By Olasunkanmi Akoni

Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, late wife of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale, MKO, Abiola, was brutally assassinated on June 4, 1996.

She was cruelly murdered allegedly under the instruction of former late military Head of State, Sani Abacha.

Kudirat was against the military government which annulled her husband’s presidential election of June 12, 1993 and sent him into incarceration

Her campaign against the military president displeased Sani Abacha, consequently the underground plot to eliminate her. Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was born in 1951 in Zaria, Kaduna State. Alhaja Kudirat was married to a business mogul, Chief MKO Abiola, at age 18. Available facts revealed that she used her bride price to pay for the education of her two sisters. She was said to be the second and senior of four wives married by Abiola. Her children with her husband were Yusau Olalekan, Hafsat Olaronke, Abdul Muman, Hadi, Moriam and Khafila. Her husband had over several other children.

All who were alleged to have murdered her were set free by the court. Ordinarily tuned to private life, the military annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election which her husband had won, brought Kudirat into pro-democracy movement. The movement had its cost. In 1994, Abiola was incarcerated and kept in solitary confinement for claiming his presidential mandate from the military junta.

Despite the danger, Kudirat was said to have provided clear leadership in this period of general confusion following the annulment of the election. She stepped forward with the conviction that the military’s action amounted to violation of fundamental rights of Nigerians to elect their government. Her participation inspired new level of activism in Nigeria’s pro-democracy movement.

Alhaja Kudirat mobilised market women, students, activists and other human rights organisations to fight for democracy.

In the summer of 1994, Kudirat was actively involved in moving and sustaining the oil workers’ 12-week strike action against the military government. The strike which succeeded in isolating and weakening the government, was the longest in African history by oil workers.

In December of 1995, when the pro-democracy group decided to march for freedom in Lagos, Kudirat joined such esteemed nationalists as Anthony Enahoro at the forefront of the march, braving the bullets of government forces sent to intimidate them. Her fight was essentially for the release of her husband and restoration of his mandate which was annulled by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida in 1993. Abiola was detained soon after the June 12 election. While Kudirat was busy championing the cause against the military dictatorship in Nigeria, her husband was in jail on charges of treason.

Her action against the military government made her to become the biggest foe of the military government of late Sani Abacha. On June 4, 1996, few days to the commemoration of the anniversary date when Nigerians resolved to vote out the military dictatorship, Kudirat’s life ended on earth, extinguished by assailant’s bullets. Alhaja Kudirat was attacked in her car by unknown gunmen, along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, allegedly on the orders of the military government of the late Gen. Sani Abacha.

President Muhammadu Buhari  directed that the nation’s Democracy Day will, henceforth, hold on June 12 of every year as against the current arrangement where the ceremony holds on May 29.

Buhari also resolved to honour the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, with the highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR.

Apart from Abiola, Buhari also honoured  his running mate, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, and the late human rights activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, with the second highest national honour, the Grand Commander of the Niger  and also promised to add other heroes of democracy soon to the list of awardees.

At every annual anniversary of June 12, activists and pro- democracy groups have been calling for immortalisation of Kudirat as heroine of democracy.

The agitations continued from different quarters at the 25th  anniversary across Lagos State.


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