AWO, MKO ABIOLA, And June 12


By Kola Johnson

Thirty years or thereabouts had elapsed in time–space, when at that momentous gathering of top party brass of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the billionaire business mogul, celebrated as a foremost financial pillar of the party, and indeed, of a heavyweight quantity from every available indices, was embarrassing pitched at the receiving circuit of a shocker.

Devastatingly hitting was the resultant jitters of this shocking treat and ruthlessly dismissive in its morally affronting narcissism, its imperial ethnic tenor, chauvinistic grandstanding and uncouth garrulity – at that fateful moment of grim unfolding, when it was unabashedly bandied point blank at him, that “presidency was not for sale”, courtesy of Umaru Dikko, of the aborted man-in-the-crate-deportation fame.

And as it turned out, this then I.T.T Vice – Chairman in Africa and the Middle-East, would have no need of any prolonged ritual of inner cogitation before recoiling – and with the utmost despatch too – to the inner portals of his primordial private engagement in avowed repudiation of the sardonic universe of murky political horse – trading.

Given the brutal reality of this shatteringly traumatizing rebuff, one could rightly conjecture without any shred of equivocation, that this singular experience could not but inspire a sudden dawn of awareness pertaining as it were, to the progressive libertarian import, and the larger egalitarian canvass defining the visionary political struggle of the great Awo.

To be sure, the popular sentiment often expressed, whether rightly or wrongly especially in the geo-political segment of the south-west, that this development, spelt an entirely diametrical departure from the contrasting antecedent, in which the Hausa – Fulani feudal lords, adopting the west as the epicenter of its divide and rule machination, soon found in M.K.O, along with the Akinjides and the Akinloyes, and their likes, a consort of invaluable utility, in the bid to obliterate the awesomeness of the Awo quantity, from his western political stronghold, forges in aptly exact symmetry with the first republic precedent, starring Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola, the then premier of the old Western Region, in similar collaborative cohabitation with the reactionary feudal Hausa – Fulani Oligarch.

Along the line however, one thing was soon to lead to the other, and from the dissonant abeyance earlier sworn against his cherished political game–sport came a sudden turn around, occasioning along the line, the subsequent June 12 election, in which the generality of the Nigerian masses, converged in unanimously consensual assent and unreserved acquiescence, in support of one man, as expressed in the estimated quantum vote of landmark proportion, registered to advance his much coveted presidency.

But those who might be lacking in the cognitive grasp of the nuances and intricacies of the dialectical forces, and its workings, are wont to appraise of this landmark occurrence; as an isolated incident, riding per chance on the wing of opportunism and sheer happenstance – while yet, other caste of thought are wont on their own, to attribute the victory exclusively from their ideative fancy – as emblematic of the popular clout and political sagacity of the winner, in the person of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.

From this premise, one could therefore infer that the June 12 election victory was anything but an emanation of sheer whimsical happenstance. And for the Abiola factor, while it yields no ground for easy discountenance and indeed warrant no cause for debate, considering the tenacity, will power, self-confidence, force of conviction, which to no mean measure contributed to the epic, but stalemated victory of democracy, one hastens to emphasize the need to recognize an extraneous motivating factor of a more fundamental import.

It is indeed for this reason that this populist stirring of landmark magnitude in the Nigerian electoral anal craves and passionately too, for a clarificatory apt construction of what it is.

Hence the intellectual debt, such as impels with every force of emphasis as could be mustered, to locate it in the contextual ideative portraiture of an alley already hewn, mown, tendered and prepared by the immortal Awo, by dint of his redoubtable populist zealotry, his dynamic mobilization propensity, the persuasive stirring of immense appeal, latent in his sustained and visionary devotion to the pragmatic proselytization of the potent power, inherent in a concerted populist will.

To be sure, at the zenith of his political activism, Awo mounted such a hectic and vigorous campaign itinerary which galvanised him in phenomenally breath-taking pace and frequency, as he combed virtually every nook and cranny of the nation.

Indeed at a epoch, when the mere thought of mounting a campaign of the north by “alien kaferis” as they were derogatorily wont to refer to Westerners or Easterners then was in itself, considered an abomination of the most grievous order, let alone committing the act itself. When suicide would have been considered a better option than invading the then virulently hostile northern hemisphere on political campaign spree—Awo dared the lion in its imperial den of exclusive authority spreading the gospel in social political evangelism to the caliphatic bastion of feudal hegemonism.

So gruelling was the ensuing fistic bout on this canvass of fierce political contestation, as Ahmadu Bello, terrified and jolted out of his cocoon, sprang pronto, into a hysteric frenzy of instant action, for the consolidation of what was then regarded by him as the sacred feudo-theocratic, inheritance, bequeathed by his illustrious ancestor, personified in the most revered Shehu Usman Dan Fodio.

This heroic advance on the canvass of political pugilism, was particularly remarkable, in a terrain, which hitherto, he had earlier presided over, with imperial authoritative assuredness, not only as the unchallenged but unchallengeable lord of manor.

