OUR FAMILY DIDN'T WANT ABIOLA TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT — SON
For Olalekan Yisau Abiola, fourth son of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 presidential election, it's regrettable that his father ran for the highest office in the land at that point in time.
In an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun , at the expansive Abiola's residence in Ikeja, Lagos, during the week, the 35-year-old scion of the Abiola dynasty, first son of the late Kudirat Abiola, disclosed that the greatest fear of the Abiola family when its patriarch wanted to run for the presidency was that of losing everything the business mogul had worked for.
He regretted that the ideals of free and fair election that Abiola had struggled and died for, which are anchored on June 12, have not been realized almost two decades after.
He said: 'We didn't want my father to run for presidency because we had nothing to gain from it. A man that had this kind of mighty house, who had money, who had everything; what else did he want? We had nothing to gain really, but had a lot to lose. At the end of the day we gained nothing; we only lost everything. What we lost is unquantifiable. Now, I can't get back my parents. The money that was spent running for the primaries and the election is gone. The money spent struggling against IBB and his interim government is also gone. This was the greatest fear when my father said he wanted to run for the presidency. We feared we were going to lose everything and gained nothing and that has come to pass.'
Even as Nigerians marked the June 12 anniversary yesterday, Lekan took a swipe at the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for its do-or-die attitude to election, saying that with the kind of rigging that is pervasive in the country, the only difference between the PDP and military is that one takes over power using the gun while the other uses gun to snatch away ballot boxes.
Hear him: 'June 12 is like a struggle against dictatorship. With the kind of rigging that PDP has been doing over and over again, the party has become like the military. The military uses gun to take over power, while the PDP is also using gun to snatch ballot boxes. The ideals of June 12, which make people say, 'we, the people' are yet to be realized. And for Nigerians to have free and fair election we should remember what June 12 stands for.'
Lekan speaks on other sundry issues, including former military President Ibrahim Babangida, the DNA test prescribed by Abiola for all his children and how his other brothers have excluded him in the running of their father's numerous businesses.
My name is Olalekan Yisau Abiola. I am the fourth son of Alhaji Moshood and Alhaja Kudirat Abiola. I am a businessman. Yes, my beard is heavy and it could be heavier. I started growing the beard since I was 21 in America. I go to mosque a lot and read the Quran a lot. But I decided to make the beard longer after the June 12 annulment because of the problem the family went through. The trouble got me closer to God. I studied the Quran and the Haddith of the Holy Prophet Mohammed, and the Haddith says 'clip your moustache and let your beard grow.'
I did exactly that. I clipped my moustache and grew my beard. I have been to Mecca about four times. I did the Hadji once and Umra (lesser Hadji) about three or four times.
I play table tennis to keep in shape. I am in my mid-30s now and I can't afford to just sit down and be looking. I will amass fat and won't be in good health; so I have to play table tennis and basketball to keep in shape. I do that at least one hour a day.
Running the family business
I am a businessman. I import building materials, like tiles, window blinds, etc. My brother runs the NNPC station in Ikoyi and I also help him in doing that. We do different kinds of businesses. Sometimes, we import petroleum products and sell not only in Nigeria but also supply some African countries close by. As for the family business, you know I am Abiola's fourth son; I have three other brothers who are running the business on behalf of my dad. Since my father went into politics and was arrested, detained and later died, my elder brothers have been basically in charge of my father's business.
I have spoken to them a couple of times that I also want to get involved in running some of these companies but they didn't make it easier for me or other children to come on board and help them run those companies, or at least help them rebuild. And I don't want this to be an issue. I don't want anything that will cause problem between me and my brothers. If they want me to help them, Insha Allah I am more than ready to do it, but I am not going to force myself to do it if they don't want me to do it. If they say they can do it all alone, they should continue, but the problem is that at the end of the day when people see that the companies are not doing well, they will say Abiola's children could not manage what their father left.
The fact of the matter is that of all Abiola's children, only three are involved in the running of those companies. So, if those companies do well, the three of them should get the credit and if the companies do not do well, the three of them should get the blame.
Most people don't really see it like that because they don't know what's happening. But what's happening is that the three of them; brother Kola, brother Deji and brother Agbo are all the ones running all our father's companies. So, if the companies are doing excellently, they should get all the credit and if the companies are not doing well at all, they are the ones who should be asked about what is happening. They are not giving us any report. I am not even arguing or angry with them because blood is thicker than water. I am not going to get angry because I am a Muslim.
