ARCHIVE: written in 2008:- Abacha was no Looter?
George Onmonya Daniel
The Daily Trust of Monday, June 9, 2008, carried the bold headline on its front page as its lead story, “ABACHA WAS NO LOOTER.” It was stated that in separate interviews at the 10th year anniversary prayer for Abacha, former military rulers, Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar, gave Sani Abacha “a clean bill of health that he looted public treasury.
General Sani Abacha took over power from the interim government of Alex Shonekan at a turbulent time in the history of Nigeria which was as a result of global change that has its root in the fall of Communist Soviet Republic in 1990. His crony, IBB, had squandered eight years adrift in the cesspool of corruption and failed to handover power to a democratic elected government after he was forced to resign leaving Nigeria at the brink of civil war.
The fall of Communist Soviet Republic ended the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States . From bi-polarized system that governed the world since 1945 we suddenly have a single super power. The US and its friends in Europe embarked on public relations stunts that they are the pioneers of democracy and freedom around the globe. It was this time that Abacha seized over power from the interim government of Alex Shonekan which was supposed to conduct an election that would put Nigeria among democratic countries of the world after many years of successive failed military regimes. And unfortunately for Abacha it was wrong timing considering the new global trend.
It was a time when democratic ideals from Diaspora started gaining ground in Nigeria and Nigerian intelligentsias, the press who control public opinion, and a large section of the population were disenchanted with the military juntas and the debacle they represent. It was a time when apartheid in South Africa had been crushed and Nelson Mandela was the democratic elected government of South Africa . It was an era of CNN, an era when happenings anywhere in the world is brought to your doorstep anywhere you are around the globe. Abacha was caught up in this change. He ignorantly ignored the change and then tried to manipulate the change, and in the end it made his government very unpopular both at home and internationally.
Because Abacha didn’t understand the change, most decisions he took during his five year reign were wrong decisions, from the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and others to dining and wining with Mammam Ghadafi of Libya and the formation of political parties and muscling his way as a sole candidate of the five political parties as the only man who the cap fits.
Abacha was fighting everything and everybody against his ambition tooth and nail, guns and bombs, and in the end he ended up with an image equal to that of the most notorious dictators the world has ever seen. CNN compared Abacha reign to that of Nazi Germany under Hitler, Idi Amin of Uganda , and Papa Doc of Haiti. The Nigerian press was fed up with military antics and came down hard on Abacha. Abacha clamped on them with the entire brute you can imagine. He was going to make himself president and anything or anybody on his way had to give way by whatever means. Human Rights activists were jailed. Journalists were jailed and some murdered. Those who spoke against Abacha’s ambition were hunted. Like something out of a Shakespearian tale the deux ex machina was death. Abacha died in the midst of his dream and ambition to the surprise of the nation.
During his time as military president of Nigeria he made himself a lot of enemies, from north to south, east and west, indiscriminately. General Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over after Abacha was one of them. He was the first to expose the Abacha loot barely three months after Abacha’s demise. The West that he fought all these while was willing to cooperate with the Nigerian government and they did in exposing the numerous bank accounts with millions and billions stashed away. Afterwards the Olusegun Obasanjo government continued to regain huge amounts from foreign banks through the cooperation of their governments.
With all the facts and figures available on the Abacha loots, it is ridiculous and pathetic to exonerate Abacha of all wrong doings. And such hocus-pocus from the mouth of Abdulsalami Abubakar is all the more an insult to the sensibilities of Nigerians.
Perhaps what the trio meant by their silly comment was that Abacha looted like any of them, so why should his family go through all the humiliation. They forgot that the Abacha loot is not an ethnic or tribal issue but an international issue with the entire world fighting corruption which leads to impoverishing billions of people. Buhari shouldn’t get himself embroiled in such controversy with his ambition of becoming Nigerian president. Babangida has never been a man to be taken seriously.
In his five years as President, General Sani abacha it must be noted did a lot that affects the livelihood of the common Nigerian more than the eight years of democratic Nigeria under Obasanjo. The Petroleum Trust Fund and the sanity to the Nigerian banks is something we owe to Sani Abacha. Perhaps even the GSM revolution. But to say Abacha did not loot the treasury of Nigeria is a travesty.