Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, a politically and socially active woman during her days, was the beautiful wife of late business mogul and respected politician, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. Her struggles, efforts and the tireless support she gave her husband, M.K.O Abiola, when he was incarcerated led to her untimely death.
On the 4th of June, 1996, Kudirat Abiola was assassinated by some gunmen in Lagos who allegedly acted on the orders of the Sani Abacha’s military junta.
After President Ibrahim Babangida annulled the June 12, 1993 election which had M.K.O Abiola as the winner, several riots ensued across the country, especially in the southwest. This led to the demise of President Babangida’s military regime and the birth of the Shonekan-led Interim National Government on the 26th of August, 1993.
Before Babangida stepped down from power, he set up an Interim Government which was to oversee the transition of power to a democratically elected government. M.K.O Abiola did not support the Interim Government as it had no plan of restoring him as the president of Nigeria. The Interim National Government was later sacked by Gen. Sani Abacha in November 1993.
At first, M.K.O Abiola supported Sani Abacha’s military regime hoping Abacha would return the mandate to him, but when the Abacha refused to do so, M.K.O Abiola went ahead to declare himself as the President on the 11th of June, 1994. Twelve days later, he was arrested and charged with treasonable felony.
Kudirat Abiola spearheaded oil workers’ strike against the government which lasted 12 months. She also gathered market women, students and civil servants to fight for their electoral right which was denied on June 12, 1993. Her efforts to get her husband out of jail and restore his mandate brought her across the line of Abacha’s military government. Unknowing to Kudirat Abiola, she had been marked for assassination by an unknown cabal.
Kudirat Abiola’s Assassination
On the 4th of June, 1996, Alhaja Kudirat Abiola was in a white Mercedes Benz driven by her driver, Dauda Atanda, and accompanied by her special assistant, Lateef Shofolahan. It was around 9.30 am on the streets of Lagos, she was going for an appointment at the Canadian High Commission.
As her car slowed down on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway past the 7-Up bus stop on Oregun Road in Ikeja, two cars double-crossed them and six heavily armed men opened fire on Kudirat Abiola’s car. The gunmen shot at close range and Kudirat’s driver got his mouth and shoulder pierced by a bullet while Kudirat, their main target, was hit in the forehead and instantly lost consciousness.
She was rushed to the Eko Hospital on Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way in Ikeja, Lagos where she eventually died between 12.15 and 12.30 pm. However, Kudirat’s personal assistant, Lateef Shofolahan, escaped the attack unhurt. He was later accused of being involved in the murder plot of Kudirat Abiola.
OldNaija gathered that prior to Alhaja Kudirat Abiola’s murder, there were two attempts to take her life before the plotters allegedly penetrated her network through Lateef Shofolahan.
The Abacha military government offered the sum of $45,000 to anyone who could give information leading to the arrest of the assassins. Later, Hamza Al-Mustapha, the chief security officer of General Sani Abacha, was accused and convicted. Investigations into the killing traced the killers’ bullets to his (Hamza Al-Mustapha) personal armoury.
In October 1988, Hamza Al-Mustapha and Mohammed Abacha, Gen. Abacha’s son, appeared before the court, both charged with the death of Kudirat Abiola. In the court, Mohammed Abdul, one of the assassins, narrated how the Abiola’s network was penetrated through Lateef Shofolahan, and how Mohammed Abacha gave him and other gunmen $10,000 to flee the country when Obasanjo’s government began an investigation on Kudirat Abiola’s assassination.
“I was then given a car key to a 504 saloon car. Sumaila Shuaibu was driving the 505 car while I drove the 504. We went to the National Theatre where we met Alhaji Lateef Shofolahan (Kudirat Abiola’s P.A) who took us to Festac town where he pointed at one house. From there, we went to Surulere and then to Mr James Danbaba’s house.
Rabo Lawal asked the security men if the CP was in before he went inside and spent some time there. We then went back to Dodan Barracks. In the evening Alhaji Lateef came to meet us at Dodan Barracks and together we went to Victoria Island where Alhaji Lateef pointed a house to Rabo Lawal who was in the same car with him. From V.I. we went to Surulere and then to Igbosere Road. Alhaji Lateef then went inside one storey building on a street near Igbosere close to Sura market”.
OldNaija gathered that another member of the killer squad, Barnabas Jabila aka Seargent Rogers, confessed that he was acting on the orders of Hamza Al-Mustapha and that he (Hamza Al-Mustapha) gave the contract to kill Kudirat Abiola to Rabo Lawal, the head of the mobile police force at the presidential villa. He also said that they were provided weapons for the operation in the presence of Mohammed Abacha.
In May 2001, a Federal High Court in Abuja freed Mohammed Abacha on the ground that he was simply roped in on circumstantial evidence. Also, Hamza Al-Mustapha and Lateef Shofolahan who were sentenced to death by hanging on January 30 2012 were later freed on Friday, July 12, 2013, on the ground that there was not enough evidence to prove them guilty.
Alhaja Kudirat Abiola’s assassination remains one of the top assassinations in Nigeria.
Thanks for reading, OldNaija.
- Omipidan. Teslim. Real Account Of The June 12 1993 Presidential Election . OldNaija. http://oldnaija.com/2016/12/21/june-12-1993-presidential-elections/
- Kudirat Abiola’s murder: Appeal Court frees Mustapha, Shofolahan, Bartholomew Madokwe, 13 July 2013,
- VanguardNGR [Retrieved 7 June 2017] http://www.vanguardngr.com/2013/07/kudirat-abiolas-murder-appeal-court-frees-mustapha-shofolahan/
- Kudirat Abiola, Wife Of Nigerian Opposition Leader, Murdered By Gunmen In Nigeria; JETMagazine; June 24, 1996; p. 40.
- Oldnaija.com: President Babangida’s Annulment Speech of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election. http://oldnaija.com/2016/12/21/president-babangidas-annulment-speech-of-june-121993-presidential-election/