Dr. Wuraola Abiola is the daughter of the late Bashorun MKO Abiola, the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential poll. She is the last child of Abiola’s first wife, the late Simbiat Atinuke Abiola. An organizational behaviour expert, she runs a consultancy firm and also sits on the board of many companies including Unicorn Group. In this interview with Vanguard, Wuraola expresses how much she missed her father and urges Nigerians to embrace his ideals for democratic growth in the country.
By Chris Onuoha
WHAT is your view on the Federal Gov ernment’s recognition of your late father’s struggle?
At the time that President Muhammadu Buhari announced the Federal Government’s decision on June 12, most of us in the family congratulated the president for the declaration that was really long overdue. I was very pleased despite the fact that we have carried on quietly ever since my father passed on. My brother Kola had solicited help from different kinds of people over the years and the government of the day was able to make this happen.
But there were diverse opinions in respect of the recognition of June 12, with some family members reportedly expressing the feeling that the declaration did not fully meet their expectations
I guess the beauty of our family and the way we were raised is in the way we are encouraged to think critically and transform opinions based on convictions. I suspect that even if anyone feels that the government has not done enough for the family, the fact that this day will now be marked in Nigeria for generations to come must be a welcome development. This would be particularly so to those who believe that my late father and many other people paid the ultimate price to bring democracy to Nigeria. Now, whether it is sufficient is a different thing altogether, but it is necessarily a positive development.
Would you have expected government to go beyond normal recognition of the family by the way of appointments or other incentives?
Taking it back a little, even if my father had not passed on, today there are many of his children that are more than qualified and worthy of federal appointments. It is not because he died for democracy to thrive but because of his accomplishments in the family. Some of us are recognized outside this country. So a merit for appointments cannot be confused or related to my late father’s status and struggle for democracy.
If our state or the federal government considers any of us worthy for positions because we have value to add to the community, people or Nigerian economy, so be it. This should not come because we are Abiola’s children. But if that should be the only reason why we should be brought forward now, I think we deserve it too. Many of my siblings are doing so well and are accomplished. If they are provided any opportunities to serve this country, they will do it excellently. My late father wouldn’t even have wanted that. He hired people in his companies who were the most talented and best in their fields without knowing their fathers or mothers.
How would you describe life without your father, the late Bashorun MKO Abiola?
My late father was very passionate for sure. Quite honestly, I didn’t know it because I was telling somebody the other day that daddy was a passionate father and a leader. He was down to earth and would always look out for me and want to catch up with me. He would call me up at 4.00 a.m and would ask how I was faring. He loved his children so much. He had this unconditional love for his children. He was so grateful for what God gave him as children and gave all of us opportunities to excel. That was really special. At age 15, my late father had already started asking me to represent him at events. I missed him much.
The truth is that my late father passed on unexpectedly. We always felt that he would come home to interact with all of us in that seamless manner as he used to do. It took quite some time for us to adjust, because there was no alternative. You said something about having a voice, I can tell you that government did not give us a voice. It was our father that gave us a voice. From the legacies he left, he was tirelessly helping people and this was outside politics. Sometimes people would meet me and tell me how my late father impacted their lives. That is the voice we have as his children. He was busy nurturing businesses and creating opportunities for people to grow, and that is what nobody can take away from him.
On the need to uphold Abiola’s ideals
All you need to look at today is the nature of our economy. You will see that there is much work to be done. In one of my father’s books Farewell to Poverty, which he wrote because he saw considerable poverty in the land, he noted that there was quite a lot of work to be done. There is indeed much to be done and maybe some people may say that it was easier in his time than now or maybe there is more work for leaders to do.
Motivations and energy
But the truth is that the next generation would be relying on this generation to re-address the fundamentals. In my days, I went to good schools in Nigeria. The only reason I went abroad for higher education was for exposure, not the quality of education. Back then in Surulere, we never used generator until later when we relocated to Ikeja.
The truth is things have deteriorated. Basic infrastructure has deteriorated. Healthcare is in a sorry state. Nigerians are not shy of hard work, they have intellectual capacity, motivations and energy but the will to actualize these are not here yet.
Her advice to Nigerians, and pro-democracy groups that kept the June 12 struggle alive
We really believe that we need to go back to education because if we don’t learn from our history, we may tend to repeat the same mistakes. The story of June 12 needs to be studied in every primary and secondary school in this country. We need to move forward step by step and that means that the younger generation must aspire to learn more from where others stopped. The Ministry of Education needs to go back and look at what Nigerians need as education to grow. We must be a country where promises are fulfilled.
Finally, I am proud to be a Nigerian and I am also grateful to the government of Nigeria for finally doing the right thing. I believe that if we begin to move the narrative of June 12 to the next generation, Nigeria will move to the next level. Personally, I will celebrate the occasion with special prayer to my father and for Nigeria’s prosperity.