Hafsat Abiola: Chip off the Old Block, Yahaya Bello’s Golden Fish
By Abdulrahman Abdulraheem
“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more , learn more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader”
– Dolly Parton
Success is in itself a very difficult thing to achieve. Success means different things to different people. If success means standing out from the crowd, being exceptional, being unique, going extra mile to break new grounds to achieve extraordinary or unprecedented feats, then success is an extremely difficult thing to achieve. Imagine for a second that the population of the world is over 7 billion and out of this huge number, you want someone to distinguish himself or herself for you to admit he or she is successful. It is onerous task indeed.
Even when success is achieved, it is equally difficult, if not more difficult, to sustain success and remain on top for the rest of a man’s life. What is most difficult is passing success from self to one’s offspring or future generations or making one’s children to follow that footsteps and sustain the legacy built over time. It is difficult because no matter what great men do to put their kids on the line, children grow up to decide their own path which may be at variance with what the father or mother stands for. That is why we have the instances of one of the greatest juries to ever come out of this continent, Late Chukwudifu Oputa, JSC, and his son Charles Oputa (Charlie Boy), an iconoclastic activist and controversial entertainer, and that of former governor of Old Oyo state, Sir Victor Omololu Olunloyo, and his daughter, the self-styled investigative journalist and controversial blogger, Kemi Olunloyo. In most cases, the greatest and most famous people who have walked on this earth left children who are relatively unknown.
The history of mankind is however replete with that of few great men who saw their own wards do just as much as they did if not more. America’s 2nd President was John Adams. His son, John Quincy Adams, was the 6th President. America’s 41st President, George H.W Bush, was defeated in his reelection bid in 1992 by the young Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, but his son, George W. Bush, took over from the same Clinton in 2001 and became the 43rd President. Kenya’s foremost nationalist and first indigenous leader, Jomo Kenyatta, also left the country with his look-alike son, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the President of the country at the moment just like his contemporary, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, also donated Raila Odinga, another look-alike son, who was once Prime Minister and has been an opposition leader in the country for years. Late Alhaji Musa Yar’adua was a First Republic politician and the Minister of Lagos Affairs. His son Shehu, was Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters (Second in Command), in the military era of General Olusegun Obasanjo. Another of his son, Umaru, was Obasanjo’s successor as a civilian president in 2007. Late Afro-beat legend, Fela, put his son, Femi, on the same lane and he has now been nominated for Grammy Awards on a number of occasions. Femi’s son, Made, is also a celebrated Afro-beat crooner making waves across the continent. Before delving into showbiz, Folarin Falana, popularly called Falz (The Bahd Guy) completed law school and is now using the fame he has garnered to join his father, Femi Falana, in human rights activism and good governance advocacy. A lot of more examples abound where greatness has moved from parent to child to the delight of the world.
The Iconic Parents who Gave the World A Rare Gem
” Freedom has never been free… I love my children and I love my wife with all my heart. And I would die, die gladly, if that would make a better life for them.”
– Medgar Evers
Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (Basorun) Abiola was a rare kind of human being. He was born into extreme penury but lived the better part of his adult life in stupendous wealth. When they came, his riches were out-of-this-world and his love for humanity and philanthropic spirit were outrageous. He had money in excess, connections at home and abroad in abundance and above all, he was larger-than-life. He enjoyed life to the fullest, he was bigger than kings and queens. He could pull stunts nations and continents wouldn’t dare. He could afford the most expensive luxuries. Arguably the biggest and richest man on the continent in his time, he could eat breakfast in his house in Ikeja, Lagos, lunch in Moscow and dinner in London.
He was very sound, very knowledgeable about issues around the globe, very deep in philosophy and ancient wisdom. He hardly made a point without wonderful idioms and interesting proverbs. He was a stammerer who didn’t stammer anytime he was singing to entertain people. There was no dull moment with MKO Abiola.
Despite his immense power, influence and affluence, Abiola was extremely humble, extravagantly kind and overly generous. When he looked down at the poor, he did that to lend a helping hand and to support them to great heights. Too many stories have been told about how he gave people he never knew and never needed for anything what they never deserved or expected. He once sponsored some athletes from one African country to the Olympics, on the request of a BBC journalist who drew his attention to the fact that they were very good sportsmen but whose countries were too poor to pick the bills. He was the Pillar of Sports in Africa; the Pillar of everything in Nigeria – from Business and Economy to Politics, to Philanthropy and Democracy.
He was the conscious martyr of our modern democracy who knew he was deliberately putting his own life on the line for future generations of Nigeria. He had a choice to let go of the mandate and abandon the people at the mercy of the murderous bullies in uniform, to preserve his life and enjoy his wealth. But he insisted on his mandate and dared the Vagabonds in Power (Apologies to Fela). They bared their fangs and he paid the price!
His wife, Kudirat Abiola, was the epitome of elegance, poise, brain, passion, patriotism and rock-solid courage. A polyglot who spoke English, Yoruba, Hausa and many other languages fluently. She stood by him in hard times like the rock of Gibraltar. She used her eloquence to demand his release from unjust detention. As far as she was concerned, what her husband deserved was inauguration as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having won the most well-conducted election in the history of the country, and not incarceration.
