By Modupe Gbadeyanka
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, announced the renaming of the Abuja National Stadium to MKO Abiola Stadium.
The President made this proclamation during his speech at the Eagle Square today at an event organised to celebrate the June 12 holiday.
On June 12, 1993, Nigerians headed to the polls to elect a new president, but results of the exercise, which was believed to have been won by one of the contestants, late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, was annulled by the then military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd).
The late businessman, who later declared himself as president of the nation, was arrested and put in detention by the late General Sani Abacha. Mr Abiola, on July 7, 1998, died in prison, barely a month after Mr Abacha died, precisely on June 8, 1998.
Few days ago, President Buhari signed a bill to make June 12 a national holiday in Nigeria as well as Democracy Day instead of the May 29 observed in the past, which will still remain the handing over of government day.
During his democracy day speech in Abuja today, Mr Buhari said, “I propose the renaming of the Abuja national stadium. It will be called the MKO Abiola Stadium.”
Late Abiola was born on August 24, 1937 in Abeokuta, Ogun State to the family of Salawu and Suliat Wuraola Abiola.
His father was cocoa trader and was his father’s 23rd child, but the first of his father’s children to survive infancy, hence the name ‘Kashimawo’ (Let’s wait and see). It was not until he was 15 years old that he was properly named Moshood by his parents.
Mr Abiola attended African Central School, Abeokuta for his primary education and as a young boy, he assisted his father in the cocoa trade, but by the end of 1946, his father’s business venture was failing precipitated by the destruction of a cocoa consignment declared by a produce inspector to be of poor quality grade and unworthy for export and to be destroyed immediately.
In 1956, Mr Abiola started his professional life as a bank clerk with Barclays Bank in Ibadan, South-West Nigeria. After two years, he joined the Western Region Finance Corporation as an executive accounts officer, before leaving for Glasgow, Scotland, to pursue his higher education. From Glasgow University, he received a first class degree in accountancy, and he also gained a distinction from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.
On his return to Nigeria, he worked as a senior accountant at the University of Lagos Teaching Hospital, then went on to US firm Pfizer, before joining the ITT Corporation, where he later rose to the position of Vice-President, Africa and Middle-East.
The late Abiola spent a lot of his time, and made most of his money, in the United States, while retaining the post of chairman of the corporation’s Nigerian subsidiary.
Before his death, the late philanthropist was the Aare Ona Kankafo of the Yoruba land. He was posthumously awarded the GCFR, the highest national title reserved for Presidents in Nigeria, on June 6, 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
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