What MKO meant to me as a kid in 1993 and after (2)


DISPATCH B

[… Continued from the immediate previous post. Kindly begin from the previous post with the same title if you have not read it earlier, as the thoughts flow directly on from the previous and would be just advisable to do this.]


At the least, I can remember this. That around that time or so, the price of our loaf of bread shoot 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. Even though I cannot remember exactly how much that rose up to, as I didn’t regularly buy that on errands. Exactly why these were I would not know, or perhaps consider, as a boy that I was. But I came to be familiar with murmurs about the general state of things then.

However, it would never be as much as I would know or hear during the regime of Late General Sanni Abacha. The man to whom Babangida handed the military rule for continuity at the expense of an Abiola-earmarked Democracy. And the man to whom he committed the incarcerated President-elect of the free and fair June 12, 1993 elections. Six long years it was, I knew myself. Perhaps it was simply because I was more grown and could take in more things. Or perhaps it was simply because the regime’s tyranny outweighed, arguably, the military predecessor’s. Just perhaps. I was in Junior Secondary Class 2, by May 1998 when we heard that fateful Sunday that Sanni Abacha was dead, was assassinated.

I actually still remember us hearing the confirmation of the rumours by the 6 o’ clock local news on radio, by evening that Sunday. People were all out on the streets in the neighbourhoods all around, screaming, jumping, and dancing. I could remember my dad, and some other men holding their mini radios close to their ears as mum and others ask every once in a while, ‘What are they saying now?’ I jumped as a boy too, was shouting and screaming with delight. Everybody was. I believed everybody had had enough.

For I can remember vividly when we resorted to using saw-dust for fire fuel in the kitchen, during the Abacha regime. We could only afford saw-dusts from saw mills. I actually did not know whether it even bought or my mum just got them packed home free. But I knew we cooked months on end with saw-dust as fuel. Kerosene was incredibly costly and scare nationwide, so much that kerosene stove became completely obsolete in kitchens of many second-class citizens everywhere. People used firewood to the point it became really expensive.

I would later grow up to know this was actually nationwide and incredibly phenomenal. I would later read this particular event in recent history that I was part of as a boy—I would later read of it in a novel of political faction as a student literature, in my year one back on campus. It was Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel. He wrote about this time that in a notorious street of Lagos in his novel, people break wooden signposts and boards, with hands parting them among themselves, for want of fuel and free firewood even. Things were bad, only worse still than I knew of as a boy.

And I had followed more and more interestedly the case of MKO Abiola from Babangida to Abacha. When I came to Junior Secondary School in 1996 August there was this classmate of mine and friend that always intimated us on Chief MKO Abiola. Of course, from hearsays. He used to say he was a close relation of Abiola and I, for one envied him then. Of course now, in retrospect, I could only find it an easy kid lie, which funnily I easily fell for. Everyone admired Abiola, down to young boys.

And because this friend of mine was more interested in and current on Abiola’s case, he lets us know about even the United States denunciation of Abiola’s incarceration and its statements that Abacha release Abiola. And then I particularly remember he always said with every bit of certainty that Abiola would eventually govern Nigeria. We his peer group believed this, not just hoped. As much as our own parents had believed with all certainty that Obafemi Awolowo would after all is said and done still govern Nigeria, in their younger days.

And the bomb shell came when exactly a week, I think, after we heard the jubilant news that Major General Sanni Abacha was assassinated by poisoning, we got the pill to bitter to swallow.

[… Continued in the immediate next post. See the immediate post following this – in the Category >Essays or Category >Diaries.]

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