Seven Years After Abacha


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Seven Years After, General Sani Abacha Still Glitters:

His Dreams, His Mission And Vision




Paul Mamza


June 7, 2005


By Wednesday, 8th June, 2005 General Sani Abacha will be remembered seven years after his death on the 8th of June, 1998.   Below, is a special tribute on his regime.




When General Sani Abacha assumed the mantle of leadership on Wednesday, 17th November, 1993 following the resignation of the Former Head of the Interim National Government and Commander In–Chief; Chief Ernest Shonekan, his first maiden national broadcast of Thursday, 18th November, 1993 has captured the mission of his government “many have expressed fears about the apparent return of the military.  Many have talked about the concern of the International Community.  However, under the present circumstances the survival of our beloved country is far above any other consideration.  Nige ria is the only country we have.  We must therefore solve our problems ourselves.  We must lay a very solid foundation for the growth of true democracy.  We should avoid any adhoc or temporary solutions.  The problems must be addressed firmly, objectivity, decisively and with all sincerity of purpose”.  Inorder to allow for freedom of speech “Government” he said” is hereby lifting the order of proscription with immediate effect.  We, however appeal to the media houses that in this spirit of national reconciliation, we should show more restraint and build a united and peaceful Nigeria”.  On the constitutional process of achieving success in laying strong foundations for democracy, the Former Head of State said, “a Constitutional Conference with full constituent powers will be established soon to determine the future constructional structure of Nigeria.  The constitutional conference will also recommend the method of forming parties which will lead to the ultimate recognition of political parties formed by the people”.  The government he offered was ‘a child of necessity with a strong determination to restore peace and stability to our country and on these foundations, enthrone a lasting and true democracy”.



General Sani Abacha’s mission no doubt galvanized as dreams realized in the area of achievements in varying frontiers like security of lives and property, sound economic realizations, an all-inclusive war against corruption, money laundering and advance fee fraud otherwise known as 419, establishing of far-reaching indices for an enduring democracy amongst others as highlighted below as dreams of mission realized.




Towards the realization of his dream for a better and prosperous Nigeria, General Abacha was very skilful on the choice of his cabinet members and his expectations of performance from them was addressed explicitly on the occasion of swearing-in of members of the Federal Executive council and state administrators on 27th November, 1993 and 9th December, 1993 respectively.  To the members of the Federal Executive council, General Abacha reiterated his administration’s focus that “the honourable ministers have to bear in mind that the development imperatives at this time of need are very impelling.  For this reason, you have to develop appropriate policies and programmes to accelerate the pace of development with emphasis on the well-being of our people.  The problem of development planning in Nigeria has its roots in plan implementation.  The results that are achieved at the end of our plan periods have usually been below set targets due to problems associated with mismanagement, fraud, lack of commitment and general ineptitude.  We must change the old ways of dong things, which have done more harm than good to the system.  There is an intrinsic relationship between plan formulation and implementation.  Managers of the system must therefore, learn to make effective use of resources in the development process”.  He concluded that ‘we cannot afford to fail with the galaxy of tested and experienced public offi cers assembled as ministers.  Given your proven track records in various fields of human endeavour.  Nigerians would expect a high level of performance from you. What is even more satisfying is the bi-partisan composition of the Federal Executive council.  We just have to get things working again.  This is a task that must be done in the interest of present and future generations of Nigerians” with high optimism.  To the state Administrators, General Abacha echoed some salient points of discipline, security of lives and property amongst others as “May I draw attention to the need for you to enforce discipline and maintain law and order in your respective states.  Without security and guarantee of life and property, no me aningful economic or political activity can take place… you must take positive steps to improve the level of accountability and discipline in your states and stamp out corruption” and on the root cause of conflict, Abacha charged the appointed Administrators as follows “you must at all times endeavour to promote unity and a sense of patriotism among the various groups in your states.  Remember the relative deprivation is always a source of conflict.  You should therefore ensure even development in all parts of the states in the interest of equity and fairness.  In the same spirit, you must try as much as possible in the administration of your state, to adhere to the principles of Federal Character which is designed to promote the true spirit of participation and a genuine sense of belonging in the people.  Before we can realize our vision of a society of equal opportunities, every citizen must perceive and feel that he has the chance to participate on equal basis regardless of his tribe, race, political belief or religion.  I expect you to strive to regain our cherished spirit of tolerance and unity in diversity.  This requires breadth of vision and generosity of mind, qualities which you should cultivate as state administrators”.




