Full text of the stirring speech by Hafsat Abiola-Costello, daughter of MKO Abiola at the posthumous award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic to her father on June 12 in Abuja
“It is difficult to try to stand in the shoes of a giant, one of the greatest humans that the world ever had, but that is the responsibility of why we are here today.
And indeed, even for MKO Abiola it was difficult for him to imagine how he would speak to Nigerians on his inauguration.
My mum told me how he would stand in the mirror while he was preparing his speech as the results were coming in. He thought he was going to deliver it.
And you know he stammered, so he would start… “Dear fellow Nigerians”, but he never really got past ‘fellow Nigerians’.
He would say a few words, and then start again. He kept struggling to say what he wanted to say to Nigerians.
Because, what MKO wanted to say to the Nigerian people, and all that MKO did say to the people of Nigeria is, “I love you the people of Nigeria. I believe in you the people of Nigeria.”
He was born Yoruba but he loved Hausa people, he loved Kanuri people, he loved Efik people, he loved Igbo people, he loved all. You just needed to be a Nigerian and MKO was your man. If he could help, he would do.
There are so many things he already did to show that, and that was why the people of Nigeria rewarded him with the mandate of June 12, 1993.
But we know that he was never able to deliver that speech, but in many ways, the event that transpired later, revealed to Nigerians the eloquence in his heart, the fidelity of his commitment, and even his own deep abiding wish that if there was any way his own actions would in any way comprise the people of Nigeria, MKO preferred to die.
He preferred to leave the earth rather than compromise about you, about your integrity as a people, and your sovereignty as a nation.
Which was why the day before he died, when he was still being pressurised, he asked the question, “How do you shave the people’s heads in their absence?”
He knew he was being put under pressure, but he also knew that so long as he refused to allow his own head to be shaved, it would be a symbolic message to you the people of Nigeria, that Nigeria will be saved.
And when he died, we accepted his body. We have watched as year after year, till now the 25th year, you the people have suffered and he was not recognised at all.
President Muhammadu Buhari, Nelson Mandela it was who said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
Who would have ever believed, given the relationship that you had with Chief MKO Abiola, that you would be the instrument God would use to honour this man, and to bring recognition and healing to the country.
You apologised to my family and it touched my heart. You know that I also lost my mother in this struggle, so your apology meant so much to me.
Let me use this opportunity, on behalf of Chief MKO Abiola – because I know what he would have done – I use this opportunity to apologise to you, to apologise to your family, for anything that he might have done to harm you and to harm your family.
Let me also say at this juncture that Chief MKO Abiola was committed to us saying farewell to poverty in Nigeria, but today we have more people in poverty in Nigeria than we had in 1993.
I read the statement that you made, where you said we should prepare now to wage a battle for the defence of the people of Nigeria against those who think of themselves as the landlords of Nigeria.
Let me say to you that by recognising June 12, you have awakened so many heroes and heroines of Nigeria’s struggle, who have shown because they stood firm on June 12, that money cannot buy them.
If there is any march that we need to march, if there is any protest that we need to be present at to protest, you have called up your own new Army for the defence of this country.
And President Muhammadu Buhari, this fight will not take you, God willing, as it has taken MKO, but let us fight and bring about the conclusion of MKO’s struggle that the Nigerian people should be the ones in full control of this country.
It is not for a few landlords whoever they maybe, it is for the 200 million people of Nigeria.”
~ Hafsat Abiola-Costello