“Not after death, and they know themselves. They have done it in his lifetime. Their mothers knew they did in his lifetime so why would I want to forge that – to the point that he wrote in his will specifically that a lady has two kids for him but only one (the lady had taken him to court in England) is his. How would I have known that. I can go on and on. But you see, leadership requires objectivity even at your own expense.
If I had wanted to manipulate – remember they were all very young while I was working in these companies – but because of my responsibility to him, his ideals and what he would like to see, that’s why there is something for them to keep. Everything I have inherited has come from my mother 100 percent. And I’m still getting it from her till tomorrow. Because my mum was always the entrepreneur in the house. Even I dare say that all the funding of ITT in those days was Simbiat Abiola. We know we had assets that weren’t utilised, and they were acquired by her. But I have a typical way of doing things. You put your husband as Chairman. Despite the fact that the man was polygamous, everything was the same. She didn’t change anything, and she didn’t even leave a will. So automatically, everything goes back to him.
She didn’t leave a will. I hear a lot of things. You see I can go to sleep at night, I can jog the streets, I drive myself around because I know I am doing everything right. I have nothing to fear. Nothing to fear. I’m doing things right and I’m doing it the only way I know. I am not saying I’m right across board, but I can look you in face and say I’m sorry if I wronged you because I did this based on what I felt was right at a given time. So, this issue of the will, I am going to address. I have kids now, and they are grown up. They are going to have kids, and I don’t want any child, cousin or half brother, half sister to accuse my kids of living off their grandfather because of what their father stole from their father. No! I have been working all my life. Even in the secondary school, I was working so I know a lot more detail than a lot of people know. And not only that.
I met my grandfather, the Balogun of Ojo, and he would call me to elderly meetings. He used to call me Lati, and asked what I think – my opinion on matters. My grandfather was a tough man. I know a whole lot more history than a lot of people think. So, it is something I will definitely address, and I want to come out and address it with facts, papers, receipts and everything. Till this date, I’m still being owed a lot of money. Besides that, I even went out of my way to do certain things for a lot of them that they know. Unfortunately, it is a case of having a sense of entitlement. If I had that sense of entitlement, they won’t get anything. But I am trying to be fair and transparent. I think I got myself into a cul de sac. And that is why people can now make claims and all that stuff. If I had gone by the rules – in an English way – my mother was married in Glasgow, English court. But for me trying to be fair and transparent, I took on what I shouldn’t have done. Again, I went out of my way to do somethings because I thought it was the right thing to do. That’s why I got into this kind of trouble, but I have the fear of God, and I don’t have a problem doing what I did.
Let me call you Lati like your grandfather would have called you (general laughter). Many of your younger ones would have accused you of not looking after them?
Kola Abiola: The best thing I could have done was give them education, and I think I have done that very well. As to what happens after that foundation, it becomes personal. At the end of the day, you are speaking to me because I took my education seriously. I have a degree. Many of us went abroad but they came back with nothing including friends, siblings. They went and played the rich man’s kid and had a great life, and came back with nothing. Thank God we didn’t make that mistake. We couldn’t have anyway because in my own case, MKO didn’t pay our school fees, it was Simbiat. And if she pays your school fees, you had better make sure you came back with good grades. It is like my old friend from primary school, who keeps talking about me having repeated my class forgetting that I came fifth in school, and my mum made me repeat the class because I came fifth. Can you believe that? So I made sure majority of us had great education in Nigeria. It even got to a point that I paid their school fees. I didn’t pay my own kids school fees till I’ve paid the others put together. They cannot be wrong.
I even went to my brother’s school (Corona) to fight them for kicking MKO’s kid from school, and they apologised and took them back in. They are not my kids. They are my brothers, and my responsibility. Even the ones that didn’t pass the DNA test also had their school fees paid. I don’t want them to be burdens to the ones that are ours. A wife had four kids; two were ours and two were not. I still paid for all the four kids. I didn’t want the other two to be a burden to the two that are mine. MKO during his lifetime didn’t know who you are, but when you walk up to him, he paid anyway. So why should I now separate those that were not his own.. I paid irrespective. It is the biggest asset I was given. They complained I don’t go their weddings and all that. Should I start separating those that were his kids and those that were not or sanction the woman that brought strange kids to the house. It’s not healthy to reel out everything I know.
