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October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



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Umar's Letter To Abacha




General Sani Abacha President and C-in-C,

Nigerian Armed Forces Aso Rock,

Abuja .


A military officer makes his appreciation of the
situation before embarking on any operation. The most
important element in this process is to clearly define
the aim of that operation. Having selected the aim,
factors that pertain to its achievement, which include
the friendly and enemy forces that respectively
support and oppose the officer, are objectively and
dispassionately analyzed. As you know sir, the
unpardonable sin which one can commit in this exercise
is to subjectively view any factor and thus see it not
as it really is but as one would wish it to be in
order to make it justify a predetermined course of

The factors which surround our lingering national
crisis have been so subjectively considered and its
management so far has reached a truly alarming state,
prompting me to write you this open letter. The letter
arises purely from my concern for the continued unity
and progress of our beloved fatherland Nigeria.

I use military imagery here because I am convinced
that if you henceforth approach the problems in a
military manner, seeing facts as they truly are and
minimizing the distorting elements which the self
interest of some of your advisers create for your
vision it will be solved not only to the satisfaction
of the majority of Nigerians but also in a just and
equitable manner.

I would willingly have come personally to present to
you the humble suggestions which I made in this letter
but I can imagine the deliberate distortion of the
import of such a visit by those advisers, given my
stand since the start of the crisis. I am therefore
constrained to resort to this open letter, not out of
any disrespect but out of expediency. I have no doubt
that you will give attention to the letter because I
have corresponded with you in the past on matters of
national importance and given suggestions which you
acknowledged to me to be frank and honest.

When you took over the government of the federation on
17th November, 1993 you clearly declared your aim to
be to save Nigeria from imminent collapse. I had no
doubt in my mind that in adopting that aim you had
time to reflect on and clearly understand the forces
which created the situation that you described during
that take over. You rightly concluded that Nigeria was
facing disintegration and therefore embarked on a
mission as the new Head of State and
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to prevent that
disintegration. That is a laudable duty, which every
officer is sworn to perform on accepting a commission
in the Armed Force. Nearly two years later I am really
concerned however that perhaps you did not read the
situation correctly or that some forces have pushed
you to operate disregarding that situation.

To be sure, you were a major participant in the last
military administration as well as the short-lived ING
which replaced it. You were fully involved in the
formulation of all their policies both socio­economic
and political. You thus share the credit for the good
policies as well as the blame for the ill-advised ones
of administrations, particularly the unfortunate
annulment of the elections of June 12 1993, the origin
of our present problems. I cannot deny that other long
standing socio economic and political factors
contributed to those problems but their major cause
was and remains that annulment. Logically therefore,
unless the injustice of that annulment is addressed,
any other steps taken to move Nigeria forward, however
well intentioned they may be, are bound to fail.

I have accepted that you were right to say that
Nigeria faced imminent collapse as at November 1993.
But I am sure that if you had not taken over,
Shonekan's government would have collapsed out of its
own internal contradictions and illegitimacy and the
winner of that election would have been sworn in. When
I say therefore that you set about preventing that
disintegration by taking over, I refer to the
assumption which underlay that take over, which was
that it was done to facilitate the actualization of
that mandate. If that had happened we would not have
found it necessary to engage in a fruitless search for
a new constitution thereby saving time and money. We
would have avoided that attendant acrimonious debates
that promise to further reinforce the mutual distrust
and disrespect that existed between the North and the
South which hitherto we have successfully fought to
eradicate from our national consciousness. We would
have been at peace with the international community
and thus focused our attention on adjusting to the new
global economic and political realities which the end
of the cold war entails. There would probably not have
been a coup or romours of one nor the Aziza tribunal
which has convicted a former Head of State and his
deputy of treason. Above all, justice would be seen to
have been done and the image of the Nigerian military
would have been enhanced as a detribalized and
nationalistic institution.

Since I know you to be a nationalist at heart, I
cannot believe that you would have deliberately
charted the course you chose if you had envisaged all
these grave complications. I can therefore conclude
that a fundamental mistake has been made in your
reading of the political situation. I also believe
that having tried for 22 months to steady the ship of
state with your present approach with little success
it is time for a review of that strategy. That review
is rendered more poignant at this point so that we do
not embark on another costly and futile transition
programme which will lead to no where.

