My first memory of Chief Abiola was around 1971, about 47 years ago, as
a pupil of the Staff School at the University of Lagos where Kola, his
first son, was my classmate. A dutiful father, he used to pick up his
children from school regularly.
His first wife, the late Alhaja Simbiat Abiola was also my mother’s
Fast forward to 1990 when I was a young entrepreneur. I had a taste of
Chief Abiola’s magnanimity and kindness. I developed the idea for an
Awolowo Memorial Concert which I shared with my good friend and Papa
Awolowo’s grandson, Segun, who went to see Chief Abiola about our
intention to have him as the Chairman of the event. And despite his
political difference with Pa Awolowo in his lifetime, he not only showed
up but arrived with his late wife, Alhaja Simbiat Abiola – and they
danced to the various artistes, especially Sir Shina Peters.
The highlight for Segun and I was the NGN100,000 cheque he gave us at
the event. A huge amount back then and we admired it all the way to the
While we were seeing them off, he took me aside, shook my hand in
commendation and called me a Great Man.
In 1991, I went to tell my late father, Sir Michael to go into politics
and he dismissed it saying politics is not for “omoluwabis” as he also
made a reference to the travails of Chief Abiola with the NPN leading to
his much-publicized retirement from politics. I succeeded in getting him
(my father) to run… and the rest is history.
After my father’s victory at the polls and seeing the need to rest, the
then Governor of Lagos State, Brig. Gen. Raji Rasaki (Rtd), advised him
to take two weeks off, restrict visits as he provided the LASG Guest
House on Joel Ogunnaike Road, GRA Ikeja, for the purpose. After a week
there, I went to see my late father around 7.30 am and, lo and behold, I
met Chief Abiola and Alhaja Simibiat waiting to see him in the living
room. And when he saw me, he said, “Great man, where is your daddy?”
My late father felt Chief Abiola would make a great President because of
his deep wisdom, large heart and pan-Nigerian outlook…
I have studied Chief Abiola’s life in politics, philanthropy and most
importantly building people, and his doggedness, fairness, wisdom and a
good heart are traits that should be emulated. He was a man of all
I wonder what it would have been like if Chief Abiola was sworn-in as
President. Did we lose the opportunity to become the Dubai of Africa?
Would Nigeria have surmounted the developmental challenges we face in
health, education and industrialization?
Your guess is as good as mine.