To begin to understand the plight of women in Nigeria, one must first begin to examine statistics, read between the daily headlines, and decipher sound bites about Africa’s most populated nation.
Hafsat Abiola—special adviser to the governor of Ogun State on MDGs, young global leader of WEF, rights and democracy activist, and counselor of the World Future Council—is one such woman who has dedicated her life to improving the lives of women in Nigeria. Hafsat Abiola is a survivor. The film The Supreme Price documents Abiola’s journey from her early years as the daughter of a politician, to orphan, to politicized revolutionary, to wife and mother, and finally to politician.
The Supreme Price is directed by Abiola’s fellow Harvard alumna Joanna Lipper. The documentary hangs the Abiola family coat of arms on the hanger of Nigeria’s social and political struggles from independence to present, while empowering the struggle of Hafsat Abiolas’s single-handed attempt to transform a corrupt culture of governance into a democracy capable of serving Nigeria’s most marginalized population: women.
As a Harvard instructor, Lipper teaches a course entitled Using Film for Social Change. The Supreme Price strikes the motherload in this regard. “Nigeria is an incredibly vibrant and complex place,” Lipper says. “It’s a place that isn’t well understood. One of the challenges I faced was to distill the political history and culture for an audience unfamiliar with the subject matter, while being emotional enough with the story to resonate for Nigerians.
“I wanted to create a film that would let them take the epic story of one family’s rise and fall and understand how it relates to issues of religion, Christianity, Islam, the geographical and political attributes of North and South and kidnapping,” she continues. “I think Nigeria is a huge, important country, and it’s important for us to know Nigeria better.”
The Supreme Price stirs the inky blackness in the bowels of Nigeria’s corrupt soul and gives viewers a potent and familiar whiff of absolute power and its ability to corrupt absolutely. In the 54 years since independence, Nigeria has swollen to a population of over 173.6 million people, each one still at the whim of global superpowers who’ve deputized a handful of the country’s elite to plunder its oil reserves and pillage the people—the hardest hit being its women and children.
On June 12, 1993, Hafsat Abiolas’s father, the honorable Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (popularly known as M.K.O.) won a landslide victory in a democratic election which held the promise of ending years of military rule in Nigeria. He was summarily arrested and imprisoned in a coup by the military.
As the patriarch of his family, M.K.O. handed over the running of his Social Democratic Party (SDP) to his second wife, Kudirat Abiola. As custom allowed, M.K.O. had a number of other wives, an even greater number of concubines and assorted other women who gave him over 100 children. But Kudirat Abiola stood apart because of her passion for politics and dedication to social issues. She was the perfect choice to carry the baton and petition for M.K.O.’s release and recognition as the true appointed leader of the country.
The week of Hafsat Abiola’s graduation from Harvard in 1996, her mother Kudirat was assassinated. Two years later, her father M.K.O. mysteriously died in custody. Though unfortunate, these were both expected casualties of politics in Nigeria. According to a report released by the International Society for Civil Liberty and the Rule of Law, there have been over 170 political assassinations in Nigeria since 1999, when the current democratic journey began.
What was unexpected was what happened next. Hafsat Abiola went home to Nigeria to found KIND—Kudirat Initiative for Democracy—and involved herself in bettering the lives of women in her country under the name of her beloved mother.
Abiola later married a White diplomat named Nicolas Costello, who converted to Islam, had two children and moved to Belgium, but ultimately returned, alone to Nigeria, to serve as special advisor to the governor of Ogun state and continue the political struggle.
Director Joanna Lipper hopes The Supreme Price will serve as a springboard for change. “I strongly believe in woman’s empowerment,” she says. “The idea of looking at woman who are willing to be courageous in their personal and professional lives. Woman make choices that might be unpopular, but their beliefs in the greater good help them to make those chooses.”
Suede has spent a decade between the America, South Africa and Tanzania creating content for print, TV, radio and digital media. His interests include photography, pop culture, social media and travel. Follow him on Twitter @iamsuede.