But they should be giving us report or even dividend. They should be giving us annual report that companies normally do, but they are not doing any of this. As I said, blood is thicker than water. I am not going to start arguing with my brothers or get any malice against my brothers over issues like that. If they do it well, Allah amdu lilahi. If they invite me tomorrow morning and say 'Lekan, let's come and work on this together,' I am ready to do it. I don't want anything that will cause friction between us; that's why we left them to do what they are doing. But definitely nobody is happy with the state of things.
The Nigerian economy is not doing well generally. Secondly, there are some debts my father was owed by the Federal Government, which was meant to have been paid by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but which he did not pay. I don't know whether President Umar Yar'Adua has paid, but I doubt this. As a matter of fact, a lot of businesses usually thrive when there is governmental support or patronage, which we are not getting. May be my brothers are getting it; I don't know, but I don't think we are. So, basically, it's not easy for them to rebuild these companies. God knows best. I don't want to say that they are not trying their best, but what we are saying is that we are not really involved. And we've told them that we want to be involved but they don't want us to be involved.
Abiola's political legacy
My father never held any political office. He was never a governor, minister or what have you. He only ran for the presidency once, which he won but which was cancelled. We don't really have a political legacy, as a family per se, to make the children want to continue in politics. The family was involved in politics via NPN, SPD but not as elected officers. So, I don't consider politics as part of my family's legacy. My father entered politics at a point in time and ran for the presidency, won the election and it was cancelled. There was a struggle about it and this led to democracy in Nigeria.
If my father left any legacy behind it was a legacy of religion, which is Islam, a legacy of charity, a legacy of being good to people, a legacy of building bridges across different tribes all over the country, even all over Africa and the world. Apart from that, my father's first daughter, Lola, was in the House for eight years. She has been involved in politics. And who knows the future? May be tomorrow, any of us children can decide to run for political office. To me, politics is not a career choice. One of the problems we are having today is that people have made politics a career. Politics should be a service, but a lot of people go into politics to make money. I would not go into politics because I want to make money. Also, I wouldn't encourage any of my siblings to go into politics just to make money.
Why I supported General Buhari
Personally, I am involved in politics because during the last election I supported General Buhari, who I thought would be a wonderful president, someone who would provide a strong and reasonable leadership. I supported him. I went to different places on the campaign train with him. We invited him here (Abiola's house) and did a rally for him.
I was involved in politics at that point. If the next election comes along and General Buhari still wants to run for presidency, I am prepared to support him or anyone who can give Nigeria the kind of leadership we need. But right now, I don't want to go into politics so that I can become a governor or any thing. I don't want to do that kind of thing. But If I meet any one who I think might be a good person for my state or for the country, I could help him campaign or raise fund. I am 35 right now, may be in 15 years time when I am about 50 or even 55 years old and I feel I want to do something for my country I can decide to run for an office. My father was 56 when he ran for the presidency. Politics is not something I can do now. I want to see my children grow. I want to see my family grow. I want to see my businesses grow, but may be later in life I might decide to run if I feel I have something to contribute.
IBB is not truthful
I support General Buhari because I think the country really needs a change. PDP has been in power in the last eight years and there is nothing much to show for it. I wouldn't support IBB for presidency because he is not truthful. Prophet Mohammed says Allah hates a leader who lies. If you don't want to go, you don't want to go; that's all. It was bad to make people spend all the money and get the whole country to vote and end up cancelling an election. IBB got my father to run round the country campaigning and at the end of the day he cancelled the election. It shows that IBB is not to be trusted. We don't need someone like that to lead Nigeria right now. We need someone we can trust; we need someone who really care about the people, someone who will say something and do it. I don't think IBB is that kind of person.
I am not really involved in KIND. My own focus is Islam, my family and my business. That's really my focus. I want to be able to pay my bills and train my children. But if my sister approaches me for any assistance, I will definitely oblige her because I support the idea. Getting women involved in who rules them and how they are governed is a good idea. My sister is very capable to run the NGO. I don't think she would really need me to help her that much.
