Kayode Taiwo Olla
It seemed the name grew fast accustomed to my ears, in the campaign periods before the fateful June 12 elections. Monshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.
His name dwarfed his running mate, even. I never even can tell if I ever knew the name of the running mate, back then. Perhaps even ever heard enough about him then as to remember, when I was a bit more grown. Or simply maybe it faded from memory each time and as soon as I might have heard it then. Perhaps because it never registered with stronger import, to me. Maybe to a lot of my mates then, too.
I still remember a bit the SDP campaign song we tried to join in singing, my twin brother and I. We were just in Primary 2 then, and going to 3. I still remember us stand in front of our black-and-white roller-shutter TV back then. And we would simply be jumping and the tune during the TV campaign adverts, in the months before June 12—a time after which there was angry protests, burnings and roadblocks, I remember; crisis everywhere and people showing grievances for the annulment of the election results that should declare MKO as President.
We would sing the refrain indistictly along, or simply give back the response to the calls.
“MKO, MKO, MKO… ACTION!!
Abiola, Abiola, Abiola… PROGRESS!!
… [Abiola] be de man o for better tomorrow!
MKO is our man o!
SDP na’im be de answer!”
It ran something like that.
Already I saw him as a hero, MKO. As our hero. What the ‘our’ was I could not intellectually define out in my small head, however, like an adult can.
But one thing I knew in my little brain—that, he was everybody’s hero. Again, not a valid statement if in terms of literality and denotation. (Even though as a kid then, I would expectedly think and speak matters in simple, literal terms.) But then, of course, it would later have semantic validity; as it does today as much as it eventually did by the evening of June 12, 1993, perhaps.
And I saw him as “a saviour,” too. Chief MKO Abiola. Perhaps informed by the conversations and comments of our parents and their friends and colleagues from work. I saw him as a saviour, but what he was saving us from I couldn’t intelligently designate, or even consider. But they said he was a saviour, with a message of hope.
And I could even pick up (even though rather gradually) and acknowledge distant familiarity when I saw last year in a picture of a SDP campaign flier for Abiola, the logo for the party and the caption words for his campaign then. It was a white horse, and the simple, particular words: “Hope for Nigeria.”
I did not know what he was to save us from, particularly. I did not know—or consider—what the “hope for Nigeria” actually meant. But I can remember I knew the picture if Babangida as at 1990. A wide 1990 calendar of an arm of the state, I remember well, hung on one side of our dining room. And when I curiously asked one day who that bespectacled man in the green military uniform suit was, I came to learn by heart that that was our Head of State. Major General Ibrahim Gbadamosi Babangida.
I believe we must have been taught to recite the name of our Head of State at school then. But I cannot remember now whether or not I had known the name before this time. I just cannot recollect that.
I would later hear as I grew older, about that period of time when we barely had foodstuff in the kitchen. And my parents were civil servants. I remember mum would later say that those times packets of milk were used up without possible refill. And the bag of sugar emptied without replacements. I knew that was not to talk of more essentials like salt and cooking ingredients. Perhaps they would have been expensive.
At the least, I can remember this. That around that time or so, the price of our loaf of bread shot up from 8 naira to 10 or 12 naira in one time. And the normal 12 naira price for the long loaf bread shoot up as well.
[… Continued in the immediate next post. Please see the immediate post following this – in the Category >Essays or in the Category >Diaries.]