By Yemi Adebowale
The family of late Moshood Abiola yesterday wrote an open letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, thanking him for the decision to rename the University of Lagos after the late politician.
The family in the letter signed by its head, Alhaji Mubashiru Abiola and seven others, also urged the President not to be disturbed by the protests trailing UNILAG’s change of name, saying “the protesters lack a sense of history.”
The letter titled, “appreciation” reads: ” We wish to publicly offer our profound appreciation for your unprecedented recognition of the late Chief MKO Abiola, the ideals he lived by and the noble cause he died for. As you honoured him, we honour you.”
The Abiola family also had some harsh words for those protesting the change of UNILAG to Moshood Abiola University: “No honour is too great for one of the men and women who laid down their lives for the democracy we enjoy today; that enables some to take to the streets, uttering irresponsible, abhorrent nonsense.
“The government of Egypt named a school after him (Abiola) in appreciation of his contribution after a devastating earthquake. Egyptians did not take to the street. Yet to their eternal shame, some people in Lagos did.
“The machinations and motives of those sponsoring the protests are obvious. If thirteen years of deafening silence from the federal government built on the blood of this man (Abiola) could not diminish his legacy, the actions of a few hooligans and rascals with no sense of history will certainly not. All glory and honour reside in the hands of the Almighty Allah, a righteous judge. MKO Abiola will not be denied.
“We now turn to those groups who feel that their positions have been threatened by an unprecedented act of grace by Your Excellency and urge them to desist. The general elections are three years away. There is no need for blind panic or for using MKO Abiola’s name and the larger issue of June 12th to score cheap political points against the ruling party.
“We urge them to focus on the task of national and regional development. We assure you (Jonathan) of our support of any decision you take in this matter.
“We had no expectation of your gracious gesture and neither did MKO Abiola. He was driven by his love for Nigeria, not by the anticipation of honours.”
Also in the letter, the family, said that before Jonathan’s decision to honour late Abiola, it had watched “in dismay and bafflement, the futile efforts of previous governments to bury the uncommon heroism” of Abiola.
The family thanked Jonathan profusely for remembering Abiola and for refusing to follow his predecessors who looked the other way: “While looking ahead to your plans to shepherd this nation, you looked behind to acknowledge those who paved the path you now tread. May we refer to the words of our national anthem,
which says: “the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.”
Obviously piqued by insinuations that Abiola was never an educationist, the Abiola family wrote: “There has never been a philanthropist on the scale of MKO Abiola in the history of Nigeria. His oft-repeated life’s ambition was to touch the life of every Nigerian one way or another. He may have succeeded in the area of education alone. In March 1990, he donated N1 million (equivalent of N40 million in 2010) to each state university; N50,000 (N2 million in 2010) to each federal university for student welfare; N20,000 (N800,000 in 2010) to the libraries of each federal university and N25,000 (N1 million in 2010) to each polytechnic and college of education in the country.
“He is credited with the construction of 63 secondary schools and 41 libraries. He established Abiola Bookshops to provide affordable, locally produced textbooks in the 1980s when imported text books became out of the reach of ordinary Nigerians; when the Naira was devalued. He awarded over 1,000 scholarships to deserving students in tertiary institutions at home and abroad.
“The circumstances of his death shook the polity to its foundations and established the democracy we enjoy today, by far the longest period of rule by the people in our history. He lost his wife, late Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, his businesses were decimated yet he voluntarily stayed in detention, rejecting conditional release. He died refusing to betray the mandate given to him by those who betray his memory today.”
The Abiola family expressed appreciation and satisfaction with the step so far taken by Jonathan to immotalise the late politician: “We are satisfied and we are appreciative. You have acted as one who fears God and seeks to lead in justice and truth according to His will. In the final analysis and in view of the fickleness and short memory of some “students”, that is all that matters. We conclude with the assurance that your honouree would not be disturbed by this furore were he alive to witness it.”
Aside from Alhaji Mubashiru Abiola, other signatories to the letter are Chief (Mrs) Adebisi Abiola, Chief (Mrs.) Omolola Abiola – Edewor, Alhaji Olalekan Abiola, Miss Ayobami Abiola, Alhaji Jamiu Abiola, Mrs Bolanle Akande and Mr Abdul Abiola.
Also yesterday, one of late Abiola’s wives, Akasoba Zainab Duke – Abiola wrote a separate letter to Jonathan, thanking him for renaming UNILAG after the late politician.
Duke – Abiola’s letter reads: “I wish to personally thank my dear brother, President Goodluck Ebelen-waneya Jonathan GCFR, for the honour accorded my late husband Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale (MKO) Abiola, the winner of the 12 June 1993 Presidential Elections, the freest and fairest elections ever held in Africa, which was annulled by the military junta.”
Meanwhile, protests by students of Moshood Abiola University turned bloody yesterday with the police being forced to fire live bullets. However, no life was lost.
The Commissioner, Lagos State Police Command, Mr. Umar Manko, was at some of the scenes of the protest said those still protesting the change of name of their institution would now be treated as criminals.
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