The family of the late M.K.O Abiola has rejected the posthumous Centenary award to the winner of the 1993 Nigeria’s presidential election.
Kola Abiola, the eldest son of the late politician and businessman, told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that the award was “not appropriate.”
“For us, what the government is doing is laudable. But our family will only accept what is appropriate. If what they are trying to give him is a gold award for the centenary, we don’t consider that to be appropriate,” Mr. Abiola said.
“With a gold centenary award, it means we have not left where we were when they tried to rename the University of Lagos after him. We said then that it was inappropriate,” he added.
The Federal Government had shortlisted 100 persons to be honoured with Centenary awards as part of Nigeria’s Centenary celebration.
By turning down the award, the Abiola family joins the families of late activist, Gani Fawehinmi, and late afrobeat maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who had also rejected the posthumous awards on their patriarch.
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is also considering rejecting the award, which is billed to take place in Abuja on Friday.
“I would have preferred that the entire day of infamy be ignored altogether. I’m even thinking favourably of just ignoring the obscenity, then turning up at the counter-event,” Professor Soyinka is quoted as saying.
On Thursday, the family of the late human rights activist, Gani Fawehinmi, said that it would be “inexpedient” for them to receive the award in the face of the latest killing spree by the militant group Book Harm as well as the “putrid odour of corruption” in the alleged mission US20 billion in the NNPC.
Mohammed Fawehinmi, the late lawyer’s eldest son, also said that it would be morally incongruous and psychologically debilitating for the family to stand on the same podium with General Ibrahim Babangida to receive awards.
“In the list of the awards recipients published by the Federal Government, was the name of former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, who as military president, severally detained and tortured our late father,” Mr. Fawehinmi, a lawyer, said.
“In the course of one of such illegal and inhuman detentions, our late father’s cell was sprayed with toxic substances while in Gashua prison in 1987. The cumulative effect of that dastardly action led to our father, a non- smoker, contracting lung cancer which eventually led to his death on September 5, 2009,” he added.
Femi Kuti, the first son of the late afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, said it was unlikely that his family would receive the award from the Nigerian government.
“We have not heard such (of the award) but I can speak for myself, Federal Government should first apologise for the killing of our grandmother and the burning of Kalakuta,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential poll, arguably one of the most free and fair election in Nigeria’s history, died in detention five years later.
An attempt by President Goodluck Jonathan to rename the University of Lagos after the late philanthropist in 2012 resulted in a massive protest by students and lecturers of the institution.
Asked what the family would consider an appropriate honour, Mr. Kola Abiola said, “We leave government to figure that out.”
A source close to the Abiola’s, however, said the family believed the elder Abiola deserve the nation’s highest honour, GCFR (Grand Commander of the Federal Republic), having won the 1993 presidential elections, and laid down his life to usher in democracy in Nigeria.
The family, our source said, is also angry that the government had failed to pay the huge debt it’s owing the late politician’s businesses. They believe the debt is responsible for the collapse of the businesses.