Abacha-gate: Matters Arising By Ozodinukwe Okenwa

General Sani Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998. Following the June 12 presidential poll won by the late Lagos-based billionaire business mogul, Bashorun MKO Abiola, General Ibrahim Babangida who was heading the military dictatorship then capitulated and fled to Minna leaving behind ‘Khalifa’ to finish off Nigeria. The late maximum ruler from Kano soon bared his despotic fangs by toppling the Interim National Government led by Ernest Shonekan seizing power for himself.

Gen. Babangida owed his military exploits largely to the Abacha treasonable myth. As professional coup plotters they had allegedly reached an oral accord that after the dictatorship of one the other would follow suit. Hence IBB’s inability to retire Abacha when he retired most of the senior ranking officers that aided and abetted his kleptocracy. By abandoning Nigeria as it were to her fate following the June 12 imbroglio, a criminal annulment of a presidential poll that would have ushered in a new beginning of ‘hope’ for the nation, he wittingly handed over power to satanic forces. 

It took the goggled big thief just few months of patience and ‘tolerance’ before he struck installing his dreadful bloody tyranny that ended one fateful day when he ate a poisoned apple served him by an imported charming prostitute. Meanwhile, as soon as he catapulted himself undeservedly to power through the barrel of the gun he hunted down Abiola and threw him into his gaol. 

Abacha died fortunately to the general relief of Nigerians. But weeks after his demise Bashorun Abiola was equally ‘poisoned’ to death in prison by forces hell-bent on denying him his popular mandate. June 12 is still remembered today as a watershed in our national democratic trajectory.

While Gen. Babangida bastadised everything morally and politico-economically Abacha destroyed whatever noble that was left standing. Yet those that had succeeded them had not fared any better. Corruption was (and is still) rampant and looting of the treasury is still rife in many sectors of our national life. Service to motherland with virtue has become an anathema by the ruling elite.

It is instructive to note that twenty two odd years after his timely elimination from the political space Nigerian we have been watching very interesting movie entitled ‘Abacha Loot’. If Nollywood had been resourceful or innovative enough then the producers could have since produced a movie with the Abacha looting spree as the storyline. “Abacha-gate” for example!

Transparency International had estimated that Gen. Abacha must have stolen as much as $5 billion of public funds during the five years he called the shots brutally from Aso Rock in Abuja. Just like the late President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, famous for organized criminal raiding of the national treasury, Abacha was much more as he brought brutality to bear in governance, killing some, jailing some and chasing others away into exile as slush funds were deposited for him abroad by oil companies.

The years of the Locust (1985-1998) in Nigeria when ‘Maradona’ and ‘Khalifa’ ruled with iron fist could be likened to wasted years for a generation. It was during these fund-guzzling epochs that we witnessed SAP, brain drain, 419, religious and narcotic upswing etc.

Today Nigeria has changed but the agents of ‘change’ elected in 2015 have not been able to fulfill their promise of change and hope. Hopelessness is still the daily staple of majority of our compatriots.

Recently $311 million of the famous ‘Abacha-loot’ was returned to the Nigerian government by the American government.  This was announced by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.  In a statement by his spokesman, Umar Gwandu, Malami said the amount increased from over $308 million two months ago to $311 million because of the interest that accrued.

The AGF said the money would be expended on Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, Abuja–Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge projects among others including the Mambilla (mega) Power Project which upon completion would see millions of Nigerians enjoying uninterrupted power supply.

President Muhammadu Buhari who served under the late despot as the Petroleum Task Force Chairman was once quoted infamously as saying that his late comrade-in-arms never stole from us! Now, perhaps, the President knows better. With millions of Dollars repatriated thus far Buhari ought to apologise to the nation for irresponsibly misleading many Nigerians into believing that the late Abacha was a ‘saint’ who never harmed our national interests and economy.

If Sani Abacha could steal so much in just five years of iron and blood tyranny then how much could IBB have stolen in eight eventful years of high-wire corruption and ‘settlement syndrome’? The problem is found in our deficient value system. Why do we worship money? Why would some of us do anything, I mean anything, to make money by hook or by crook? Why the unmitigated corruption in our administrative system of governance? When would the messiah a la Rawlings come to clean up the Augean stable?

If the millions (discovered so far) and millions more (yet to be accounted for) were to be used to improve our terrible infrastructures or create enterprises that could create jobs for the army of the jobless then our country would have been synonymous with greatness. Alas, every leader at the federal and states’ levels seems to be competing with their predecessor on how best to loot the patrimony.

While the American government had warned against ‘relooting’ the funds (given our penchant for embezzlement of public funds with impunity) efforts must be made by the  Buhari regime to do the needful by investing the humongous funds where the agreement indicated to wit: Lagos–Ibadan Expressway, Abuja–Kano Road, the Second Niger Bridge and other critical infrastructural needs of the nation.

Some years ago millions of Dollars siphoned out of the country during the Abacha dictatorial lunacy had been returned to our national vaults from the United Kingdom and Switzerland but no one has ever accounted for what the monies were used for. What we hear often online is how the federal government led by ‘Mr Integrity’ is asking for more loan from the Bretton Woods.

For the late Gen. Sani Abacha and his enablers from the north a kleptocracy has been demystified by the strenght of the repatriated millions and billions stolen from the national patrimony. And Nigeria would benefit immensely infrastructurally from the mindless national dispossession. 

May the likes of Sani Abacha never come this way, our way, again!

SOC Okenwa

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