It was an occasion in which Awo, the political pugilist of lionic courage and daring, stretched Ahmadu Bello, to the elastic limit of campaign activities, gripped as he was, with intense paranoia, that the Feudo-theocratic inheritance bequeathed by his fore-fathers was on the verge of apocalyptic dislocation from stranglehold or dynastic continuity spanning considerably over a century courtesy of the frenetic pace of Awo’s evangelical conscientization and the egalitarian messianism of his fierce campaign sweep. An experience which made him swear at a guest house where he retired to after a campaign session, that ‘Awo must surely pay for this’. That was way back in 1959.

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Thus was the stage set for an epoch, the unfolding of which was to invoke a horrendous hurricanic eruption that almost sentenced the corporate existence of Nigerian nationhood, to the bottomless pit of irredeemable balkanization.

Readily coming to mind, as mentioned before, was the Coker Commission of Inquiry, the treasonable felony trial, the electoral fraud of colossal proportion, perpetrated by the Akintola regime, with active support of the feudal northern cabal; the resulting political chaos of the wild, wild west fame; the January 15, 1966 military coup and its retaliatory backlash in the July 29 coup, leading to the abortive ouster of the first republic.

Twenty years later, 1979 to be specific, Awo was to repeat similar feat, if not in a spectacularly grandiose scale, beyond his soap box exploit of 1959. So dazzling, dashing and dizzying, was the frenetic campaign spree conterminously preceding the 1979 election, that the great sage openly boasted that no Nigerian either dead or living could claim to know the nation as he did.

It is for this reason, that the June 12 election victory could be seen in logical consequence as the scientific culmination of the interplay of socio-political forces propelled by the battering ram of the dynamics of history, ever building in decisively aggressive charge and onslaught, towards a dialectically determined channel for expression of the hitherto repressed will of the generality.

It is the sum total of reaction and indeed, the cumulative gathering storm of determined reaction against the totalitarian fascist repression of the general will, whose expression dating back especially since the immediate pre-independence era, had hitherto been subjected to vicious checkmating by the bastion of feudal anachronism.

Emphatically worthy note, is the force and the intensity of its expression, which as if in accordance with the scientific Newton’s law, was more or less equal and opposite, to the totality of previous fascistic attempts at its denial.

It was a cathartic emanation of bottled –up repression which indulging reduced to simple term of personification for analytical convenience in the libertarian and equalitarian messianism of his struggle, in the incarnationary transformative dynamics expressed in contemporary term in vehicular agent of dispersal, embodied in the Abiola persona.

It therefore becomes apposite to reiterate, just as therefore expressed, if only for proper clarity, that the annulment of this election victory was anything, but an opportunistic weaving of whimsical happenstance.

If anything, it was a lingering ethnocentric malaise, in the abysmal tomfoolery and chicanery of massively monumental proportion admissible in no controvertible allusion, to the derisively laughable phantom showing of the 1959 federal election, the 1964 election in the old Western Region; the 1979 and 1983 ‘Moonslide’ and ‘Sunslide’ respectively, apology to Adisa Akinloye of the ‘landslide’ fame. It is hoped that historical chroniclers will in time to come, put in more proper perspective, Awo’s pivotal role as the pervasive motivating force; the dominant causative element the basic catalytic factor and effective prime mover motivating the dynamics of social and political forces.

Indeed is it hoped, that they will portray in sufficiently bold relief, his role as the primordial motivating stimulus and agent provocateur of the concatenation of forces, converging towards the dialectical culmination of the revolutionary metamorphosis unfolded in the June 12 victory, in befitting corroboration of the evil genius, (IBB of course) who in salutarily deserving terms, venerated him as the main issue in Nigerian politics.

This is very important, because the forces throwing up the hurricanic June 12 sweep, remain not only actively extant, but grievously unappeased, as the Augean stable expressed in the multifarious internal contradictions hovering the national space with apocalyptic doomsday fore-boding, as epitomized in the Boko Haram syndrome – and the deeper religious, ethnic and class factors underlying their ‘holy jihad’ craves for a decisively pragmatic resolution.

It is against this background that the much vaunted realignment of progressive forces merits yet, a repeated emphasis as the only recipe that offers readily on any meaningful enduring note, in the drive to sort out the rudderless ship of the state, from the gulag of its primordial labyrinthine entrapment. It is also for this reason that the on-going ACN-CPC alliance talk deserves every encouragement, it could garner, to see it to the salutary dawn of successful accomplishment.

The salient import of the fore-going is that in consummating the June 12 miracle, Abiola was actually standing on the shoulders of Obafemi Awolowo, the prime mover and the sacrificial genius of the struggle, in the manner in which the Obama presidential miracle was wrought on the shoulders of black power symbols like the Rosa Parks, the Stokely Carmichaels, the Malcom Xs, the Elijah Mohammeds, the Jesse Jacksons. And that just as the June 12 spirit did not die with Awo, it certainly cannot die with Abiola.

Adieu, the immortal Awo. Adieu our beloved MKO Abiola. May your great souls rest in perfect peace.

•Johnson is a writer and journalist.

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