MKO Abiola; The Star Child

The British government was in firm control
of Nigeria in 1900 but this was not
to last for long because a pan-African wind, promoted by the likes of such bold
personalities as W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, was blowing heavily.
Its presence in Nigeria became
obvious when political groups, which evolved with time to present a formidable
opposition to colonial rule, began to spring up. Leaders of such groups, a
large number of which had become disenchanted with foreign rule, saw their new
political agitation not only as the best way to achieve national liberation but
also as a vital means to attain ethnic unity. They had concluded that Nigeria’s
colonialists were striving to disunite Nigerians in order to exploit Nigeria’s
resources.

By 1922, a new
constitution that motivated the cause of these activists came into being. It
enabled Nigerians to hold seats as representatives in the legislative council.
This was when visionary men like Herbert Macauley, who was later
referred to as the father of nationalism, rose into prominence. It was he,
along with others with like minds, that kick-started the long march toward
independence.
It was this
extraordinary atmosphere of change and enlightenment that marked the birth of Moshood
Abiola
. He was born into a humble family in Ogun State, Nigeria. His
mother, Zuliat, sold kola nuts
to support his father, Salawu, who despite having a
flourishing business in crops and a formidable willpower to succeed was finding
it hard to make ends meet. He was a polygamist with children from other wives
apart from Zuliat whose children had always died from malaria after
birth. Salawu, as a result, did not expect any child from her to live
for long.
The Author Jamiu Abiola & The GDA
Zuliat became pregnant
again. But this time she decided to do things differently. She stopped her
business months prior to her anticipated delivery. She had become very weak.
She also wanted to devote all her time to prayers for her unborn child, whom
she believed would be great if it survived. This was why she was able to easily
endure staying at home even though it had become very lonely.
One day a good
friend paid her a visit. After they had exchanged greetings, her visitor stared
admiringly at her swollen belly. “I am
proud of you for being such a fiercely determined woman. It is women like you
who should lead men in war”.
Zuliat knew exactly what she meant. Her
friend, like most other women in the village who were fond of mocking her, was
surprised that she had not given up on having a healthy child. Some women even
called her “asheju” the Yoruba word that describes someone who overdoes
things and never knows where to draw a line. Zuliat smiled at her
friend and remained silent, which was very unlike her.
Her friend
panicked. “Don’t tell me that you’re
developing cold feet! Not now, after coming so close to having a child”.
Zuliat broadened her
smile and finally responded. “I’m not
worried at all. I know I used to be and have admitted that to you several
times. That has changed after I read a verse in the Koran that says, “God does not give anyone more than he or she can
bear” Do you know what that means?” Zuliat

asked with a low voice. “It means that
God gave me this pregnancy because I am up to the task”

“The rising poverty of his family was his biggest
concern. Times had gotten tough for his aging father. He was finding it more
difficult to cope with his responsibilities. This put an enormous burden on his
mother, who was quickly losing her sparkle because she was working too hard. Moshood was still young then but old
enough to know that something had to be done to salvage the situation”

Her confidence
was not exaggerated. She had prayed so much that she was certain that things
would go well this time around. She often joked to her husband that she would not
be surprised if she even prayed in her sleep.
Her friend was
relieved. She rose up energetically and showed her a bag of fruits. “This bag has all the nutrients that your
baby needs at this critical stage. Apples are known to make children wise,
oranges make them strong, and pineapples make them sweet.”
Zuliat burst out
laughing. “Where do you hear all these
things from? Your funny character has always been your trademark. Anyway, I
hope you are right”.
She continued
laughing as she watched her friend take the bag to the kitchen.
The Book Which sets MKO Abiola’ Political Records Straight
By the time she
returned, their conversation shifted to town gossip. Zuliat wanted to know
everything after being isolated for so long. They spent at least three hours
together. It would have been longer if Salawu had not returned home that
day earlier than he usually did. He was already fifty- eight years old but
still had to work hard to provide for his large family. Zuliat received him
warmly then bade her friend farewell. She immediately dashed into the kitchen
and returned with some rice, plantain, and fish, which he ate hurriedly before
going to sleep. She cleaned up after him then prayed for a long time and fell
asleep on her prayer mat.
Moshood Abiola was born a few
weeks later, on the 24th of August 1937.
He seemed healthy at birth but his loud cries fueled his father’s concerns. Salawu
still feared that he would not survive, which was why he added the word Kashimawo, a Yoruba word
that meant, “Let’s wait and see”, to Moshood’s
name. Salawu did wait and saw his son grow to become an active and
clever boy. Moshood hardly ever fell sick. Salawu was soon sending
him on errands and saddling him with responsibilities.
Salawu was already sixty-five years old when Moshood
began school. Moshood was excited about school at first, but became
discouraged because he stammered, which had turned him into a laughingstock in
school. He became reserved and had only a few friends. But one day things got
out of hand. A classmate bumped into him on his way into the classroom and
instead of apologizing to Moshood, he punched him and yelled, “Being poor and a stammerer is obviously not
enough for you. You now want to be blind as well.”
Moshood was furious but
found it easy to control his temper. Out of fear for his survival, his father
had always told him not to fight in school. Moshood ignored the boy
and returned to his desk but on his way, some of his classmates had taken sides
with the other boy and were calling him a stammerer.
He sat down, devastated.
Jamiu Abiola; The Author of the book, ‘The President Who Never Ruled’
His class
teacher had heard the chanting when he entered the class. He threw a furious
look at the students and shouted at them harshly. “Keep quiet now, all of you!” There was a heavy silence. He put his
bag on his desk. He focused his gaze on Moshood then on the others before
declaring mockingly, “I would rather
stammer and come first than talk normally and come last”.
A sly smile
appeared on his face before he added, “This
boy whom you are all making fun of gets the highest grades in all subjects.
Should he not be the one making fun of everybody else?”
He paused briefly
then threw an encouraging and apologetic glance at Moshood. “Come forward my son and tell us your
secret!”
A shy Moshood
walked slowly to the front of the class. He thanked the teacher who shook his
hand then said, stammering of course, “The
secret is to study. But not when you are tired.
Make sure you study only when you are wide, wide
awake”
The entire class
laughed and clapped for him. From that day all his classmates respected him. He
became a role model in school but this came with additional responsibilities.
He had to begin helping other students with their homework. He also had to
participate in almost all school activities, which put enormous pressure on
him. But that was not his biggest problem. .
He felt a need
to drop out of school in order to support his parents. He dreaded the idea but
felt that he did not have a choice. He pondered about what to do for two years
and when he was nine years old, jolted by a further deterioration in his
family’s finances, he decided that it was time for him to work and go to school
at the same time.
(Excerpts from
the book, The President Who Never Ruled by Jamiu Abiola; get copies
in any book shop across the world or write Jamiu Abiola through
jamiulinguist@yahoo.com. Read Story of the Cocoa deal that turned MKO’s Dad to a
Pauper
in
our next post on this blog)

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