposedly coerced out of him by colleagues in his military junta, some of whom subsequently came to thrive in post-1999 democracy.
Abiola died exactly 19 years today at the point of his release from detention, after the usurper, Gen. Sanni Abacha who detained him died a month earlier.
Just as his fame was extensive, so his family was equally extended. How have his children fared since the abortion of the Nigerian Hope that was symbolised by their father? Vanguard spoke to his children in Abeokuta and Lagos.