Day MKO and Muritala Mohammed exchanged blows

MKO Abiola; The Man who Harassed Lt. Col Mohammed Muritala to get ITT’s money paid after 3 years gbese
Moshood returned to Lagos
ten days after he had signed his employment contract. Only four days remained
before he would resume work on the first of April 1969. One thing he
found strange when he saw his office address on his employment letter was why ITT did
not have an office in one of the better districts in Lagos. Nevertheless he
still expected that the office building itself would make up for the humble
area in which it was located. He told himself that it would not only be a
multi- story building, but it will also be equipped with fanciful gadgets and
all the proper fittings worthy of the premises of the world’s biggest
telecommunications company.
But on the day
he resumed work; he realized that he had been wrong to expect so much.
Management had informed him of its determination to cut down its expenses in Nigeria but it had never crossed Moshood’s
mind that such cost-cutting measures could mean that the company would allow
its Lagos office to wear such a
shabby look. Did management not know that by so doing, it was denying its
Nigeria office of a befitting working environment that would enable people to
take the company seriously?

Muritala Mohammed
At first he
thought he might be in the wrong place. He was confused because he was at the
right address but there were no signs with the company’s name. Even the
security guard was not wearing a proper uniform. Moshood asked him if he
was at ITT and after the security guard confirmed that he was, he
introduced himself and was ushered inside. Once he was in, Moshood made some more
troubling discoveries. The walls needed painting, the floors were cracking, and
the office itself was too small. He wondered how the company was going to pay
his salary. The carpet and furniture were very ordinary and there were only
seventeen employees in the whole company.
Jamiu Abiola tells GDA reason why he needed to wash of his father’s image from political blemishes
Once he had
settled down, he met his boss. The general manager, a Caucasian man, whom Moshood did not like from the moment
he laid eyes on him, wasted no time in displaying his authority. “You will report to me. Then I will report
to them. Do you understand me
Moshood nodded in
approval. He knew that “them”, even though in plural form, referred to their
overall bosses in London. He was not pleased to hear such instructions because
he had received contrary directives from one of the men who had interviewed
him. The man had made it clear to him that a controller in ITT has the power to
report to management directly in order to avoid a deliberate, or accidental,
misrepresentation of facts by any third party.
From then on, Moshood
knew he would not get along with his boss. After a brief meeting with him, Moshood
met with two of the accountants under his supervision. That was when he found
out that, contrary to his earlier belief, ITT had already established a
relationship with the Nigerian army and that the army had refused to pay the
company for a contract it had long executed. This debt, which had lingered for
three and a half years, was a big part of the reason behind ITT’s
woes in Nigeria.

 “You were told from the beginning that things were
not going well in Nigeria, so what
is this bickering about? By now I’m sure you are aware of the fact that the
army owes us three- point-five million pounds for equipment we supplied years
ago.Go and get that money and we will get you a better
office and all the other things lacking at your end”

