15 Years After The Death Of General Sani Abacha By Muhammed Ibrahim
June 8th 2013 marked exactly 15 years since the demise of our secernate military head of state, in the person of General Sani Abacha. Several tweets from some self-centred Nigerians operating on the highest level of regional disparity, ethnic dichotomy and religious bigotry made me to come up with this article. While others refer to him as their hero, some other persons described him as many things like a dictator, Satan, etc.
It is disheartening to remember that Abacha’s demise was celebrated vigorously by all and sundry especially the Southern part of Nigeria, while the North is left in great pains and agony for the passing away of an iconic figure. The habit of celebrating the death of a great leader along religious and tribal sentiments is not something new in Nigeria. Recently it was the death of Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State; before then, it was that of Yaradua; and about 15 years ago was the most celebrated and an unexpected death of General Sani Abacha.
General Sani Abacha to me is a charismatic, dynamic and no-nonsense military head of state Nigeria has ever produced. He was a man committed enthusiastically to cater for the welfare of his people. Though many might say he did it in a violent or cruel way, he still has a high rank in our head-of-state settings.
Just as every leader within the helm of the government has erred, so is Abacha, who isn’t an exception to those naturally-occurring phenomena. In trying to ensure competency and shape Nigeria beyond unquestionable doubts and characters, many people had in the process lost their lives. Normally, any government that tries to eliminate all unscrupulous elements within its fold is sudden made to become a subject of boisterous criticisms. The international communities are not left out in this absurdity and this manifested greatly when Abacha boycotted all the international elites- the super powers, who in one way or the other still prove their superiority and subject most developing nations to extreme hardship by enforcing them to comply with virtually any policy they implement irrespective of the repercussion it may have in the long run.
This is still one of the reasons why General Muhammadu Buhari, a man I have high regards for; a leader that respects everyone in spite of their political differences might never become the president of Nigeria under our democracy. Buhari’s refusal to devalue the Naira as directed by the IMF led to his government been over-throwned by the Babangida regime, thus paving the way for Babangida’s eventual adoption of the SAP programme as put forward by the IMF.
Since the inception of the SAP policy, Nigeria’s economy has crumbled and continues to decline in retrogression, While Babangida was basically implementing the policies of the IMF; Abacha during his reign adopted a principle reminiscent of the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez to provide a stable economic growth and an efficient welfare for the masses of Nigeria. His main trade and investment partners took a swindling dimension and were only peculiarised to the Arab nations. He is a good friend to Muammar Ghaddafi because they share the same ideology.
Ghaddafi died infelicitously from the hands of the ignominious Libyan rebels and citizens during the Arab spring, but how that came to be is no longer a surprise. It has been observed both in the past and presents that any leader who is after the benefit of his people and had the passion to rediscover his country’s potentials, often get vilified and eliminated by international interests at all costs.
One of the greatest misconceptions of the Abacha regime is that he is a dictator. However, all the critics referring to Abacha as dictator are deluded people with a shallow thinking, myopic vision and lower intellectual sagacity. Abacha is not a slow president in decision making and policy implementation, but rather a leader that throws the stone first, and then apologise if the need be. He acts first before talking and that is what distinguishes him from his predecessors and the present set of leaders. While Abacha takes action first before other things comes up, this contemporary administration talks a lot without a corresponding output level.
Abacha operated with a minimum of $10 billion foreign reserve as well as small or limited resource at his disposal as compared to twice of that which the current government is operating with. He was able to implement many initiatives and schemes only for the Obasanjo administration to come and scuttle the project in a move to dent any positive legacies General Abacha might have left behind.
The Obasanjo administration and the present Goodluck Ebele Jonathan are the real conspicuous dictators Nigeria ever had. While the former succeeded in the privatisation of virtually all government properties including the ailing and yet unproductive refineries and tried at all cost, although unsuccessfully to stay at Aso Rock for life; the latter siphoned or embezzled a whopping sum of $30 billion from the coffers of the nations treasury. Nobody criticised or questioned Obasanjo’s decision to send troops to eliminate and destroy a village in Bayelsa state in 1999 and at the same time, no one is criticising Jonathan for the way he is handling the security situation of Nigeria with levity. No one is talking about the $16 billion spent from 1999-2011 that is meant for the enhancement of our epileptic power supply.
