Abiola’s hemlock: General Abubakar’s “no poison” claim is not closure to a still mysterious death — The Nation Editorial

Posted by News Express | 5 February 2022 | 385 times

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•Late Moshood Abiola


About 23 years after, a conundrum still hovers over the death of Chief Moshood Abiola, who won the 1993 presidential election and spent three years behind bars.

After the cruelty of the Abacha years that followed the tragic rigmarole of the Babangida transition programmes, Abiola died in the presence of an American delegation led by the Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering.

Reports have it that the eminent billionaire, publisher and philanthropist drank a cup of tea offered by the American envoy. Some foreign reports said he was actually poisoned by the Americans to tear the country away from the paralytic stranglehold of the June 12 crisis. So, dispatching Abiola would afford the country a new start, especially with the head of state also sent to his grave.

Both men held intransigent positions. With them out of the way, Nigeria would enjoy a new lease of democratic life. It was speculated as the Machiavellian aperture to a return to normalcy in a country where a sullen cabal of military tyrants held sway while a gathering of men and women in democratic resistance roiled the state both home and abroad.

Holding the Americans responsible was not going to be an easy task, and the Americans have not admitted to a slow execution of the Nigerian billionaire democrat. But the matter has been allowed unsolved, an indictment not only of forensic medicine but also international investigations.

General Abdulsalami Abubakar who succeeded Abacha and who takes credit from presiding over the transfer of power to civil rule delved into the matter recently, but not wisely. He said without evidence that Abiola did not die of poison.  He narrated what happened on the fateful day, and how he allowed the American delegation access to Abiola. Along with Pickering was Susan Rice, who became US representative to the United Nations in the Obama years.

end to him, and when they saw the situation they said it was severe and they needed to take him to the medical centre.

“So it was the medical team plus the American team that took him to the medical centre, unfortunately at the medical centre he gave up.”

This perspective does not in any way clarify why he died so suddenly during the American visit and why he was given a drink without the supervision of any of the normal security protocol. Why would the delegation appear with a tea jug on such a sensitive moment?

The matter remains on the conscience of not only the military but also the American government. Merely saying he died of heart failure does not excuse it. What was in the tea, and why did it become like his hemlock?

It might well be that Abiola had a sudden heart attack. Health matters are not always easy to predict. A healthy person in one minute may fall in the next. Yet, because of the circumstances of his death, questions have been propounded. Because his life was larger than life, and the man’s latter-day struggles transcended his life and family but concerned a whole generation of Nigerians, it made little sense that an international inquest into his death is treated with cold disdain.

Many died, including his wife Kudirat, and prominent Nigerians like Alfred Rewane and Bagauda Kaltho, so such tragedies need a clear closure. The June 12 election is the event from which Nigerian democracy flows today. The Buhari administration, after contempt from previous governments, immortalised the man by granting him a holiday on June 12.

The world and the Nigerian government can only do his ghost good service by unveiling how he died.

Source: News Express

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