At a stage, you attended a wedding in Zimbabwe of one of your brothers. Ovation covered that wedding. What happened that such a relationship no longer exist?
Kola Abiola: You know, I am as simple and as sincere as I can ever be. You have known me for years, and I say things as I see it. When I come to you and tell you exactly what I think and you would not listen but instead you use what I tell you against me even when I told you out of sincerity, exactly what I would tell my blood brother or sister. I am telling you what I would do in that situation myself, but you won’t listen. I went through it back and forth. I am responsible for my own branch for the collective good and I think I have been sincere enough and it has not been appreciated. We are no longer kids any more now; we are all grown up. My youngest sister is 49 years already and every other person is coming behind her. Where should I start. It is like chasing after a mad man; they won’t know who the man is and who is not.
What is the relationship between you and your sister, Mrs Lola Edewor?
Kola Abiola: I thought we use to have a good relationship, but I’m not sure we do nowadays. But it’s all these realities. I never had any grudges. Her kids and I are still the best of friends if I am right. I never told them anything. They have their own lives. Its like Deji and Shonekan’s son, who had been friends all their lives, and someone would say they should not be friends because of their fathers. They have their own lives to live, and that’s how we do it.
Okay, you were talking about Deboye?
Kola Abiola: Yes, as if the man has no head in his system.
It was the same way they said you shouldn’t be friends with Aisha Babangida?
Kola Abiola: Like I said, there are too many small minds out there, especially in our part of the world. When you start going trans-generational in your hate, at one point, you won’t stop. How do you get prosperity and how do you get peace. You will never. It is good enough to know your enemies for who they are. My kids have their own haters at their level, why should I want them to also take home their dad’s haters as well. That does not make any sense. They have their own lives to live. Maybe they know and imbibe a few things that come from an unbiased environment; keep it that way. Don’t stay in there because I have a grudge with your dad; I can see your dad tomorrow and greet him because I only have my limit with him. But do not add my palaver to their own. They should in their rightful mind take up theirs.
Let’s now talk about you, Abdullateef Olawale Abiola. There is something I find quite interesting about you. I remember when you had your daughter, Rabiat (my daughter as well) and despite the fact that you grew up in Britain and US, you had most of your kids in Nigeria when you can afford to go to the best hospitals in the world. What informed that?
Kola Abiola: We are Nigerians, and we honestly believe in the ingenuity of Nigerians. I have grown up with parents that had led by example. In the ITT days, I remember quite clearly, we had a lot of foreign engineers back then. The same thing with RCN, but they were only here for awhile, while our own staff were out there training. And in the quickest possible time, my father will always replace them with Nigerians.
He honestly believed in our ingenuity. I remember in Habib Bank, the formula was to have a Pakistan MD and Nigeria DMD. But at a point when the Pakistan MD was completing his tour, and awaiting handover. During a particular meeting, my father just turned to the DMD, Adamu, and asked ‘can’t you do what he is doing’, and he answered that he could, and my father said it is about time. And that was how we got the first Nigerian MD of Habib Bank, and the DMD became a Pakistani. So it was like that. Where I think it can be done, we should do it, unfortunately, I must say, that the system has changed. It is a country without pride now. We have lost things, but we keep having faith that they would happen, and that has been the driving force. I really think there was a need to do what we could do at home. We should encourage us first, and that was the purpose
Personally, would you ever consider going into politics?
Kola Abiola: I am in politics. I was from my dad’s election. I have been a scholar ever since. I have been very observant ever since and I have been studying it. Yes, I am in politics.
Which one is your political party?
Kola Abiola: I am not a card carrying member of any party. I am not into party politics.
So would you go into party politics?
Kola Abiola: I don’t know. I don’t think so because what I saw when I was in tender age hasn’t changed now. What I saw then has got worse now, so we need a dynamic that totally turns the electoral process on its head…”