Despite threats to her life, she kept on pushing. She kept the home front intact and still had enough energy to fight the legitimate battle for his release. She eventually took the bullet that ended her life but which did not end the struggle for the enthronement of democracy in the country.
How Yahaya Bello Struck Gold
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness while some have greatness thrust upon them”
– Williams Shakespeare
In the case of Hafsat Abiola-Costello, she was not only born great, she has achieved greatness for herself and more greatness for the family. If dead people could look back and see what they left behind, her parents would be immensely proud of what she has done to keep their legacy alive. With her Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND) which she launched in 1997, and other initiatives, she has been in the forefront of the promotion of the democratic ideals that her parents stood for, the advancement of human rights and enhancement of women’s participation in governance.
The crowning glory of her advocacy was in 2018 when President Muhammadu Buhari agreed to honour her heroic father and compensate the family for the historic injustice done to them. On that occasion at the Banquet Hall of the State House, Abuja, Hafsat made a moving speech that reverberated around the world.
Perhaps, a bigger crowning glory for Hafsat would be being able to escort a man she has said shares certain similarities with her father, to the Villa as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. People still wonder how the hardworking governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello, was able to convince Hafsat, an internationally-acclaimed activist, to leave everything she is doing to come and head his Presidential Campaign Organisation. It must be that either (1) Bello truly shares same traits with MKO Abiola especially the belief in the unity of Nigeria and fascination for excellent women, and the Law of Attraction did its magic and the two connected or (2) Bello’s ability to make such a credible person head of other credible men and women in his team is a demonstration of his presidential credentials or (3) Hafsat’s genuine passion to see a better, more progressive nation; a deep desire to lead a major paradigm shift in the nations governance system and choice of leaders made her jump on the offer at the first time of asking or (4) All of the above.
And this sincere passion was written all over her when she addressed a group of senior journalists in Abuja in a closed-door session on the aspiration of Governor Bello recently. She cut the image of an extremely selfless person, someone who wouldn’t do anything for pecuniary reasons or in the pursuit of a narrow, primordial interests.
By her body language alone, she proved that she truly believed in the Bello Presidency Project and with the passion, thoroughness and attention to details with which she coordinated the office, it was as if her life depended on the success of the project . No one should be surprised, total and uncompromising dedication towards anything she believes in is in her DNA!
She reminded us that if Nigerians were looking for a young, vibrant and healthy president who will dedicate 24 hours of the day to work for the nation, that president is Yahaya Bello.
Knowing full well that her principal will be running for the highest office in the land on his record of performance as Kogi state governor, Hafsat took up issues in the state. She reminded her audience that both Kogi state and its neighbouring states were suffering similar security issues like kidnapping and armed robbery few years ago until Bello took the bull by the horns and pulled the state out of the woods.
She argued that it was not a co-incidence that Kogi state had in few years transformed from the hot spot of crimes to the safest state in the country under the watch of Governor Bello. She said it was due to the conscious efforts made by the governor… proactive measures using traditional rulers and local vigilant groups and always being on ground to lead from the front. Hafsat believes that the kind of energy Bello brings into governance is the type Nigeria needs at the highest level… And since insecurity is the biggest problem in the country today, Hafsat believes Governor Bello is the best man for the job.
According to Hafsat, the economy is booming in Kogi state because Governor Bello had provided the enabling environment to take everyone back to the farm and he has keyed into the Presdent’s dream for the country to produce what we eat and eat what we produce. Again, with regular payment of salaries, pensions and contract monies, the economy has been reflated for businesses to thrive.
She equally noted that another problem the country faces today is disunity, ethno-religious tension and mutual suspicion, adding that the best man who has the experience, the kind heart and open mind to fix it is Governor Bello, having solved a similar knotty issue in Kogi state.
When it comes to youth and women empowerment, no governor comes near Bello in this country and the journalists that attended that session didn’t need Hafsat to remind them of this conspicuous fact. What women all over the world are asking for is 35 percent affirmative action, what Bello is doing in the state is more than that in terms of quantity and quality of positions being held by women. In Kogi state, the ADC to the governor is a woman, the Secretary to the State Government is a woman while the Head of Service is also a woman. In fact, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) reserved majority of the councillorship and a lot of the chairmanship positions at the local government levels for women, on the basis of Bello’s recommendation. Even the campaign team is headed by Hafsat with a lot of brilliant and efficient women occupying other key positions. While addressing her principal’s obsession with resourceful women, Hafsat was so proud being associated with a man like Governor Bello. According to her, with Bello as president, Nigeria would be proud to see the Federal Executive Council that will be filled with the best of women and young people who are committed to genuinely moving the country forward.
Hafsat’s post-session informal interactions with the editors further exposed her humble, down-to-earth nature and mastery of issues as well as sound memory.
Indeed, a chip off the old block!