‘Rinsola, daughter of the late maverick politician, Chief MKO Abiola, has a trajectory that borders on tragedy, hope and blessings. For a young woman who hardly knew her father growing up, she has decided to take shot at a political office. Imbued with intelligence, diligence and excellence, Rinsola exudes class, simplicity and a grass-roots camaraderie that are uncommon among individuals of her pedigree. As the Special Adviser on New Media to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Rinsola is running for the House of Representatives to represent Abeokuta North/Odeda/Obafemi Owode Abeokuta constituency on the platform of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). Full of ideas and passion to serve the people, Rinsola shares her ambition and motivation with Funke Olaode
It has been over 20 years since Abiola’s tragic demise but his political dynasty still echoes from the distant past. Apart from his daughter, Lola Abiola-Edewor, who was elected into the House of Representatives in 1999, Lekan, – one of his sons – had also attempted once before beating a retreat. Come 2019 general election, Abiola’s political dynasty will witness a revolution through one of his daughters, Rinsola.
Rinsola was one of the four children bore by one of his wives, Folashade. The young lady in her late 20s currently works as a special adviser on New Media to the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. She was born in London, trained as a statistician and public relations guru trained at the University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Ogun State and the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. The young politician without mincing word is aware of her family and what it stands for.
“It is a common knowledge that the family is quite large. Growing up, there were many conversations about my father, looking forward for his coming home and he eventually died in detention and had to cope with that. I don’t have any vivid recollection of him because I was less than two years when he was detained and by the time I turned seven I was expecting him to come home he passed away. But his name has refused to fade away because I often meet strangers who talk glowingly about how he impacted their lives one way or the other. Growing up without him, he remained the integral part of my life despite that he wasn’t around. There is no way of separating what daddy stood for from my life and how it turns out that even in death my daddy has continued to be a source of inspiration.”
“I had all education in Nigeria thanks to my mother who has been a strong pillar. She made us realise what happened and the circumstances. If anything for us it was a source of strength. By father not being around wasn’t his choice and eventual death wasn’t his. I knew that he was very comfortable, very wealthy and could have chosen his wealth over what he went through but he didn’t because he believed what he was doing. Going to school for me was key because I knew I was born by such great person and in everywhere I have to ensure that I didn’t let him down by performance, character and in all facets of my life,” she says.
Does the name of MKO Abiola places a burden of expectation on her to excel? “Yes, it does because whenever I go anywhere and people know I am MKO Abiola’s daughter. There is this impression that ‘Oh, I hope you are as brilliant as he was!’ Or, ‘I hope you are as generous as he was!’ Sometimes, I hear: ‘Hope you are a people’s person as he was.’ There are so many expectations. My dad’s shoes are too large to step into.
“Everybody has to strive to carve a niche for themselves because it is impossible for anyone to be like that man because his achievements are impossible to surmount. From my mother’s side, my elder sister, Barakat had her doctorate at 21. She had a bachelor’s degree at 18, graduated with first class honours abroad. She prefers to be quiet. She is very brilliant. When I left secondary school I had 8 Bs and one A in my WAEC results. So, his intellectual prowess has rubbed off on us because within the family particularly my mother’s children, there are so many achievements and talents that it becomes intimidating when you think of it. So I have constant motivation from my father’s track records and the achievements of my sibling and my mum who has been the pillar of support for us to strive hard.”
Rinsola is currently seeking to represent her constituency in the House of Representatives in the next dispensation. Is she trying to revive the MKO Abiola’s political dynasty or what is her motive? Her response: “Well, if it is I would say subconsciously probably because the way my dad died fighting for the democracy we are enjoying now. I know he is a man of the people who put the needs of the people above himself. That is a legacy anybody can strive to live up to. For me, the interest to go into politics came about when I realise that there are so many things going on in this country. So many youths are dissatisfied with the quality of governance.
“Our hospitals are more or less mortuaries without equipment. The schools are filled with dilapidated structures while the cost of education keeps increasing. An average Nigerians cannot put food on the table. It seems many of those who aspire for public office are not doing it for service as many want position and influence to the detriment of the masses. I just felt we can’t continue to complain about the state of things especially young people without getting involved. For me, that was the major factor that made me move from youth activism to the mainstream politics.”
She adds: “I consider myself as an advocate for youth inclusion in politics and gender equity because those are the two things that matter to me. My activism is mostly from the perspective of calling for youth inclusion in government across board and not just in positions where they observe but in a position where they are able to influence policies and they are able to contribute to decision making at the highest level. I worked with some youth organisations before going into mainstream politics because I realise that there is so much one is able to do as a private individual but one can do a whole lot within government.
“As I said earlier, it is not just because dad meant a lot of things to different people that I am doing this. I am doing it because of the passion to alleviate people’s sufferings. I have listened to his interviews, his manifestoes and listened to how he was so passionate. He was worthy of emulation. So the fact that I feel that way, the fact the quality of representation we have is not good enough and I put myself forward, believe the people of my constituency deserve a better representation and I don’t think it is due to the fact that daddy loved politics but I feel very strongly about it. I am running for the House of Representatives to represent Abeokuta North/Odeda/Obafemi Owode Abeokuta Constituency under Action Democratic Party (ADP).”
Rinsola was an integral part of the ruling party, APC, before she dumped it to embrace ADP. Considering that the party is not popular, how does she think she can realise her dreams?
“I used to be in APC. I was the founding PRO of the youths. I was a founding secretary of the APC Young Women Forum and later became acting president and then I was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the APC. I have been in APC and I know what it is like. I left APC in August this year simply because I felt a lot of things which are undemocratic were being passed on as the law. For me, many people fought for this democracy and considering the sacrifice my father made to have democracy today. And when I looked at what is being meted out to me, I felt it is like an insult into his memory. If I have been advocating for something for so long and it is not done simply because real power is lacking. We are talking about youth inclusion and you are having a party with an exorbitant form fee,” Abiola’s daughter tells THISDAY.
Rinsola believes that beyond dropping her father’s name, her passion for politics is to preserve Abiola’s legacy, ideas and philosophy and to complete his unfinished business.
“My late dad had played his role well that 20 years after his death his name still resonates. I believe in his philosophy, ideals. In addition to the kind of person he was, his love for the people irrespective of your social background. He had friends from all walks of life. If we have representation that is not proactive what is the point of electing people. So my passion for development and empowerment is something that is obvious I am quite young but I believe I have garnered enough experience working in the House of Representatives. My duty as a lawmaker apart from making laws is to attract infrastructural development to my constituency.
“If you have a legislator who cannot give you an update on how his constituency is fairing, that legislator should be questioned. I have gone through all the three local governments to see the state of the roads, the primary health care centre,” she explains.
As a greenhorn in politics how does Rinsola think she can match the establishment? Unperturbed by the so-called the establishment, the young Abiola believes in people’s power.
“The establishment is made up of people and they are strengthened by votes from people and at the end of the day politics they say is about interest. It is essentially going to be about who the people believe has better interest at heart. If I am able to tell the people what I have for them and the other person has a better chance – may the best man or woman wins. I am putting myself forward because I know I can do it better,” she argues.