We have never as a people so blatantly endangered the
unity of this country as we did by the annulment of
the June 12 election, which was adjudge the freest and
fairest in our history. I repeat that unless that
issue is resolved we can get nowhere. It would however
appear that we are so preoccupied with burying that
phenomenon that we have failed to objectively address
the issues raised by it. If we had allowed reason to
prevail we would have been able to plot a way out of
the present logjam. To plot such a course we could
still ask ourselves the following fairly logical

Were both Moshood Abiola and Bashir Tafa duly cleared
by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to contest
that election? Was the election conducted based on
laws governing it?

Was voting duly completed?

Did NEC collate the results and if it did, where are
those results? Why were the results not fully

Were plausible reasons given to the electorate for
withholding them?

Why did Abiola become an object of character
assassination in the aftermath of the election while
Tafa was left alone?

Why was Abiola called for dialogue when you came to
power on 17th November 1993, a fact that NTA found
necessary to broadcast to its vaunted 30 million

I continue to keep my promise not to bring to light
the details of our struggle to install the winner of
that election, a struggle which eventually cost me my
commission and brought upon me other attendant
deprivations. You on the other hand have gained
worldly power but I hope that having accepted that
annulment was a grave injustice not only to the winner
but also to the entire Nigerian electorate you owe it
as both a moral and political obligation to redress
such injustice in the interest of Nigeria.

You cannot achieve your stated aim by burying June 12.
June 12 will remain indelible in the minds of
Nigerians no matter how long it takes for it to be
justly addressed. June 12 has dealt heavy blow to
those who contributed to efforts to frustrate it.
Those who have gleefully trooped to bury June 12 for
their own ends have instead ended to their chagrin in
their own political graves. Some of them are now
realizing this fact rather belatedly and making all
sorts of quixotic efforts to wriggle out of those
graves. It is therefore absolutely necessary for you
to do what is right and just in order to save this
nation from the collapse, which you rightly fear.

I know that it has become difficult if not impossible
to actualize June 12 if that means swearing in Abiola
as president and Kingibe as his deputy, bringing back
in the process all the abolished democratic
structures. It is however also impossible to move
forward without settling the crisis brought about by
its annulment. My proposals for resolving this
imbroglio, some of which have been made by other well
meaning Nigerians are therefore as follows:

Abiola should be released from detention without
conditions immediately.

All political prisoners should be released

The cases of those convicted by the Aziza panel should
be reviewed. I recommend, sir, a generous mitigation
of all their sentences and a possible pardon for
Obasanjo and Yar'Adua for obvious reasons. That I
believe we will go a long way to reduce political
tension in the country.

You should enter into meaningful dialogue with Abiola.
I propose that he be appointed prime Minister or Head
of Government and given a free hand to pick his
cabinet and run the government. You may remain
President and C-in-C to October 1998. If Abiola
decides to run for office he would have to resign by
December 1997.

An attempt should be made to accommodate some of the
politicians who lost their offices as a result of the
political crisis through appointing them into the
boards of federal establishment and other patronages.

All Nigerians who are currently in exile should be
encouraged to return President Shagari's magnanimity
in granting an unconditional pardon to Chief Odumegwu
Ojukwu comes into relevance here as an act of
statesmanship which brought a lot of goodwill to the
NPN government. You can also imagine how our civil war
would have ended if General Gowon had not pardoned
Chief Awolowo and appointed him the Minister of
Finance and Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive

A Council of Elders composed of all former Heads of
state (including General Obasanjo), respected elders
e,g Chief Enahoro, Dr. Ekwueme, Shettima All i
Monguno, Yahaya Gusau, generals Ejoor and Danjuma,
former Chief Justices of the Federation etc should be
created to advise on our national political issues.

Meetings of regional elders should be stopped
forthwith and political parties which are clearly not
based on tribes or regional groupings registered by
1st January 1996. In this regard there is a need to
revert to our-party structure albeit with the parties
coalescing by a process of voluntary association. The
multi-party arrangement proposed by the draft
constitution is definitely a step backwards in today's

Scrap all extra-governmental bodies like the Petroleum
Trust Fund. All funds generated from that fund should
go into the Federation Account and be disbursed in
accordance with the revenue allocation formula.

