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I was born on the 1st February 1972 in Lagos, Nigeria but I come from the Delta State, which is very rich in oil and gas. Delta State is one of the States of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. My father was a traditional Chief. He married three wives and had a few concubines. My mother was the last wife he had and she became the mother of all the children. So, I grew up with my other half brothers and sisters in a town called Ughelli, near Warri, in Delta State. My father died of heart failure in 2001 and my mother was assassinated by strangulation in 2007. I did my Primary, Secondary and University education in Nigeria.
As a kid growing up in the oil rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria, it was everybody’s wish to work with an oil company, especially Shell. In order to achieve that you have to direct your higher education studies to the study of engineering. I wasn’t very good at science subjects and mathematics and was desperate to study any course that would ensure that I got a job with Shell.
I finally gained admission to study Industrial Chemistry at the University of Benin in Nigeria in 1991. It was at this University that I joined the Student union movement and started participating in rallies and demonstrations against government policies and the lack of their implementation. The student union leaders and their oratory power was what inspired me into a life of struggle.
On June 12, 1993 Nigerians across the country went to the polling stations to elect their President. It was the first election I actually participated in and voted because the leading contender Chief MKO Abiola was a man who had inspired me with the story of his life and philanthropic nature. Chief MKO Abiola was generally seen as a very cheerful giver who touched the lives of many less privileged people in the Nigerian society and beyond.
He made many contributions to education in Nigeria and had many companies that offered job opportunities to a big part of the population. What was very inspiring about his story was how he defied all the odds of poverty, having lost his parents at a young age, but still became one of the richest people in Africa with a vast international network and connections. But, as a leader, there will always be people who don’t agree with your policies.
When he stood to run for the Nation’s highest seat, it was obvious that he was going to win. He had spread his philanthropic nature across the country, donating churches to Christians while he was a Muslim. It was time for those who had benefitted from this man to now stand up with him, in support. The people never disappointed him. He won resoundingly and defeated his opponent with a wide margin between them, even in his own native State: Kano.
It was an election that broke all records in Nigeria till this day. A country divided almost evenly, between Muslim and Christians, saw a Muslim contest in an election and win. The election was declared the free-est and fairest ever in the history of my country. Nigerians dropped religious and ethnic sentiment to vote for one man. But the Military junta of the current President: General Ibrahim Babangida had another agenda.
He and his military cartel annulled this election and threw Nigeria into pandemonium, with civil unrest, as a result of nationwide demonstrations, led by the Nigerian students, under the banner of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). This happening was supported by all unions and pro democracy groups across the country. Nigeria was internationally condemned and some Western countries were threatening with sanctions.
At University we had just elected my very good friend Mike Igini as our student union President. We rallied all the students and joined this demonstration to save Nigeria from military rule and enthrone democracy. We organized this on June the 12th to let the wishes of the Nigerian people be heard. The demonstration became a violent one when the military rolled in with their tanks and infantry against defenseless students and started firing live at us. Many innocent students and ordinary people died in the struggle.
I remember the security service officers storming into our campuses to arrest people. Many people were arrested and locked up. They were subjected to all kinds of inhuman treatment while in detention and some even died. The tension mounted nationwide and the country was now at the brink of civil war. The military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida collapsed and he stepped aside handing power to one of his trusted military friends the Late General Sanni Abacha who was to unleash mayhem on the people of Nigeria.
I was always very inspired by my fellow activists and was very passionate about my beliefs, in a country with a military regime this might bring you trouble. Next blog I will tell you how activism shaped my life forever.