Considering the experiences even under the so-called democratic rule, the regime of General Abacha tried to instill the spirit of fairness, justice, and equity thereby prompting peace, security and relative progress.  Presently, both at the Federal and State levels there is clear discriminatory approach towards leadership along political, ethnic and religious lives cultivating suspicion, distrust, crises of varying dimension and hatred thereby hindering collective interest of purpose.  Economically, there were indices of growth and development as against the current lack of mission and vision.  Some of the approaches that minimized wastage manifested through transparency and accountability in the oil industry (being the main trust of the economy) by the panel report on the reform and re-organization of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (nnpc) and the establishment of Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (ptf) designed to function as an intensive, intervention finance organization working within the administration’s development strategy.  PTF had recorded massive developments in the area of roads and transportation, including mass transit, railway transportation and waterways, education, health delivery, food supply, water supply, security services amongst others.


(a)           Specifics


(i)     Convocation of Constitutional Conference


a constitutional conference to fashion-out a new direction for the country with all the components of non-alienation was convened, unlike the present ‘National Political Reforms Conference’ which I earlier called a ‘Conference of deletable national consciousness’ due to lack of equal representation along age, religion, ethnic and tribal lines.  At the inauguration of the conference, General Abacha was firm with its mandate “what should be uppermost in our minds, is the need to lay the foundations of an inclusive system which will guarantee a stable society through its sensitive accommodation of all shades of political opinion, harnessed by t he full participation of all the component units of our land.  I expect that you will also consider such restraints on government as will ensure that no man will be oppressed and that no group will dominate or be marginalized.


Score Points


Delivering a broadcast to the nation on Monday 17th, November 1997 to mark the 4th Anniversary of his administration.  General Abacha said “in 1994, we convened the National Constitutional Conference with participants from all over the country and representing all shades of ideological persuasions… At the end of the conference, a draft constitution was produced which is undergoing due process and will be promulgated into law by the duly elected representatives of the people of this great nation.  In the meantime, relevant portions of the draft constitution are being used to regulating national programmes and activities”.   Nigeria has gon e through many constitutional reviews and making.  From Clifford Constitution in 1922, Richard’s Constitution in 1948/49, Lyttleton and Macpherson constitution in 1954 to Willink commission that set the bricks for the structural foundation of Nigeria as a Federation of regions, the 1979 constitution and 1989 presenting yet another constitution but the 1995 draft constitution by General Abacha is more emergent in terms of greater spirit of patriotism and commitment of onerous task of nationalism.  Even with democracy in place one does not expect better document more so when even the foundations of the so-called National Political Reforms Conference is shaky on a weak premise of segregation.  As Abacha emphasized at the event of the inauguration of the conference on Monday 27th June, 1994 that “The quality of leadership of this country mu st include courage, vision and a sense of history.  A leader in a plural society such as ours’ has to be able to persuade, inspire trust and confidence and possess a capacity to attract men and women of talent into public office.  Indeed, of necessity, he should have the capacity to transcend all the various cleavages that hang around our country’s neck like an albatross, such as the propagation of ethnic, regional and religious extremism.  Whatever consensus emerges from this conference, it is my hope that your recommendations will not detract from, endanger or diminish the unity of the Nigerian state”.  “Nigeria” he said “is a secular state.  We have acknowledged this in all our previous constitutions and it is in all our previous constitutions and it is not advisable that we deviate from this course.  Religion is an instrument for building moral bricks in our society and it should remain within the realm of personal faith and group choice.  It must never be allowed to interfere with our collective desire to build a unified and indivisible nation”.  On the economic front he said “Every Nigerian should have the right to undertake any enterprise, practice any profession, and be free to explore his talents to the fullest extent”.  Many far-reaching conclusion on revenue allocation, educational support, security, the role of the traditional rulers in a democratic setting, the press role, judiciary, separation of powers and power sharing formula had been tackled decisively and promptly by the draft constitution.


(ii)    Supplementing Oil Through Agriculture And Solid Minerals Development And Encouraging Development Through States’ Creation


In his 1995 Budget speech of January, 14th, 1995 General Abacha said, “government has made irrevocable decision to diversify the base of our revenue generation to progressively and substantially reduce our dependence on oil revenue for the economic life-line of our nation.  Definite measures have been introduced in this Budget so that Agriculture and solid minerals receive a boost.  Already our National agricultural efforts are being articulated, directed and managed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.  In view of the huge investment being made this financial year and to be made in subsequent years to develop our solid minerals resources, it has beco me necessary to establish a full fledge ministry of solid minerals development.  Appropriate machinery will be put in place to ensure that the new ministry becomes operational within a short time””, No doubt, greatest efforts in terms of inputs were witnessed in the agricultural and sold mineral developments during his tenure.  On the occasion of the 36th independence anniversary on October, 1st, 1996, General Abacha announce the creation of six new states to ensure fair spread and balancing, the states are;


(a)           Bayelsa State with headquarters at Yenagoa which was created out of Rivers state with 8 local governments areas

(b)           Ebonyi state with headquarters at Abakaliki, which was created out of Abia and Enugu state with 13 local government areas.

