Tea used to be an innocent, nice and harmless drink often associated with relaxation until that fateful day of July 7, 1998 when its reputation (in Nigeria) suddenly went bad. In the space of a few hours it became known as a sinister tool of death, scourging life out of cells as it slid down the throat of Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. You know him as Chief MKO Abiola.

No one knows till this day what type of tea it was and it seems nobody cares about this bit, the fact that tea became the portal through which he slid to the land of the non-living is enough. What led to that point? You probably know but for those who don’t, here’s a brief account:

Let’s start from when MKO won the epic election of June 12, 1993. It seemed then that the whole country was pulsing as a single force behind this daring man. Immediately the election result was announced, all over the country people spilled out into the streets in celebration. Petty fights forgotten and cups and calabashes clinked in toasts.

Then like a giant’s foot, General Babangida stepped on this victory and crushed it to bits by annuling the election. People rebelled, oh they did and quite fiercely too. Babangida was forced to step aside as president leaving Chief Ernest Shonekan as interim president. 

General Sanni Abacha was the Minister of Defence under Shonekan’s administration but he apparently wasn’t satisfied. Few months into power, he shoved Shonekan out of the presidential seat and sat in his place. Like one of those warlords in those epic Hollywood films, he accused MKO of treason and had him arrested.

1998 came swiftly and with it came death for Abacha (in June). We know of the rumours of him biting an Apple at the hands of a daughter of Eve but that’s not verified. Let’s move on.

Like a carefully orchestrated move in a game of chess, a month later MKO also ceased to live. That day, the then Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and some other delgates from the US government had visited MKO. It was during the course of this meeting that he was given the tea.

Hell broke loose when the country learned of his death. He was greatly mourned and his name is still mentioned with wistfulness and admiration till today. 

The tea too has not been forgotten. When going to the Aso Villa, you may hear people say “don’t go there to drink tea o”.