I could recall vividly as a young child back then, petrol was sold at the rate of N20 per litre during Abacha’s regime. During Obasanjo’s administration, it skyrocketed to N70 per litre. Late Umaru Musa Yardua reverted the price to N65 per litre and currently, it sells for N97 under Goodluck Jonathan administration. Why are all the critics forgetful of such facts? Why aren’t they criticising Jonathan when he removed fuel subsidy and afflicted pains upon the masses back in January 2012? How many elections were apparently rigged during Obasanjo’s tenure? How many people lost their lives during the post election crisis of 2011?
Without Abacha, there wouldn’t be a man called Jonathan for in 1996, Abacha created the state of Bayelsa that paved way for Jonathan to become a Governor and later to the highest level in the country.
General Sani Abacha created the PTF (Petroleum Trust Fund) and single handedly picked someone he knew is worthy of keeping his philosophies and policies; a man that is never charged with any corruption allegations and other malapropos acts; a man known to carry everyone along during his regime as a president irrespective of religion, tribe and sentiments, this is no other person than General Muhammadu Buhari. The PTF project did a magnificent job to the poor masses of Nigeria. It was under the PTF that Nigerians witnessed an unprecedented and a remarkable improvement in the social, economic and health sectors of the nation. PTF constructed many schools and hospitals, provided reading materials as well as the construction and rehabilitation of the various road networks in Nigeria. As a young primary school pupil, I was opportune to use some of the resources ranging from textbooks, reading tables and desks not to mention but few which were provided by PTF, an initiative of the Abacha regime.
Despite being in a new millenium and in what Mr President, Goodluck Jonathan tagged as a transformation agenda, it’s a real shame that materials being provided by the PTF, almost 15 years ago, are found apparently in some Schools, Universities and Hospitals while the present government has not been up and doing in tackling our socio-economic challenges of life.
In as much as he must be criticised and vilified, its pertinent we realise that during his regime, the IMF/World Bank had little or no say on our economy and Nigeria experienced a rapid economic growth. As of then, $1 is equivalent to N22 and today, $1 equals almost N156. Our external debts were drastically reduced from $36 billion in 1993 to $27 billion 1997.
Just like any other person, admittedly, Abacha had his short comings due to the fact that we are human and not infallible. The execution of Niger-Delta activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa showcased to most Nigerians and the world at large that he’s a cruel and dictatorial leader. But can we analyse and compare justly the killing of Saro-Wiwa and the 250 innocent people killed by the JTF in Baga?
It was further aggravated by a report that allegedly linked Abacha with a controversial mismanagement of funds in the tune of billions of dollars, which he siphoned from Nigeria to his foreign accounts in European countries. Just of recent, Obasanjo reacted furiously about our foreign reserve, where he proclaimed he left the sum of $30 billion in office before he left. The question is: where is the money? And who are the culprits behind the money squandering? I may also wish to ask once again about our subsidy money reported to be in Trillions. Who are the people that siphoned the money meant for subsidy?
Our problem, to me isn’t bad leadership for everyone isn’t holy and good as well. I will make reference to Adamu Adamu’s Friday column on Dailytrust in which he stated obviously that we need a new country and a new people. The same people of Israel, which Moses suffered and sacrificed greatly to rescue them from the malicious hands of Pharaoh, later turned against him in the long run. Ours is a society divided along religion, ethnic, regional and tribal sentiments to the extent that people perceive Nigeria as; every Northerner is a Muslim and every Southerner is a Christian, and this is now the bedrock of our living as one single nation. Your hero, no matter how hardworking, magnanimous and tolerant he is seen by some other persons as a villain.
While Abacha is regarded as a cult hero and legendary icon in North, he is the most maligned to the south, thus the widespread joy and jubilation of his death. The same goes to the North, where Goodluck Jonathan is the most maligned political icon for his role in handling issues of national assignments with levity and most importantly, inflicting the people of Maiduguri, Yobe and Adamawa to hardship by issuing a vacuous state of emergency where the incumbent governors are still assuming office instead of being dissolved, and replaced with the military officers as it is often done.
As long as we don’t change our perception or viewing Nigeria in terms of North and South, we shall continue to witness untold hardship while our contemporaries keep developing rapidly.
To all those people who call themselves activist and thinking Nigeria is the size of their blog, and can bring change via that it is the beginning of insanity. We have to come as one, the nation belongs to each and every one of us and in one way or the other, directly or indirectly, we have contributed in its destruction hence we must all take the lead. We cannot wait for a messiah from heaven or another nation to bring about changes for us.
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