Abdulsalami: Abiola Wasn’t Poisoned, Died After Brief Illness

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•Narrates events preceding his death

•Commends Kingibe’s role in managing situation

For the first time in 24 years, a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, yesterday, gave an account of how the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, died, dismissing widely held assumption that he was poisoned.

On the contrary, Abdulsalami, who debunked outright, claims that Abiola allegedly died after taking a poisoned tea, further narrated how the late business mogul, died after falling ill in detention, including some of the events preceding his sudden passing.

Abiola died on July 7, 1998, at the Medical Centre, Abuja, after he suddenly took ill while meeting some foreign diplomats.

According to Abdulsalami, who commended Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, for the role he played in managing the situation, each time the issue of how Abiola died came up, he always smiled, adding: “I still thank God for directing me on things to do, when he gave me the leadership of this country.”

Speaking in an interview with the Trust TV, Kaduna, Abdulsalami said, “Well, I smile,because there were lots of allegations here and there that we killed Abiola. As always, when I am talking about the late Abiola, I still thank God for directing me on things to do when he gave me the leadership of this country.

“On the day Moshood Abiola passed away, may he rest in peace, two to three things make me always say I thank my God for the guidance He gave me. One was I received a delegation from America, headed by Pickering, who was then, I think, the Secretary of State or so. In his team, I remember very well, was Susan Rice. I remember her very well, because of the role she played later.

“So, after the normal courtesy and discussion we had, when they were leaving my office, Pickering said, ‘Your Excellency, we made a request to see Moshood Abiola, but we were denied.’ So, I said ‘Why were you denied? Who denied you?

“There and then, I made a decision and I said ‘Look, you will see Moshood definitely. I overruled whoever said you cannot see him.’ So, I now called my Chief Security Officer, I said, ‘Please make arrangement for this team to see Abiola.’ That is one point.

“Now, during the incarceration of Moshood Abiola, except his personal doctor, to my knowledge, no member of his family saw him. So, when I became Head of State, based on consultation and interaction together with Ambassador Babagana Kingibe, I gave the family a date that they could come and see him.

“So, a day before he died, his family came to Abuja to see him. For one reason or the other, the whole family could not see him at the same time, so it was agreed that when this group of his family will see him today, tomorrow the next team will see him.

“So, they saw him like yesterday, now this team from US came to see me and I said they could see him. Normally, it was in the evenings the family goes and sees him. So, because I had authorised the American team to see him, so the other part of the family were waiting to see him.

“So, it was at this meeting, when the American team was meeting Abiola that he fell sick and suddenly the security officers called the medical team to come and attend 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.

“Then my security chief called and said ‘I have bad news for you.’ I asked what it was, he said ‘Abiola is dead.’ I was shocked. He told me he was there with the American team, at that time I was staying in the barracks, I had not moved to the villa. So, I said okay, let him take the American team to my house, I will meet them at the house. So, I closed from the office, and went there.

“The issue now was how do I break the news to Abiola’s family and how do we tell the world Abiola had passed on? I must be thankful to God and again to Ambassador Kingibe,because we called on him and asked him to bring the family of Abiola. So, when they came, I broke the news, that unfortunately, this is what has happened.”