by Femi Adesina
This is the concluding part of the interview with newspaper editors held by Kola Abiola, first son of the late MKO Abiola, this week.
One of the excuses the military gave for not allowing Abiola to assume the presidency was that the Federal Government owed him a lot of money. How much would this be? “At least $350 million,” Kola offers. “Even after that, President Olusegun Obasanjo took away one of our oil concessions. We got it back only under Yar’Adua. If Yar’Adua had been well enough, and lasted longer, he would have addressed all the injustices done to us.
“I don’t have a relationship with the Jonathan administration, though I have friends in the government. Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar had asked us what government could do for us. We asked him to pay our dues, however, the time he spent was too short. But at least, he removed all the embargoes placed on our businesses by Gen Sani Abacha.”
Obasanjo is an Egba man, just as Abiola was. It was the same Obasanjo who had declared Abiola no messiah shortly after the annulment of the June 12 election, in 1993. So, what is the enduring animus between the two men, that even time and death has not been able to heal?
“They both went to Baptist Boys High School in Abeokuta, and I can’t really say what the issues are,” submits Kola. “But whatever they are, I hope there will be a closure to them before Baba Obasanjo goes. When he was in jail under Abacha, I used to visit him, and also visited his family. My father is gone, Obasanjo has been president three times, as military head of state, and two terms as civilian president. My dad died in trying to achieve that. I hope the issues are sorted out before Baba Obasanjo himself goes. They are the same Egba people.”
And Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, another legendary Abiola enemy? Kola laughs. “My father was a major shareholder in Afrodisia Records, formerly Decca. Fela was on that label, and they wanted to do a film of Fela’s life. Fela asked for cash upfront, and he got it. But he kept it at his home in Kalakuta Republic, and when it was raided and burnt by the soldiers, the money was stolen. Fela came back to ask that he be given fresh money, my dad refused. He came with his wives and band, blocked the gate to the company, and eventually poured shit (excrement) in the offices. But me and his son, Femi, grew up together in Surulere, and we still relate today.”
Don’t think Kola will roll out the drums on Sunday and do owambe as he turns 50. He will be at Saudi Arabia on Umrah (lesser hajj), and from there, go to climb Mount Everest. He says it’s an avenue for solitude, and he has chance to “think and come to terms with myself.” More so, since his late daughter, Labake, was the one who first introduced the idea of mountain climbing to him, he does it every year in her remembrance. “After Everest, you can’t go higher,” he says. “It takes about eight weeks to climb. After that, I will then think of something else to do.”
Talk of the strange passions of the very wealthy!
*This piece was first published in The Sun