June 19, 2009

June 12 and the irony of Abiola’s death

By Ben Nkemachor

IT was June 12 a few days ago, marking the 16th year anniversary of an election that was deemed to be the freest and fairest in the history of  Nigerian democracy. To so many people this election was believed to be the only that could have heralded true democracy in Nigeria.

But for reasons best known to the powers that be then led by the gap-toothed Minna born military General called IBB, this election was annulled and the hope of the Nigerian people being able to elect a leader of their choice was again dashed.

In the events following the annulment of this election, the acclaimed winner of the people’s mandate, Chief MKO Abiola, was hunted and hounded into detention where he died in a very controversial manner under the custody and watch of Nigerian military ruling junta six years after this historic election.

In this year anniversary as was always the case with previous ones, it was very pathetic as one read and watched in various media the levity and rhetoric with which this very important event in our national history was handled.

All the people across the spectrum chose to engage in shadow boxing instead of pursuing the real issue.  I had hoped that during event like this, opportunities that could have generated some more public discourse on the circumstance surrounding Abiola’s death and its  aftermath would have been explored.

Nay! People chose to look the other way! That the June 12 election was free and fair is never in question. That M. K. O. Abiola won the election is no longer subject to debate as this has been settled by the umpire Humphrey Nwosu himself in his book where he gave his own account of the events of the June 12 election incident. Though so many have expressed some reservations about the motive behind the book as he tried so hard to exonerate the most culpable person {IBB} in the June 12th saga.

Many things have been written and said about the events leading to the annulment of the election. All, including human rights and political activists as well as civil societies have spoken against the evil of the annulment. It is an open fact: Those responsible for the annulment are well-known to us and many have owned up to their responsibilities in this act.

However, something has been lacking; that is what happened after the annulment; the events leading to the death of Abiola. These questions need to be asked and answered. Was Abiola actually killed? Why was Abiola killed? Who killed Abiola and who authorised his killing? Who are those responsible for his death? And why have they not been exposed and be held accountable for this dastardly act?

Are these people not still living within and among us? Some are parading themselves as great opinion leaders while others are flaunting their credentials as diplomats and ambassadors of high repute, sitting in high places including the United Nations’ offices.

Any reason may have been advanced why the man has to die; that peace may reign, that the nation may move forward or whatever. But the truth is that human life is so expensive for some group of individuals to sit down somewhere to decide who should die. The Holy Book tells us that Christ Jesus has once died for the peace of the whole world and his death was enough.

Human beings are not Christmas fowls whose life must be taken at will. Irrespective of what the state may want the world to believe was the cause of Abiola’s death, heart failure or whatever. One thing is clear:  Abiola was killed and died under the custody of the Nigerian state with the supervision of the international community. Murder in broad day light and everybody with conscience should of course scream blue murder.

Abiola’s blood will keep  demanding for justice and justice will only be done when those responsible for his murder as well as those in the know of his death are exposed and brought to book.

Abubakar Abdulsalami, the then Head of State under whose watch Abiola died, the American officials  who were present in the meeting during which Abiola took ill should be called up to give account of what they know about the events leading to his death.

Is it true that Abiola took ill after drinking an “aproko tea” which could as well be called the tea of death? Who made and served him that tea? Who else drank from same kettle with him?  Food and drinks of any kind being served to a prisoner of such calibre, are they not supposed to be tasted first by an attached guard or security personnel? These are questions begging for answers.

Where are those coroners who conducted the autopsy on Abiola’s body after death? Let their results be made public and be subjected to another independent scrutiny. Where is Abiola’s personal physician? It is high time he spoke up about all he knows concerning the death of his foremost patient. Where is Kola Abiola? It is time he demanded to know from those in position to tell what happened to his father. As the saying goes: “A child who grows up and never asked to know what killed his father may soon end up a victim of the same thing that killed his father”.

A fresh inquest should be carried out to know the real cause of Abiola’s death. An independent inquiry should be constituted to unravel what happened to Abiola on that fateful day. All the dramatis personae involved in the plotting of the events that led to his death must be exposed.

As in the case of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayad’s death, the Prince of Harrods Chains refused to accept whatever reason the Royal Family and British Government may want him to believe as the cause of his son’s death. So also the Abiola’s family, friends, associates, civil society and the progressives must refuse to accept whatever lie the government or the powers that be and their agents may want to give as the cause of his death.

Every possible means should be used to uncover and ascertain the true cause of Abiola’s death. The remains could be exhumed and be subjected to further testing. Modern technologies could be helpful in this regard as has been the case in recent past. One of the youngest Pharaohs of ancient Egypt was proved to have been murdered possibly by strangulation simply by studying the positioning of the neck bones of the skeleton of his remains. Just 10 years after Abiola’s death is not too long ago not to be able to carry out some further tests to know how he died.

Mr.  Nkemachor, a student and research fellow, writes from the Netherlands.