Story of the Cocoa Deal that turned MKO’s Dad to a Pauper

MKO Abiola boy

It was 4 a.m. Salawu
had woken up as usual to prepare to go to work. He wore a light blue
traditional adire with
a white cap. His destination was Ayetoro, where he went to bag and
dry cocoa before transporting it to
Lagos. As he stepped out of his room, he was startled to see that Moshood,
who was already wearing his school uniform, was waiting for him. Moshood
looked like he had taken a bath.
“Why have you woken up and gotten dressed so early?” Salawu
asked Moshood as he scrutinized him in bewilderment. He could see
that Moshood
was nervous but was surprised that when he replied, he did not sound
“Good morning sir! I am going to give you a helping
hand in Ayetoro, just the other day
I remember that you once told me that two hunters in a forest are a thousand
times better than one hunter by himself in the same forest”.
Salawu did not take
his comment lightly, all the more so because he did not recollect sharing that
parable with Moshood.

“Well, first of all I am not a hunter. Secondly,
Ayetoro is not a forest and when I am there, I am not alone. Go back to sleep
immediately. You have to be fully awake in school”
To his utmost
surprise, Moshood had an expressionless look on his face. It was as if
his father’s word had gone into one ear and out the other. He moved closer to
his father and grabbed his basket of fruit and his breakfast kit at work-and
headed toward the exit. Salawu, who at first felt that he
was merely helping him to carry it to the door, was stunned to see that Moshood
was still following him beyond the door. He dragged him back inside, and became
more aggressive. “What is your problem
this morning? You think that because I am sixty-seven
old, I can’t go to work without the help of a nine-year-old? This is an insult and I will never accept it”.

MKO & his Father

Moshood was silent. This time his face had an
expression- a very sad and bitter one. Tears soon flowed freely from his eyes.
His father was dumbfounded. After all, his son should have known that this
would be his reaction. But his heart somehow softened after he took his bag
from Moshood
and turned away. What harm would it do if Moshood were to come with him to
work just once or twice? Maybe the boy would even learn something that would be
useful to him in school and life. He turned back and noticed that Moshood,
still in the same spot, had maintained his sorrowful gaze. Reluctantly, Salawu
nodded. “Okay, you can come along. But
first go and tell your mother that we are leaving together. She is awake on her
prayer mat”.
Moshood was thrilled.
He dashed to his mother and returned within twenty seconds. His father was
amused and asked him teasingly, “Did you
rush because you thought that I was going to leave you behind?”
smiled then nodded timidly.
They headed
toward the exit, but on their way out, Salawu spoke authoritatively. “Now listen carefully, my son. I will never
allow you to drop out of school even if you find a job that makes you richer than
the richest king in Nigeria. Am I understood?” Moshood
nodded. Salawu was not yet done.

Jamiu Abiola with the GDA

Sounding more like
a strict school principal, he proceeded. “I
will allow you to come with me only once in a while and if I notice that your
work has caused a drop in your school grades, you will never be allowed to
follow me to work again.” 

“You are an old man. I respected that and quickly
attended to you. But I also respect the law and have to quickly attend to it”…
“These goods are full of defects. They have failed our eligibility test. They
pose a threat to the general public. They have to be destroyed” 

His voice was
laden with emotion. A part of him was pained because he knew that Moshood
wanted to come because of their bad financial situation. He felt like he had
let his family down.
There was
silence throughout most of the journey but just before they reached their
destination, Salawu announced a set of rules. “You have to carry additional clothes, working clothes, whenever you
come with me on a day you would be going to school. Bagging and drying cocoa is
tedious work that will soil your clothes”
Moshood looked excited.
assumed that he did not have a clue about the heavy task ahead of him. That was
when he told Moshood that his continuous hardship in old age was much more
bearable than the thought of Moshood dropping out of school. He
stated that morning that his dream for Moshood was for him to get a good
education that would help him find work in a big company somewhere in a major
city like Lagos or Ibadan. He now had a big smile on his
face. He hoped to live long enough to see his dream for his son come true.

