It has never been my intention to dwell on my imprisonment as the basis for entitlements and favors from the state, public or private institutions. Neither do I consider it necessary to flaunt my personal sacrifice for the common good as a badge to denigrate the contribution of others, no matter how small, during a reign of evil.
I have just read Chief Frank Kokori’s book on his struggle for June 12. Between August 10th and 16th 2014, reviews and extracts from the book were published in some national dailies exculpating those who, according to Chief Kokori, did not betray him.
Because The Vanguard was among the first papers to carry the story, I called the respected publisher of the paper, Chief Sam Amuka, who was gracious enough to offer me the opportunity for a response, since I was being defamed and maligned by Chief Kokori in his book. Chief Amuka assigned his editors to speak to me and I granted an interview which was published on August 24th 2014, setting the record straight.
If Chief Kokori was not on a hatchet job for his current benefactors, he would have thought why my “reward” for betraying him was a sixteen month detention in the harshest conditions. I came out of Enugu prison on the 24th of June 1996 with nothing but a plastic bag containing a bible, a tooth brush and not a kobo in my name anywhere in the world.
In his own words, Chief Kokori told me in his office almost ten years later that he started believing the rumors because he thought I was dead since I didn’t join the money rush after politics returned. I was shocked he would do that to the memory of someone who had given a lot to the struggle without any facts. But when I read his recent interview a couple of weeks ago, again in the Vanguard, Sept.21st, I felt bad, indeed sorry for the chief.
He’s a man who is either so bitter or has no logical and rational thought or both.
Perhaps that explains why he would write a 340 page book about ‘his’ struggle for June 12, but it is Fred Eno’s name that he uses to sell it.
He claimed I was very junior to him but he never tired of complaining that I brought the other NUPENG leaders into disbursing mobilization funds during the evil days under Abacha. And, yes – contrary to what Chief Kokori wants you to believe, we did mobilize and empower them.
He claims he knew it was my voice and he came out in the middle of the night to meet me. I will say this again and I will say it with every conviction, I was already arrested at the time he claimed I called him. I have mentioned the real heroes I was arrested with and whom I was with, two of them are still alive. Perhaps chief Kokori can ask them if I was making frantic and desperate phone calls as he claimed. Our captors too, apart from Abacha himself who gave the orders, are also still alive.
In his most recent interview promoting his book Chief Kokori said: “ I am surprised hearing this from Eno because, like I said in the book, Eno was very junior to us during the time of the struggle, but, fortunately for him, he was the Media Assistant to the late Chief Moshood Abiola and it was during that period that I knew him through the late Pa Anthony Enahoro and we started working together in the area of media, not that he was in the struggle really.” (Vanguard Sept. 21st )
Interesting indeed. How much more can one ask or expect from such a great man like Chief Frank Kokori, who would only want to be associated by and with real great men like Chiefs Abiola and Enahoro. Since the quote above is from Kokori’s mouth and not from his scripted book, let me pick on a few issues just from the quote to help us along.
“Eno was very junior to us during the time of the struggle.”
Hard to understand here whether Chief Kokori means junior in age or Junior in roles and responsibilities as relates to the struggle.
I will concede age to chief Kokori, because he is older than I am.
But if the ‘junior’ here refers to our roles and responsibilities in the struggle for June 12, then I am sorry to inform the chief that he was light years my Junior, and a million more pages in his book will not and cannot change that. The fact that he met me through Chief Abiola and Chief Enahoro should have informed him I had a critical role to play before he came. Neither did he say if Chief Abiola and Chief Enahoro tell him they were babysitting me and so he should not work with me because I was too young. On the contrary, both elder men always advised me on how to handle people like Chief Kokori who were in the struggle for their own personal gain, as his book reveals. Chief Enahoro was constantly encouraging me, reminding me I was his age when he began his struggle for Nigeria’s independence and that I should be ready for more challenges. This, he continued to do even in the cell in Shangisha following our arrest.
In retrospect, Chief Kokori’s problem is that he failed to manipulate me to deal with him alone while providing the necessary resources to sustain the strike action by oil workers. He always wanted pre-eminence for himself alone, and still does, as I deduced after reading his well choreographed version of events as captured in his book. Pity.
Since Chief Kokori has elevated himself to the levels of the venerable Chief Anthony Enahoro and, even more than Chief MKO Abiola whom he humiliates in his book, I will leave him to his stars. As Bashorun Abiola would say to me in situations like this: ‘only a fool considers himself a prince simply because he is in the King’s entourage.’
And here is Chief Kokori, angered for not being handed his deserved ministerial or some other high position by President Obasanjo whom he lacks words to describe.
Truly, I feel bad for Chief Kokori. In his mind he has done so much for Nigeria and Nigeria owes him. The former party chieftain lobbied to be INEC chairman, to be Delta governor or even a local government chairman, he lobbied hard to be a minister, he wanted to be chairman of NDDC. He wanted all these not because he was eminently qualified but because he had sacrificed for his country and it was an entitlement the country owed him. According to his own book, Chief Kokori is Nigeria’s last saint and everyone else, even the martyr of the struggle, Abiola, was beneath him. His book did a huge disservice to him and its a pity he wrote it too.
Such self-conceitedness is what we must pray younger generations of Nigerians do not emulate.
I was and am eternally proud of my role in the struggle. I did it because I believe in Abiola and what I still believe he would have done for the welfare of Nigerians. Unlike Chief Kokori who went into it for the sole reason of trying to be in government, I was just doing what I believed was my duty to my country. It’s a shame that Kokori who desperately wanted to be in Abiola’s government would denigrate Abiola in the same book. Yet I still wish him well in his future endeavors as I have always done, and did before he launched his book. We just happen to see service to country and to humanity from different prisms.
Fred Eno, a civil rights leader and one of the champions of the June 12 struggle for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria sent this piece from Geneva.