Retired and serving senior officers should meet and
iron out their differences. They must try to forgive
each other any perceived slights with a view to giving
good guidance to their junior thus enhancing spirit de
corps within the service.

Government should continue to investigate cases of
fraud and mete out appropriate punishments. The
regular courts must however be left free to do their
duty. We must deemphasise tribunals as means of
dispensing justice thus enhancing our human right
standing with the international community. Arbitrary
arrest and detentions should be stopped forthwith.

Since there is nothing basically wrong with the 1989
Constitution 1 recommend that we retain it with two
significant modifications. These are the inclusion of
a power sharing arrangement through the rotational
presidency and the revenue allocation formula arrived
at the constitutional Conference. We should not worry
about whether rotation is to be temporary or permanent
because experience will guide us in future and in any
case if the need clearly arises there can always be a
constitutional amendment.

Once again, I appeal to you, sir in Allah's name to do
what is right, it is very easy for leaders to become
insulated from reality. Because of the vast resources
under your control you will never be short of
sycophants. Similar persons have advised people like
the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos, Idi Amin, Jean
Bokassa and Samuel Doe if such leaders stated that the
sun rose in the west the sycophants would agree and go
to any extent to convince others to follow suit.
Please don't be misled by them. In your case you must
know that apart from entertaining purely selfish
motives in resolution of the crisis your supporters
see it as an opportunity to avenge a long standing
perceived wrong done to them by some people.
Revanchism has however never done much to advance the
human cause and you must not allow them to destroy
Nigeria in the course of their ill-motivated revenge

In the last 20 months we have very perverted reasoning
both from plebeians and from those who should be
regarded as true intellectuals. They have been trying
to convince us that the June 12 election was
inconclusive while at the same time saying that the
annulment was a coup without even accepting that
somebody won the election to necessitate a coup in the
first place. Most ridiculous are the intellectual
acrobats who say they believe in June 12 as a
principle but not in its main actor as an individual.
One asks why and one is deluged with a warped
character sketch of Chief Abiola - he is dubious, he
is owed so much by the Federal Government and would
therefore make the recovery of that debt his priority
in office etc!

I also entreat you to take the views of other
observers of happenings in Nigeria into account in
making your decision. 1 refer to the likes of Randall
Robinson. Do not listen to those who tell you that he
does not know our true situation because he has never
been to Nigeria. Every Nigerian fought apartheid
without ever visiting South Africa. We did not need to
go there to know that apartheid was bad. We cannot
afford in this day of the global village to affect
imperviousness to the impression, which others hold
about us as a people.

Sir, I honestly beseech you to understand that it will
not be possible to conduct another presidential
election successfully without settling the June 12
issue. The reason is obvious, I cannot conceive of any
nationally acceptable Westerner who should commit the
political hara­ kiri of standing for that election as
long as June 12 remains unresolved. I cannot also see
how any Easterner or Northerner can be duly sworn in
as a result of such an election and proceed to govern
Nigeria in peace, especially after the Army quits the
political stage. However naturally difficult you find
it to sit and discuss with Chief Abiola, it is a duty
that you have to perform for the sake of Nigeria. Know
sir that if Nigeria were to collapse as a result of
the mishandling of this crisis, everyone of us who
served in government with you will share direct
responsibility for that collapse. That is why I urge
you to consider your holding office now as an
opportunity to serve the cause of justice and restore
our honour by justly resolving the crisis.

Lastly Sir, do not, I pray you, compound our problems
by contemplating any transitional government come
October I without including Chief Abiola. In
particular Sir, beware of the immense political
implication of appointing anybody from any other part
of Nigeria apart from Abiola's regional base to head
such a government. Know that the apparent calm which
Nigeria seems to be enjoying now is only a case of
suspended animation in anticipation of October I on
which date many Nigerians pin their hopes for the
triumph of justice. Any further betrayal of that hope
will have grave repercussions because your last trump
card, the Constitutional Conference, has already been

May Allah guide you in leading Nigeria in this
delicate period.

D. A. Umar

Colonel (Rtd).




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