The name, Abiola, is a blessing not a burden
The name, Abiola, is a blessing for somebody in this family. This is my father's house. This is where I grew up. How can anyone who grew up in this house consider the Abiola name a burden? My children come here all the time because this is their grandfather's house. Before you came, I just finished praying in my father's mosque. I grew up in this environment and it's been wonderful. My father was a nice man; my mother was a wonderful woman and they trained me. So, to me it's a wonderful family and I thank Allah for choosing this family for me. The Abiola family has a good religion, good financial resources and a good name. Anywhere I go today immediately they hear the name, Lekan Abiola, they'll ask, 'Oh, is your father Moshood Abiola?' So, what else do I need again? I thank God.
Orphaned at youth
My mum died in 1996 when I was about 22 years old and my dad died in 1998 when I was 24 or 25. My parents died young but then some people lose their parents at a young age. By the time my parents died I had already finished at the university; so, I should be able to swim on my own. If you send your children to primary school, secondary school and university, what else can you do for them? Apart from that, my parents also left me a lot of assets that I can always convert to cash. I can always fund my activities. Not that my parents left me with nothing. They educated me and left funds for me. They gave me a good example of how I also should raise my children. My parents left me when I could survive basically.
Islam frowns on celebrating the dead
On how best to remember my parents, as a Muslim I don't want to do anything that there is no evidence for. If you're going to be a Muslim, you must be one based on evidence. There is no evidence in Islam that when someone dies, you start marking the death. As a matter of fact, we don't do any death celebration in this house. My mum's death anniversary was on June 3, which was a couple of days ago, and we did not do anything to mark it. In Islam, it's not supposed to be done, when somebody is dead, the person is dead.
June 12 anniversary
For June 12, I think it's important for Nigerians to have a say about who governs them. People should be able to vote for who they want to rule over them. June 12 is like a struggle against dictatorship. With the kind of rigging that PDP has been doing over and over again, the party has become like the military. The military uses gun to take over power, while the PDP is also using gun to snatch ballot boxes. The ideals of June 12, which make people say 'we, the people' are yet to be realized. And for Nigerians to have free and fair election we should remember what June 12 stands for. I don't care which day is made a Democracy Day. The main thing is to ensure that when people vote, the votes count. Ghana did a free and fair election but they don't have a Democracy Day. Here we declare Democracy Day, but when elections come they rig and start shouting Democracy Day all over the place. Who are we fooling?
Abiola's children didn't want him to run for presidency
We didn't want my father to run for presidency because we had nothing to gain in it. A man that had this kind of mighty house, who had money, who had everything; what else did he want? We had nothing to gain really but had a lot to lose. At the end of the day we gained nothing, we only lost everything. What we lost is unquantifiable. Now, I can't get back my parents. The money that was spent running for the primaries and the election is gone. The money spent struggling against IBB and his interim government is also gone. This was the greatest fear when my father said he wanted to run for the presidency. We feared we were going to lose everything and gained nothing and that has come to pass. But as a Muslim, when something happens you have to accept that it has been destined; it is the decree of God. So, we accept whatever God has decreed.
On DNA test to determine Abiola's real children
My father was a very kind man. A lot of these women came to him on their own volition, claiming that they don't have anything or their husbands have abandoned them. So, my father was looking after a lot of women. It was a charitable thing but they always claim they're pregnant for him. So, my father put a proviso in his will that says all the children must be made to go through the DNA test, and whoever is not his child will fail the test while the authentic children will pass it. Out of the 117 children who claimed that my father was their dad, only 50 something were proved to be for him. And Insha Allah, once the issue of the estate is settled, those 50 something that passed will get whatever that should be got and that's it. And for those that failed, I am sorry.
To make it very fair my father said everybody should do the DNA test. I am happy that my own mother's seven children all passed the test, and also all the children in this house passed it. The children that have problem with the DNA are those from the concubines. You can only have four wives and any woman you have after that cannot be called a wife but a concubine.
Actually, I don't know how much my father is worth. All I know is that he's worth a lot. But how much, I can't really say.
Lessons my parents taught me
My father taught me to make sure that whatever I do is good. Everyday just do good to your fellowman. Even if you cannot give a man a million naira just make sure you put a smile on his face. That's the main thing I took from him. My mum was very religious and I took that from her. She would make sure when it is time to pray, you pray. When it's time to fast, you fast. She would make sure you learn the Quran.
Four wives good for me
I can't marry many wives, like my father. But I may marry four wives and not more than four wives.