The demise of Chief MKO Abiola 13 years ago will continue to stir in the hearts of many Nigerians. The call that the National Assembly should pave the way for the Federal Government to recognise the late business mogul as‘elected President’ has not received attention after all.
As another June 12 comes around, Jamiu Abiodun Abiola (son late Kudirat ) an oil and gas magnate and Shettima of Borno, says Nigerians should wait and see what the Federal Government will do noting that, “good things come to those who wait.” He spoke to BASHIR ADEFAKA at the MKO Abiola Crescent, home of the late icon of democracy. Excerpts:
You speak 11 languages. How did you come about that?
The languages I speak are English, Yoruba, Hausa, Kanuri, Shua, Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese. And the reason for my interest in them spanned back to when I was nine years old. My father sent me to a summer school in England. When I got there, all the kids around me were speaking Arabic.
I didn’t know what they were saying and I felt very bad because they did not even care that I couldn’t understand what they were saying and so I was lost.
Even though I was in England, it was as if I was in a country where the language that I could not understand was being spoken. So, when I got back home in Nigeria after a summer holiday, I told my father to get me a teacher that would teach me Arabic on weekends so that it would not affect my academic programme in the school and he did.
I learned Arabic in eight months and I used to go to the Embassy to collect old newspapers and magazines published in Arabic and I was practising on my own as well. That was how I was able to speak Arabic fluently at the age of 10.
It was after that I decided that I would learn how to speak Hausa because my mother, late Alhaja Kudirat grew up in Zaria. I later decided to go ahead and learn French and from French I went to Spanish, German, Italian and Japanese. Then when I married from Maiduguri, my wife being a Shua woman is half Kanuri. I learned Kanuri and in fact , I got a title of Shettima of Borno in Maiduguri and I was able to give a speech on NTA over there in Kanuri and a lot of people were highly impressed.
You said your mother grew up in Zaria, could you throw more light?
My mother, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola’s father was based in Zaria and so she grew up there. That was where she spent the first 17 years of her life. Therefore, she and all her sisters and brothers speak Hausa very fluently.
The family has been silent over Chief MKO, is it deliberate?
If you look at global behaviour and you study people very well, you would realize that most people tend to be quiet after they’ve been through tragedies. They need time to actually recuperate and for the wounds to be healed. So, the kind of tragedy that came up with the whole struggle of June 12 in which both our parents were killed affected us. It is only natural for us to be silent to put ourselves together before we can now come out again.
When I came into the compound of the late Chief, nothing seems to have changed. What has been keeping you together?
Okay, you know at the end of the day, when the man was alive, he kept talking to us about how we should look at things from a very realistic angle and how to be hardworking. Most of my brothers and sisters are very hardworking. You know, we don’t take anything for granted and aside from that, we don’t always think money is everything. We always look beyond material things.
Definitely, what has been keeping this family together is the belief that we should always follow God, we should always be hardworking and we should always be sincere in our dealings. And that’s why a lot of people would come back here and they see that the house has not deteriorated and that it’s still in a very good shape. God has been blessing and rewarding us for upholding this principle that our late father put in us.
Thirteen years after, how has life been as an orphan?
Emotionally, life is not the same. There is a gap but in terms of our well-being and our welfare, we are doing very well. All of us have flourishing businesses and we thank God for that. There is no level of retrogression or anything like that.
Now that the leadership or do I say fatherly mantle has fallen on the shoulders of your eldest brother, Kola, how is he coping?
In terms of business, we are yet to resolve a lot of issues. Because you see, a Will was in place and a board was set up and we already have the people that are entitled to the inheritance but for some reasons, everything has been put on hold and so, there is really nothing that has been done. But in terms of the family, we keep in touch from time to time. Unfortunately he (Kola) lost his wife recently.
So, the only problem we have is that we have not been able to resolve the issue of my father’s assets and you know because of the issue of the June 12 and all that, a lot of people are not do not want to create conflict. But if we are going to resolve it very soon, we will employ other means to ensure that nobody is cheated. That I can guarantee you.
Another June 12 is around the corner. The Federal Government is yet to do anything to formally recognize your father’s victory even as the then NEC Chairman, Professor Humphery Nwosu has published a book that finally cleared the air on it. What is your reaction?
There is this adage that says: ‘good things come to those who wait.’ I think we should still wait to see what is going to happen. I know that definitely the God that created everybody in this country including those that are in government knows the best. There is nothing that can happen without God’s knowledge and if it’s going to happen, God has to put His seal on it. So, definitely I think God will not let it just pass like that.
But the most important thing for us in this family is to see that there is good governance in this country and that there is accountability and that things are moving forward. That’s the only way as far as I am concerned, that my father can be immortalized.
Even if you name all the streets in Nigeria after my father and my mother and yet there is bad governance and all that, definitely that means the democratic struggle was not worth it and then, it will be most painful. But I think we should have good governance.
My father wanted to fight poverty and they should fight poverty through their policies by creating people_oriented programmes that touch the lives of the people directly. I am not talking about creating infrastructure here and making it possible for all people to survive.
They should revive the economy from the bottom to the top and not just from the top to the bottom. I think government has to look into these policies that are people_oriented and have touched lives directly.
Name: Jamiu Abiodun Abiola.
Place of birth: Lagos State.
Date of birth: December 5, 1975
Present position: CEO , NNPC Mega Station Ikoyi
Strength of character: Godliness and hardworking.