The Return of General Sani Abacha


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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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The Return of General Sani Abacha



Fred Ohwahwa




culled from GUARDIAN, March 15, 2006



The official version is that General Sani Abacha, one time head of state of Nigeria, died on Monday June 8, 1998, and was buried on the same day in Kano. True? False! Well, not entirely true or false. In other words, the truth is somewhere in-between. Wondering whether I am hallucinating? Not really. Having taken cognisance of what is going on in the political terrain in Nigeria, it is not difficult to conclude that General Abacha is fully back in the saddle. Almost everything happening has the Abacha imprint.


Now let's itemise some of them:


Abacha hounded his political opponents, especially NADECO, Afenifere and other "unpatriotic" elements who were bent on destabilising the country. Opponents of the present government are being hounded into submission. And just as the Abacha government through the late Wada Nas and others periodically drew our attention to the machinations of NADECO and co to destabilise the country, Mr. Frank Nweke Jr. has started alerting us to the unwholesome plans of these unpatriotic elements.


* Under General Abacha, there was big war that was waged against corruption. Bank executives, people who generally forgot the basic rule of banking that they were mere custodians of people's money, were made to face the full wrath of the law. While that was going on, the taciturn general and his henchmen were driving trucks to the Central Bank and looting the place. The previous practice of inflating contracts and getting handsome commissions thereafter was considered too cumbersome.

Just get to the vault of the CBN and take whatever you like, preferably in foreign currency. Use much of it to smoothen your way to ruling Nigeria for life. Abacha achieved his ambition: he ruled Nigeria for life; the man died in office. At the moment, a major war against corruption is raging. Just like Abacha carefully targeted those to be affected, this war is aimed at certain type of people. The EFCC has become the attack dog of government. And this attack dog is not bothered that the way it is carrying out its otherwise noble assignment is raising credibility problems. And the EFCC is not concerned that a lot of illicit money is in circulation to realise the life-presidency of one man.


*  Five leprous parties, apologies to late Bola Ige, worked frantically to adopt Abacha as their sole presidential candidate. It was a move that negated all democratic principles and ignored the basic fact that we are a diverse nation. Just recently, there were public hearings in the six zones of the country on the amendment of the 1999 Constitution. The zonal hearings simply reminded one of shameless way the politicians rail-roaded Abacha as their presidential candidate. Somebody has said that the public hearing was a kangaroo exercise designed for the sole purpose of securing a life-presidency for one man, who has grown in the likeness of Abacha.

The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which lost its bearing as a credible news medium since 1983 following the massive rigging of elections that year, was the major media tool that Abacha and his henchmen used in realising his ambition of life-presidency. Remember those creative adverts of "Who the Cap fits" and others? Right now, the NTA is trodding the same ignoble path.

During Abacha's era, youths were earnestly mobilised to make sure he agreed to rule us forever. There was even a two-million man march in Abuja. Evidence that Abacha is still with us is the fact, the youths are busy mobilising themselves. At the head of this is the President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). All that remains for him to do is organise a four-million man march in Abuja. Needless to say, the NANS president is a disgrace. He has betrayed the noble history of student activism in Nigeria.


*  Under Abacha, the government continuously fought with the United States and other western countries who opposed his unjust rule. Abacha's men told America and others to go to hell. That they should not interfere in our internal affairs. Even the revered Nelson Mandela was told to mind his business. Since the return of Abacha, the same thing has started. The government's henchmen have been advising America to stop telling us what to do. That we don't have anything to learn from them on this matter of democracy.


*  Remember that the late General Abacha never came out to say he wanted to rule Nigeria until he died. The new Abacha is also following this hugely successful script: he is not telling any of us that he wants to rule until the second coming of Christ.

Also under Abacha, we had a million and one groups jostling to enter the bandwagon of Abacha-forever. And they got money from sundry sources to prosecute their agenda. Today, we have so many groups springing up to join the so-called Third Term train. And they have begun to take adverts in the newspapers. There is one that advertised the other day which calls itself "Youths for Third Term Project". As with all such misbegotten groups, it has no identifiable address.


Many of those who worked on the Abacha life-presidency project are also working on the present project. Just name them, they are there. From Tony Anenih to Ibrahim Mantu, etc. And because they succeeded the other time, the chances are high that they will succeed once again. And just as Nigeria became better after the exit of Abacha, Nigeria will be better after this episode is over. Isn't interesting how history repeats itself? Or people refusing to learn from history, and thus repeat history? There is no point dueling on the merits or otherwise of tenure elongation. All that needed to be said has been articulated in the Nigerian media. The bottom-line is that there is not one single merit to this perfidious agenda.


The agenda is offensive, bankrupt, immoral and in fact, sinful. Sinful because taking an oath of office in which you invoke the name of God, and then try to go back on your vows is like mocking God. And God will not be mocked. The saddest part of it is that Nigeria's political elite have once again shown that they are a let-down to the people of the country. In other parts of the world, there is what is called elite consensus. After more than six years of civilian rule, our political actors are still to settle simple issues such as tenure of office. Some of them are still actively engineering a change of constitution (not even law) in favour of one person. It is fundamentally wrong to make laws for specific individuals or groups. It is more so when it comes to altering a constitution.

It is really sad that all the gains we thought we had made as a nation, after the June 12 struggle and engaging the Abacha dictatorship have been wiped out by those who are only power mongers; people who do not understand the fundamental rules of democratic engagement. People who do not believe in building institutions and traditions; people who do not wish Nigeria well.




Ohwahwa is a company executive in Abuja.



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