Never known to be in the habit of turning the proverbial other cheek, it is a big puzzle that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo chose to absorb a sucker punch of volcanic severity on June 12 last week without as much as a grunt. Babagana Kingibe had baited him with a charge of complicity in the high conspiracy that aborted June 12.
Not that we did not know that before.
But afraid that his old skeletons might be unearthed finally, ordinarily voluble and perennially crusading OBJ uncharacteristically retreated into a cowardly silence to a claim that, considering his assumed brotherhood with MKO, would sound very abominable indeed.
Baba has no comment, whispered his spokesman to inquisitive newshounds.
Well, as an aside, it is perhaps a measure of the ethical flux pervading the land today that Kingibe, otherwise a June 12 renegade himself, could permit himself the liberty to so question the former president in the first place.
Let it however be noted that OBJ’s ensuing silence is also strategic. Replying Kingibe would inevitably usher an even darker question. Following his release from Abacha gulag in June 1998, he, with MKO Abiola still alive, famously forswore the prospects of any presidential aspiration.
So, in dodging Kingibe’s pointed challenge, OBJ, a master of political chess game, surely demonstrates a possession of enough native intelligence to anticipate possible apocalypse.
Let us, as a mark of charity, even concede OBJ’s earlier misspeak in Harare in 1994 that “Abiola is not the messiah” was a foible of the head and not the heart.
Now, the more monumental poser of history still left unanswered in the last twenty-one years: would the “Ebora of Owu” swear by the most potent deity of his native land that never did he under any circumstance ever say “So, what happens to MKO?” at some point to the conniving generals pressuring him to accept a draft into the presidential race before Abiola’s mystery death on July 7, 1998?
The old witch wailed last night; the child died the morning after.
To be sure, this writer is not ashamed to confess a partisanship, even fanaticism, whenever and wherever June 12 resurrects. The sensitivity thus aroused is not just civic, but also professional. Some of us were living witnesses to the momentous events before, during and after June 12. I was a politics reporter with Concord Press (owned by MKO) through the 90s and knew first-hand what it meant to function under constant threat of military bullet or detention and yet labored for months on end without salary.
So, as conscientious bearer of national memory, we certainly know the real soldiers of fortune, the double agents, who sought to profiteer from the sacrifice of others. Just as we can distinguish the fake labour activists in funny costumes who chanted “Aluta” in daylight but cavorted with the evil generals at night as informants on the payroll. Another authentic June 12 hero, Frank Kokori, already said enough in last Saturday’s Vanguard to make the surviving ones among this category of traitors regret all the blood money they collected from the military in the 90s.
Indeed, as immortal Shakespeare forewarned, truth crushed to the earth shall rise again. And Sophocles added poetically, there is danger in unnatural silence.
But while the shrewd chicken farmer of Ota keeps a crafty silence under the circumstance, some of his political slaves would rather resort to rehabilitating history and falsefying accounts, obviously to impress their idol.
Without shame or fear, one of them, Doyin Okupe, even lied that it was the north that blocked OBJ from duly recognizing June 12 or formally acknowledging Abiola’s colossal sacrifice throughout his eight-year imperial reign.
Really? So, was he also told to cajole all the South-west states (except Lagos under Tinubu) to stop observing June 12 as public holiday in Abiola’s honour once his PDP “captured” the region from Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 2003?
The truth is however imperishable: in his moment of power and glory, Obasanjo never seemed to realize that righting historical wrong is not a political favour to anyone, but a moral duty to community or country.
Already, the fact of his perfidy here has been corroborated by Ayo Fayose in a tell-all account published by The Interview magazine in 2017. As Ekiti governor in 2003 and one of the early beneficiaries of OBJ’s guerrilla politics, Fayose recalled he and other PDP governors in Osun, Ondo, Oyo and Ogun were coaxed by the then emperor of Aso Rock to worship only May 29 as part of a deliberate pagan rite to wipe June 12 from the nation’s memory.