(c)            Ekiti state with headquarters at Ado-Ekiti, which was created out of Ondo with 16 local government areas.

(d)           Gombe state with headquarters at Gombe, which was created out of Bauchi with 11 local government areas.

(e)           Nassarawa state with headquarters at Lafia which was created out of Plateau state with 13 local government areas and;

(f)              Zamfara state with headquarters at Gusau, which was created out of Sokoto state with 13 local government areas.

General Abacha also approved the creation of an additional 183 local government areas.




The major crux of General Sani Abacha’s vision for Nigeria is contained in the Vision 2010 report, which is the most detailed and comprehensive policy formulation projection document Nigeria ever had.  Receiving the report of the vision 2010 committee headed by former Head of State Chief Ernest Shonekan General Abacha said “By vision 2010 programme, we seek to move our people away from short-sightedness and the daily struggle for short-term gains which do not seen to get us anywhere, to conceptualize a better future towards which we can channel our individual and collective energies with hope and enthusiasm.  Ours is an attempt to finally define where we want to go as a people.  It should then be easier to know when we deviate from the desired course.  If Nigerians ever had any faith in themselves and their future as a nation, this is the time to demonstrate it… with courage and determination, what needs to be done to set the country along the path of positive growth and development will be done.  This administration is committed to extending the frontiers of socio-economic development and to making efficiency, accountability and transparency the hallmark of our society”.  Going through the report, one would be surprised that any serious government after General Abacha will ignore it, considering its all-encompassing and far-reaching documentation of development strategies and initiatives.


(i)     Establishment Of A Formidable Rule Of Law


One of the greatest achievements of late General Sani Abacha’s regime is the establishment of rule of law though at the cost of putting his life on line.  He had proved beyond any reasonable doubt that no one is above the law of the land and the law is not a respecter of persons’ base on strength or weakness, wealth or lack of it.  He came at the time the nation was in serious political turmoil and glaring debilitating clangour of despairs but left the scene a better place.  His, was a regime conceived as a child of necessity transforming later into the necessities of our time.  Fundamentally, he had achieved the essentials of his mission and dreams but his vision was short-lived by the bizarre convolutions of the actions and inactions of the emergent political class.  The recent archetypal attitude of anarchical smattering of patriotic demands by selfish politicians at the expense of essential norms of nationalism is what makes General Sani Abacha to glitter even seven years after his death.  Even his scorned enemies will admit that he rescued the nation from the bricks of disintegration at a very turbulent and most trying period of the country’s life.  During his tenure there was no deliberate cases of government’s procrastination amidst raging desires of intervention.  His regime intervened and acted accordingly as when due with zealous nationalistic instincts.


An Addendum: Departures Through Betrayals


Typical with the tradition rooted in the behaviours of the Nigerian Political class changing tactics with circumstantial tune of events – Abacha’s antagonists led by the current President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo launched an unabated war against Abacha, his family and some of his associates.  There was a question of ‘Abacha Loot’, ‘Abacha Tyranny’ and so on.  Only few that served the government defended the actions of the government then, chiefly amongst the few are late Alhaji Wada Nas, former Minister for Special duties, late Alhaji Mohammed Kaloma Ali, former Minister for Solid Minerals development and Professor Sam Aluko, the former Chairman, National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC).  Professor Sam Aluko maintained that General Sani Abacha is the best economic manager Nigeria ever had which earned him the tag of serenity from President Olusegun Obasanjo and late Nas was vehement that General Sani Abacha was highly misunderstood leader, while late Kaloma Ali had shown compassion with the Family of Abacha through the trial cases involving the family members.  Majority had either disown Abacha and his government, which they served or curiously fought against the legacies he tried to leave behind.  The fact is that the legacies are inveterately not enfeebled by delusive disputations being realistic legacies.  Only better performance can overshadow its contents.


-       Mamza, a Political Columnist with the Leadership Newspapers writes from a.b.u Zaria



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