“You can kill the dreamer, but you can’t kill the dream”
-Martin Luther King Jnr
She had the eerie premonition of her impending death. But she decided to move out on that fateful day, braving the odds and ultimately paid the supreme sacrifice. For Kudirat Abiola, the heroine of democracy, it was all borne out of her uncommon love, not just for her then incarcerated husband, Chief Moshood Abiola (of blessed memory) but for her fatherland- the country called Nigeria. Specifically, it was for the enthronement of the dictates of democracy in Africa’s most populous nation.
It has been some 23 nebulous years after the tragedy but one can only imagine the heart-rending trauma her seven children went through in those dark days of the Abacha-led military dictatorship. With their famous father in the gulag, losing their mother in that despicable and heartless manner, at the hands of the cruel, callous and conscienceless killers riles beyond tears!
Comforting as the declaration of Kudirat, their mother as a martyr of democracy; with her name inscribed in the Hall of Fame, as well as June 12 now recognized as the Democracy Day in memory of their late father’s frozen electoral victory at the 1993 presidential polls may be, the pain still runs even deeper into the marrows, knowing that justice is yet to served. Worse still, that the mindless murders still breathe the air as free men!
What matter to us as individuals and the country are the moral and political lessons to learn from the unfortunate events. To do so, we have to glean from the memories recounted as described by Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, Founder of the Women Arise for Change initiative. Incidentally, she was with the Alhaja Kudirat Abiola and it was just few minutes of dropping off from the car with Kudirat that she was assassinated. That was on the 4th of June, 1996.
She had this to say at the 23rd Anniversary event recently held at the Abiola compound in Ikeja, Lagos: “Yes, it is already 23 whole years that our Heroine of Democracy and epitome of enduring courage, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola passed on to the great beyond, albeit, abruptly. Just like yesterday, we remember with sad memories the way and manners our champion of democratic struggles was gunned down by some assassins.
“Alhaja Kudirat was courage personified. She stood as a colossus among the army of democracy who stoutly resisted the unjust diktat that culminated in the annulment of June 12 elections. She displayed uncommon courage, virtue and doggedness where many men turned to jellies at the sight of gun or money. She roared like a thunder at many pro-democracy gatherings insisting that the right thing be done in our nation.
She added: “Her death was necessitated by her consistent insistence on due process and strong belief in tenets of democracy in the struggle for the restoration of her husband’s stolen mandate, as the duly elected president of Nigeria in 1993.
“Late Chief MKO Abiola was equally poisoned while in custody of the federal government, owing to his resolve not to renounce his victory at the polls adjudged nationally and internationally as the most credible, free and fair elections in the annals of Nigeria’s democracy till date”. Odumakin also emphasized on the need for the government to do all in its powers to free Leah Sharibu and some Chibok girls still held in captivity.
While speaking on behalf of the family and representing KIND, Ms Hafsat Abiola- Costello, Kudirat’s daughter expressed immense gratitude to all those who have stood with the family over the years. She also used the opportunity to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for declaring June 12 as Democracy Day as well as the decision to honour her late mother, placing her in the Hall of Fame.
Furthermore, she harped on the need of the federal government to replicate the Ethiopian gender balance in government model as Nigeria presently occupies the 180th position of the 190th positions of countries with gender balance in government. “We have realized that countries with gender balance in governance are more stable in development and progress” she noted.
The other issues that reverberated amongst the speakers at the event are the imperatives of fighting the rampaging monsters of insecurity, unemployment and the spin-off effects of mass poverty and criminality that have bedeviled the country over the years. The focus of government should however, be that of declaring total war against poverty as June 12 symbolizes freedom from mass poverty.
These, they all reiterated would have been the focus of late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and by extension, Kudirat if they had been allowed to steer the ship of state of Nigeria’s socio-economic and political waters.
Amongst such patriots who spoke with passion were: Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu- NADECO Chairman, Barr. Femi Aborisade, Executive Director, Grassroot Democratic Initiative, Activist Comrade Rasaq Oladosu; Country Rep, Africa Wide Movement for Children. Others included Comrade Bola Olanrewaju; Deputy President, Campaign for Democracy(CD), Deacon Bayo Obatungashe; Former Auditor CD, Comrade Banji Ajayi. Also on the list of dignitaries were: Ms Ada Agina Ude, Executive Director, Gender and Development Action; Comrade Ayo Adewale, Immediate Past Chairman, Amuwo Odofin LGA and Comrade Akanni Iromini.
The annual event, which was organized by the Women Arise for Change Initiative (WA) and Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) was well attended by Activists, friends and family of the slain Heroine of Democracy. It climaxed with laying of wreath and 23 ‘Gbosas’ for the boisterous and daring spirit of Kudirat.
Speaking on the way forward, Dr Joe made some demands that Kudirat Abiola must be immortalised by naming a national monument in her honour and closure should be brought to the trial of her killers by ensuring that justice is done in the case. “We have consistently used the occasion of her gruesome murder in the last 23 years, to call for justice to be done over her brutal assassination”.
On the part of our policy makers and the powers that be, there are other lessons to learn and apply. Firstly, the Abiolas were pan-Nigeria and nationalistic in their relationships with various segments and social strata of the country. Such a commitment to the national cause, rather than regional, ethnic and parochial sentiments should be the moving mantra and guiding credo of our political leaders.
Also important is use our national resources to fight endemic poverty. Abiola would have done that: As we wish them eternal rest, let us remembers, Hazel Gaynor’s inspiring words that: “To live in the hearts of those we love is never to die.”