THE STORY OF KUDI AND MKO
BY DR. LA TEEF ADEGBITE, CON SERlKl & BABA ADINNI OF EGBALAND
I had the honour to be a witness to the beginning and development of the relationship between Kudi and MKO, which was an instant success.
Miss Kudirat Olayinka Adeyemi was working as a sales clerk with Adebowale Electrical Industries Ltd and was in fact manning the exhibition stand of the company, at the Lagos Trade Fair, when MKO met her. It was towards the end of 1972.
Shortly after the meeting, MKO visited me in Ibadan where I was serving as a State Commissioner in the old Western State under the administration of Brigadier Oluwole Rotimi. MKO related the account of their first meeting to me fully and his excitement was palpable. He had met a piece of beauty, a paragon and had fallen completely for her at first sight. He could not wait to propose marriage to her.
He wanted to know how I felt about the move. He was heady and excited about his new love. I asked him to take it easy and suggested that he should allow Kudi to fIrst proceed to a University for a degree; and thereafter they could marry. I also asked him whether he had given thought to the stiff opposition he would likely encounter from Alhaja Simbiat Atinuke Abiola, MKO's first love and wife. He was ready to weather the storm and expressed confidence that he would win Simbi to his side.
As for the issue of a University Education for Kudi, he had persuaded Kudi to forget the idea of pursuing a higher education. Describing the situation to me MKO threw in one of his many proverbs ki ni nwa 10 Sokotofun nkan rimbe I' ese sokoto -why do you journey to Sokoto for what is right on the seam of your trousers. "Degrees are more or less meal tickets these days, Kudi’s intelligence is high class and her brilliance would outshine many a University graduate. (If she married me), Kudi would not have to work all her life, I will Insah Allah make her comfortable and happy, and she will never regret her decision."
Though I counselled caution, suggesting he spend more time to reflecting on the matter., MKO decided to take the plunge. There was no stopping him! He proceeded to take Kudi's hand in marriage from her family at Ijebu-Ode. He insisted that I should be with him along with his other close friends. This request posed a dilemma for me. Alhaja Simbi, a distant cousin, had frowned at my role in the MKO-Kudi affair. She felt I ought to do more to dissuade MKO from going deeper with Kudi. In all honesty, no one could stop MKO whatever he had set his mind to, most especially his desire to have Kudi as his wife! ! I asked him not to proceed with the Nikai (celebration of marriage) unless and until he had obtained Simbi' s clearance.
Interestingly, Kudi's mother had also insisted that she would not let go unless Simbi was willing to take her a junior wife. This was an uphill task for him. He did not however reach me to relate these thorny developments.
On the eve of the Nikai, I travelled to Ijebu-Ode to await MKO's Groom Train from Lagos. As I approached Kudi's family house, where the event was to hold, standing by the door was Alhaja Simbi waiting to be ushered in. I took a quick decision and turned back, quite sure that Simbi would resent my role and blame me for having encouraged her husband to take another wife.
I later received a report of the Nikai ceremony, how Simbi accepted Kudi from her family and undertook 'to look after her' as a junior wife.
Kudi was enterprising in business. Quietly, she engaged in a flourishing trade as well as contracting, which gave her a personal wealth without compromising her status as wife of a prominent businessman, and high profile politician.
Kudi also occupied her time with Islamic activities assisting various Muslim Women Organisations. In this regard, she followed the example of Simbi, the senior wife who had achieved the status of a wealthy woman in her own right, and was also a generous supporter of Islamic bodies.
When unexpectedly Simbi passed on in London on November 10, 1992, Kudi became the most senior wife and she was accorded the same pre-eminence that Simbi had enjoyed. Soon after, MKO entered the presidential race; Kudi became highly exposed, joining the campaign of her husband. She fulfilled the bill most admirably and she was beside MKO everywhere especially in the North where her mastery of the Hausa language was a great asset.
MKO triumphed at the June 12, 1993 Elections, but the historic sweet victory turned sour when IBB annulled the result a few days later. Thus began the struggle to revalidate the annulled result. Kudi was at the centre of it all. She accompanied her husband to the series of meetings MKO held with IBB, though she was excluded from their private deliberations.
MKO later had wind that harm might come to him, he quickly fled the Country for Europe and America. The burden of resistance fell heavily on Kudi who became the most visible symbol of the struggle. The exemplary courage, dedication and steadfastness in Kudi came out vividly in the support of her husband and all he stood for. Her image and popularity soared.
After IBB stepped aside and Chief Ernest Sonekan became Head of the Interim Government, the struggle continued. MKO felt safe to return to Nigeria expecting Shonekan's Government to install him as President. MKO's household became a beehive of political activities with Kola (MKO's eldest son) and Kudi standing closest to him as his foremost advisers. It was a magnificent performance for Kudi who also combined the roles of wife, mother, hostess and political activist in a tense period of the biggest crisis that ever faced the nation.
General Sani Abacha was later to edge out Shonekan to take over the reins of ~ Government in a bloodless coup. Kudi never concealed her utter contempt for Abacha especially after the latter clamped her husband into detention, following MKO's declaration of himself as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at Epetedo, Lagos in 1994.
Kudi thereafter became the rallying point of the resistance as a NADECO chieftain. The crisis brought out the best in her courage, wit, resistance and resolve. When she lost her mother and confidant, the strain became unbearable, yet she stood firm.
She and members of the MKO family made frequent visits to Abuja to see their patriarch in detention. Often, the visits were fruitless, as the security chiefs would decline permission even after they had cleared the visit. I recall the last time we all saw MKO alive. It was during his last appearance in Abuja High Court. As always, he displayed a magnificent spirit, asking after people and discussing tropical issues.
Some 18 months later, tragedy struck. An armed gang attacked Kudi; she was taken to Eko Hospital, where she died before I could reach the hospital.
By winning the heart of our dear friend MKO, Kudi won our hearts as well. She epitomized the dedication and strength that an accomplished man like MKO needed particularly at a critical moment in his life. She grew to become all MKO wished for and more. She took a special position in the life of a man who was larger than life, a man who left an impact on all that he touched, and through that has now left a legacy of her own.
Theirs was a special love story, for all their relationship had originally caused, how hollow would it all been, had they not persisted in pursuing their love to a logical conclusion.
Kudi, the beautiful, brilliant and bold lady died fulfilled and has gone down in history as a heroine of democracy, ranking in stature with other great and legendary Nigerian women like Moremi of Ife, Amina of Zazzau, Emota of Benin and Iyalode Tinubu of Egbaland.
May Allah reward her distinguished life with a place in AI-Jannah.
MY MUM, MY HEROINE