MKO Abiola & his Father
Moshood made a request
to see the original contract agreement. After reading it thoroughly, he was
happy to see that there was no clause, or inconspicuous term, that permitted
the Nigerian government to delay payment for that long. He decided to visit the
ministry of defense the following day to demand payment. He suddenly realized
that it was almost time for him to close for the day but he had one more
important thing to do.
He placed a call
to his overall boss in the London office. After greetings, Moshood dove into the
matter that was bothering him. “With all
due respect, sir, what we have here in Nigeria is not an office. It is more
like a rundown warehouse. Besides that, we are understaffed”
There was a
long silence. Then suddenly the man shouted, “You were told from the beginning that things were not going well in Nigeria, so what is this bickering
about? By now I’m sure you are aware of the fact that the army owes us three-
point-five million pounds for equipment we supplied years ago.
Go and get that money and we will get you a better
office and all the other things lacking at your end”
Moshood panicked. He could
tell the man was furious. “I am very sorry for my outburst, sir. As a matter of
fact I already have plans to go to the ministry of….”
The man had hung
up. Moshood
went home that day wondering whether he had been fired on his first day at
The Book which washed all stains off Saint MKO Abiola
How MKO got ITT’s Money from Nigeria’s government
The following
day, he was at the office of Mr. Yusuf Gobir, the permanent
secretary of the ministry of defense. It was there that he learned that the
voucher for ITT’s payment had been prepared over three years ago and that a
certain Lt. Col. Murtala Muhammed, the army signals inspector, had
refused to sign it. Moshood proceeded to the colonel’s office where he waited the
whole day without seeing him.
By 3:30 p.m., an
official told him that the army signals inspector had left for the day. Moshood
angrily stormed out. He went back to his office that day and got
permission from his boss to keep returning to the ministry of defense till the
matter was resolved. His boss had a smirk on his face when he granted the
request, which gave Moshood the impression that the man felt he was just trying to
avoid coming to work. Moshood was angry about that and
vowed to double his efforts.
He went to the
ministry of defense repeatedly in vain. His anger increased with each visit
because he was becoming more aware of the fact that the colonel was
deliberately avoiding him.
At long last
they finally met one day. Moshood forced a smile and greeted
the colonel warmly. But the colonel, who knew the purpose of his visit, snubbed
him and walked right past him. The time was 7:29 a.m. Moshood lost his temper.
He moved faster than the colonel and overtook him. He stood in front of the
colonel’s office and blocked him from entering. It was a senseless display of
courage by a civilian in front of a military officer. The colonel screamed at
him. “Who the hell do you think you are?
Have you lost your mind?”
Moshood was scared. But
he shouted back so that the colonel would not know. “I think that you should direct those questions to yourself”
The Author, Jamiu Abiola & The GDA after an Encounter
Their voices
were loud and they drew the attention of Brigadier Usman Katsina, the chief
of staff of the army and a very powerful man who was known for his toughness
and discipline. He came to the colonel’s office and ordered both men to follow
him to his office immediately. Once they had gotten there Brigadier Katsina scolded
for what he had done. Referring to Col. Murtala Muhammed, he asked Moshood, “Do you know who this man is?”
Moshood was
intimidated. But he replied boldly. “With
all due respect sir, does he know who I am?”
Another brawl broke out. It
was in the middle of this that a senior staff member at the ministry, who was
aware of the debt that ITT was owed, called Brigadier Katsina aside
and told him everything. The brigadier was shocked that the ministry could owe
so much for that long. He raised the issue with Col. Murtala Muhammed and even slightly rebuked him. But the
colonel defended himself. “I did that
because the company is making a profit of twenty percent. That is not fair,
 Moshood fired back. “With all due respect, you are not in a position to know how much
profit we make. You don’t even know the cost of transporting this equipment to Nigeria;
talk less of the cost of the equipment itself”
The colonel
shouted. “Is it only ITT that supplies
such equipment? I asked other companies about prices”.
MKO Abiola; The Star Child
Moshood, breathing
heavily, calmed down before responding. “The
truth of the matter is that our competitors would always mention unrealistic
prices to run us down”.
more resolute, he continued. “Aside from that what about the cost of the
interest?; we borrow money from banks to execute contracts, and when we are not
paid for years, we end up with nothing, which is what has happened to us in
this transaction. The brigadier immediately sympathized with ITT.
He prevailed on the colonel to sign the vouchers. The colonel finally agreed to
sign them. That same day the check was released. Moshood returned to the
office with it in his hand. He was very excited and decided to use his
achievement as a bargaining tool. He wanted to negotiate a better deal for
himself with ITT. He knew that he had only worked there for a short
Period of time
and might run the risk of appearing overly ambitious. But since he had been
able to solve a problem that had lasted for years within weeks, there was no
going back. He had earned the right to be overly ambitious. 
(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
[email protected]. Read How MKO became MD of ITT after the Battle of London in our next post
on this blog)


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