Well, Okupe failed to clarify whether it was iron bar or raffia mat that was deployed to barricade OBJ from doing the needful on June 12. Were we to buy this argument, how ironic then that his master who couldn’t dare contemplate June 12 out of fear of the north, yet had the temerity to conceive and bid for treasonable Third Term that would have completely shut the zone out of contestation for presidential power for as long as it pleased OBJ.
But let it be said that the “north” cited couldn’t be that of Dangiwa Abubakar Umar, Shehu Sani, Mathew Hassan Kukah, Dan Suleiman, Jonah Jang and other men of conscience. Of course, the “north” the jobbing Okupe actually meant could only be that of now discredited generals who unchained OBJ from prison after Abacha’s demise and literally railroaded a fellow general to Aso Rock barely a year later.
The bug of revisionism afflicting Okupe would also appear to have infected Kola, the scion of the Abiola dynasty. The the word, outrage, perhaps best describes the reactions of many disciples of MKO to a slew of wild claims by Abiola’s heir in a Sun interview last week which tended to belittle the sacrifice made by others in defence of June 12 even as they inadvertently diminish the mystique of his illustrious dad.
Descending from the enigmatic Bashorun, Kola has, of course, always borne the yoke of high public expectation. Aside his muscular looks, it is rather difficult to identify his own talent. But it certainly can’t be oratory.
On the cusp of history at Aso Rock on June 12, 2018, for instance, Kola chose to delegate an epochal invitation to speak on behalf of the Abiola family to a more articulate Hafsat, his half-sister, after President Buhari’s formally declared June 12 a national monument and canonized his dad posthumously as GCFR.
Over the years, Kola has, at best, done very little or nothing to dispel the popular notion that he was at peace, even infatuated, with the very family the rest of us see as his dad’s chief enemy. (Some accounts even hinted marriage was on the cards.)
While boxing himself into such blissful detachment, he, therefore, would seem far removed to view reality like the rest of us.
So, when Kola then decided to come out of his shell and grant a rare interview this year, we should have anticipated that a major disaster was about to unfold.
Well, NADECO activist and the revolutionary Army colonel, Tony Nyiam, has already gone a great length in another media reports to dispel the fallacy in the ridiculous claim that Tinubu only became radicalized into NADECO because Abacha refused to make him governor or commissioner in Lagos, to warrant dwelling further on that point.
Note, Nyiam cannot be called a Tinubu apologist. For he has consistently disagreed with Asiwaju since the latter teamed up with Buhari to found APC in 2014. But forthright Nyiam would not stand by and condone Kola’s crude revisionism against Tinubu because of today’s political difference. That would have amounted to a rape of history.
Nyiam is unlike Bode George, a grandpa who still relishes toddler’s fables and seems quite unaware of the shame – if not curse – in lying with hoary hair. Note, this “bread and butter” Admiral could not, in real terms, be counted among the generals who truly mattered then and his understanding of events was obviously shaped by hear-say from his master, Diya.
Perhaps, we should empathize with a man consistently worsted electorally in Lagos by Tinubu since 1999. He fancied a new career in politics after leaving the Navy on account of being the barefoot messenger of Dipo Diya who would later fall out of favour with their overall lord and master, despot Abacha. But despite all his desperate toil since, not once has BG been able to win even a polling unit in his ancestral Isale-Eko.
So, it is pointless attaching any weight to the words of the political eunuch of Lagos.
But, to me, even more disturbing is Kola’s reported allusion to Abiola’s high blood pressure. No one disputes that. His physician, Dr. Ore Falomo, already told us MKO had battled that medical condition for decades.
However, viewed against the certainly murky circumstances of Abiola’s sudden death on July 7, 1998, such unguarded comment by Kola will only profit those who would have the rest of us buy the juvenile fiction that MKO, who had endured four harrowing years in open grave called solitary confinement, suddenly became overwhelmed by excitement on the very eve of freedom, so much that he suffered cardiac arrest after sipping from a curious cup of tea offered by visiting American diplomats in a presidential lounge in Abuja.
In summary, illogical verbiage like this will only lend credence again to the notion held by some that Kola was perhaps too consumed by the hot pursuit of a love interest in Minna all through the 90s to have a clear understanding of what otherwise transpired right under his nose.