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Chief M.K.O Abiola was a very charismatic speaker. His speeches and interviews were always entertaining and informative.
I remember watching an event on LTV in which he spoke and performed for almost an hour. He pointed out someone in the audience and said that the person was his classmate in school. He said that he couldn’t afford a textbook, so he usually borrowed the man’s textbooks for the weekend. He said that he would memorise everything in the textbooks and that he often had higher grades than the man.
He said that he had to form a music band, in order to fund his expenses in school and his band usually performed at events around Abeokuta. He later performed on stage with Sir Shina Peters (the event was televised on LTV c1991).
There was another interview that he granted LTV in which he spoke for almost 30 minutes, explaining why he disbanded Abiola Babes Football Club. He said that the club did not receive the required support from the NFA.
He gave an example of a time when Abiola Babes had to represent Nigeria in either Zaire or Equatorial Guinea (I can’t remember which) in the African Cup Winners Cup and yet the NFA insisted that the club must play its league match the next day.
He described how he travelled to the country with the team. The match was not played in the capital and the host team did not make arrangements for Abiola Babes to travel to the town where the match was played, so he had to hire a bus to take the team to the town. They were attacked by armed robbers on the highway and he had to give the robbers dollars before they left. Then he had to drive the bus because the driver was in shock and couldn’t drive. They had a torrid time in that country and yet when they returned the NFA insisted that they had to play their domestic game or forfeit it. He then wondered why he was putting himself through all that trouble.
Anyway, one of the most entertaining things about Chief Abiola’s speeches and interviews are the proverbs that he often used to spice his statements. Chief Abiola had so many proverbs in his head and he was able to create so many proverbs on the spot that a book of his proverbs was published after his death. Here are some of his proverbs that I can remember (I saved the best for last).
Anyone afraid of death cannot claim his father’s title and once you have claimed your father’s title, you have become the object of envy of all the members of the family, many of who will pray for your early demise to provide a vacancy for them.
He who allows the coconut to be broken on his head, will not live to eat part of it
– MKO to Shonekan
You cannot clap with one hand.
The bigger the head, the bigger the headache.
You cannot shave a head in the absence of its owner and any such attempt is an exercise in futility
You do not have two sun rises in one day
Even if you change the name of honey, it will still be sweet.
It should not take the extreme measure of killing a new born child just because the midwife is a bad woman.
Accept what God has given you and make the best use of it
If you go borrowing, you will go a sorrowing
No one can give you power. It is yours. Take it!
Former South African President, Dr. Nelson Mandela, on Saturday night in Abuja dedicated his Pan African Broadcast Heritage Award (PABHA) to the memory of the acclaimed winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election Chief M.K.O. Abiola, whom he described as a great Nigerian.
Mandela, who was represented by the South African President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki, currently on a visit to Nigeria, described how he first came into contact with the Abiola.
He said President Ibrahim Babangida sent Abiola to mediate and talk to Mandela to reconcile with a sworn enemy of the African National Congress (ANC), who then was working against the interest of the party’s success at the poll.
Mbeki did not name the “sworn enemy” of the ANC, but said the late politician had since become their friend. He said when Abiola arrived, he (Mbeki) tried to get the message from Babangida, but refused, insisting that he must deliver the message to Mandela personally. Mbeki said he then took Abiola to Mandela to personally deliver Babangida’s message.
Mbeki said Abiola later told a story of the black ant to describe how dangerous the “sworn enemy” was to the ANC.
He said though the black ant was small, it could wreak much havoc if it had access to one’s clothing. He quoted Abiola as saying that it was easier to take care of the black ant than to allow it to wreak havoc.
The South African President explained that the message from Abiola made the ANC reconcile with the “sworn enemy”.
I strongly suspect that the “sworn enemy” that Mandela was referring to was Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
Chief Buthelezi is the president of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and a major chief of the Zulu Nation. Nelson Mandela was (at that time) the vice president of the ANC (he later became the president) and a member of the Xhosa Nation.
There was serious violence between supporters of the IFP and supporters of the ANC and between Zulus and Xhosas in the early 1990s (c1990-1993) after the collapse of Apartheid. Lots of people died in the clashes.
Nigeria, which had invested a lot into the anti-Apartheid struggle, was very concerned about these black on black clashes and President Babangida sent Professor Wole Soyinka and later Chief M.K.O Abiola to make peace between both parties.
Chief Buthelezi’s IFP later joined the ANC in a Government of National Unity and Chief Buthelezi was made a minister in Mandela’s government. I strongly suspect that this is one of the reasons that Mandela invited Abiola to his inauguration (Abiola’s presence angered Abacha).