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Abiola, Moshood: Curriculum Vitae and Nigeria

Nikolas studies the notion of the democracy in the relations between developped and developing countries

Abiola, Moshood

Mosmood Kashimavo Abiola

Mosmood Kashimavo Abiola

Let's See What Happens to This One

The controversy will not die down anytime soon. Especially since the life of Moshood Abiola fuels the debate. Was this multi-billionaire "philanthropist", a Yoruba from the southwest, but Muslim like the majority of the population in the north, the "Nigerian Mandela" without a happy ending or, on the contrary, a flamboyant businessman who wanted to free himself from the tutelage of the generals, who had been his business associates for many years? His biography allows for both readings, but his detention and his tragic end make him a martyr of democracy. A dazzling success. Moshood Kashimawo Abiola carved his legend in the modesty of his origins. Allegedly the only surviving child of a kola nut merchant mother, who had 23 pregnancies, his middle name means "Let's see what happens to this one".

From Firewood Seller to a "Wallet"

He was a firewood seller. Moreover, at 14, Abiola was a chorister singing at weddings and funerals "to have enough money to buy school books". His success was meteoric. "My mother died because we didn't have the money to buy her medicine," he often recalled. He then decided to earn money. A scholarship from the British colonial administration allowed him to take an accounting course in Glasgow, Scotland. After graduating, he returned to Lagos in 1961 to count the money from a pharmaceutical company. He was then recruited by the American multinational ITT and became associated with the most popular general president in Nigeria's independent history, Murtala Mohamed. By pity that was assassinated in a failed putsch in February 1976. In the midst of the oil boom, Moshood Abiola had time to rake in fabulous commissions for telecommunications contracts. That activity inspired another Yoruba, the Afro-beat singer Fela, to write his famous song International Thief-Thief, denouncing the "international thief-thief. The former ITT sales manager for Africa and the Middle East went into business for himself, invested in shipping. Then he bought an airline, and built a newspaper empire with 17 titles, including Concorde. It has a circulation of over 300,000 copies a day. Abiola is known in Nigeria as a "wallet", an investment fund for the military seeking to make money from oil. In twenty-five years, black gold has brought the country ¬ or rather, its leaders, most of the time in uniform ¬ 210 billion dollars.

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Big Man

Moshood Abiola reaches into the pockets of his traditional boubous. The man with the hoarse voice, handicapped by a strong stammer but with a seductive faubourgian gaul, is an outstanding sponsor. Abiola passionates about sports, especially soccer. He helps build mosques and churches, subsidizes village dispensaries, distributes scholarships and collects, in exchange for cash, more than 200 titles of "chief". Like Fela, he also collects wives and concubines, which he installs in a street in Lagos bearing his name. In short, he is an oga, i.e. a big man. Abiola was the first to invest in industrial bakeries, gaining immense popularity.

The Risk of Failure of a Democratic Transition

Abiola entered politics in 1978, but did not leave the path marked out by the military until 1993, when he made his second attempt to be elected President. His victory having been confiscated by the Northerners in power, Abiola was afraid of a "yoruba revenge" that would make them accountable. Several of his supporters joined the government and he himself relied on General Sani Abacha, then Chief of General Staff, to install him as president. It was a miscalculation: after the retirement of General President Babangida, another of Abiola's star friends, General Abacha took over power with an iron hand. When, in 1994, one year after the cancelled elections, the "elected president" proclaimed himself president, he threw him in prison. And he did not release him, even though the High Court decided to release him and the West imposed "targeted" sanctions. One month after the death of the dictator, also suspicious, Abiola died on the threshold of his cell, at the age of 60. Free, he would have been cumbersome. Now that he is dead, he increases tenfold the risk of failure of a democratic transition which, also by his death, takes on the appearance of a liquidation

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