Dignatories @ the Launching of ‘The President who Never Ruled’

By the time they
got to Ayetoro, Moshood swung into action. It was as
if he had worked there before. He took off his shirt, since he was going to
wear it to school, and worked along with the other laborers. He instantly felt
like one of them, and if they were surprised to see such a young boy in their
midst, they did not show it because they kept working as if they had known he
was coming.
Moshood enjoyed his
first day at work. He was lucky that he finished by 7am. His only regret was
that he still got to school late. That was the first time that that had
happened. Days passed and Moshood continued to go to work with
his father, who had become pleased that he had not only maintained his good
grades, but had improved on them. There were also financial gains to the
family. Salawu was saving money because Moshood was working hard
for free.
How MKO’s Dad lost fortunes on November 11, 1946
Things were
indeed getting better. But in less than three months, a tragedy struck and
their condition became even worse than before. On the 11th of November, 1946,
after Salawu had gathered a large quantity of cocoa, partly owned by
him and mostly belonging to some other farmers, he hired a tenton lorry and
transported the goods to Lagos. This was not the first time that farmers had
entrusted him with their products. He was known to be an honest man. He took Moshood,
who was on vacation from school, along on a journey that lasted three hours
instead of two. The lorry moved slowly.

Abdul-Jamiu Abiodun Abiola, Author, ‘The President Who Never Ruled’

They finally
reached the product inspection unit in Lagos. The large number of traders, who
had come before them, caused them to wait for a long time. But all of a sudden
their wait came to an abrupt end. The product inspector a bald cunning looking
man looked sympathetically at Salawu and decided to attend to him.
“You are an old man. How can I be of help
to you?”
Salawu grinned. Other
traders frowned because they had been there before him. Moshood answered on
behalf of his father. “We came all the
way from Abeokuta with a big lorry”
Everyone, apart
from the inspector, burst out laughing. Salawu was laughing too but stopped
when he saw wickedness in the inspector’s eyes. As a sign of respect, he stood
up to say something but the inspector did not give him a chance to utter a
word. “You brought a lorry for me to
inspect? We inspect produce and commodities, not Lorries, and that is why we
are called the product inspection unit”
There was
another round of laughter. This time Salawu did not laugh. Sounding
apologetic, he said. “I am sorry about
the misunderstanding, sir. My son meant we came for the inspection of our
product, ten tons of cocoa, in a lorry from Abeokuta. Please don’t be
offended!” Salawu
frowned at Moshood,
“Don’t say one more word!” The
inspector shrugged his shoulders. He no longer seemed angry. A calm and
calculating look suddenly appeared on his face as he forced a smile, revealing
yellow teeth. “In that case, let’s take a
look at what you have”
His voice was passive.
He stood up and
led Salawu
and Moshood
to the parking lot for vehicles with products. There was something maliciously
authoritative about his stride. It made Salawu feel like a convict on his
way to prison. Once they were close to the lorry, the official summoned other
officers with an aggressive wave of his hands. He later shouted at them to join
him for the inspection. He instructed Salawu to stay at a distance far
away from him.
The inspection
began. It lasted for twenty minutes after which the inspectors convened at a
comer. Suddenly the inspector walked swiftly toward Salawu. He looked at him
straight in the eyes as if he was a judge who was about to deliver a judgment. “You are an old man. I respected that and
quickly attended to you. But I also respect the law and have to quickly attend
to it”
He paused then increased the speed of his words. “These goods are full of defects. They have
failed our eligibility test. They pose a threat to the general public. They
have to be destroyed”
He had said four
sentences that were capable of turning Salawu’s life upside down. Salawu
panicked. Most of the goods were not his. “What
do you mean sir? This is not the first time I am coming here with this type of
cocoa. Please ask your senior colleagues about me. My full name is Salawu
Adenekan Abiola and …”

The Book that Cleaned the Band,  MKO

The man was
walking away. He ignored Salawu and began screaming at his
colleagues, “Oya Oya (come on,
come on), get some matches and kerosene. Let’s bum these items now. Let’s get
to work”
Salawu almost fell as
he struggled to catch up with him. Holding the man’s hands, he pleaded. “My son, why are you doing this to me?”
The man pushed him away but Salawu did not give up. “Please let me return the goods to its
owners. Or else, they will think I stole them”
Tears rolled down his eyes. “I only own ten percent of the stock. If you
want, burn my own share. I know where I packed them and can easily separate
them for you”
The man shook
his head. Then he and his team carried out their plan. They burned the entire
consignment. Salawu saw everything but could not believe his eyes. It was
too late but he kept begging till the men walked away. That was when he held Moshood’s
hand then led him to the lorry for them to begin their journey back home.

(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 Read How MKO became a business man @ 9 in our next post
on this blog)