On February 1, Dr. Hamidat Doyinsola Abiola joined the club of septuagenarians and could therefore reminisce on the past with a view to guiding the up and coming. Although she would have loved a very quiet and silent celebration, the public eye, being on her projected the event as an uncommon attainment. While it is given for many in the society to attain the age, not many are considered as achievers who have the right stories to tell.
As a journalist, she attained a height that is the dream of many. In 1980, she was appointed the first woman editor of a national newspaper, National Concord. An incredulous public was soon convinced that there is nothing about the office that should make it an exclusive preserve of men. She adroitly ran the newspaper and it became a reference point
Dr. Abiola who obtained a doctorate degree in journalism in 1979 also proved that theory and practice should not always run along parallel lines. She managed the men and resources in the paper in such a way that it became the envy of older newspapers and those who had thought partisan considerations would becloud the writers’ sense of judgement were soon disappointed.
In two years, she had proved her mettle and moved up the ladder as director/editor-in-chief. When the pioneer managing director, Chief Henry Odukomaiya, a respected elder in the profession, had to bow out in 1984, his shoes were considered so large that a number of professionals wondered if the fortunes of the paper would not begin to decline. His successor would have to manage an array of achievers who had been assembled to produce a first-class newspaper, Mrs. Abiola was found fit and proper to run all divisions of the group as Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief.
Dr. Abiola was not just the wife of the publisher and proprietor of the vibrant group of newspapers, the largest selling at a point, she was highly regarded by all in the industry. Her robust intellectual capacity and sound managerial skills made her a reputable journalist.
Her strength of character was aptly demonstrated during the struggle for the validation of the mandate overwhelmingly won by her husband, the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola in the June 12, 1993 presidential election. The adversity faced by the family when the embodiment of the nation’s democratic struggles was locked up by the Abacha regime was enough to break the spirit of mean men and women. The regime put in place measures to frustrate the late Abiola’s businesses, including the newspapers; yet, the Concord manager refused to oblige them the pleasure of having the last laugh. She would neither betray her husband nor the struggle.
At 70, she could look back and say though she literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death in the days of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) resistance movement, she held on till the very end. Heroes and heroines are made in a country’s difficult moments. Men of straw find it very easy to betray a cause they had hitherto professed, but, Dr. Abiola passed the test. She stood for Nigeria, would do nothing to put pressure on her husband to recant and rather gave him all the encouragement he needed.
We commend Mrs. Abiola’s spirit, poise and vision. As a woman of substance, she has been a true trailblazer and shown that greatness is not merely inherited, but achieved. She has also demonstrated that hard work, faithfulness and steadfastness lead to imperishable legacy. We call on her to write books on her experience as a journalist and the struggle to free her country. This is a debt she owes and must pay back in expressing gratitude to God for sparing her life till this moment.