I have followed with keen interest the controversies and debates that followed Professor Wole Soyinka’s latest piece entitled: “I regret my share of this National insult” after President Jonathan honoured the late General Abacha during the Centenary celebration few weeks back.
I have read the accounts of the late dictator’s two children, Gumsu Abacha and Sadiq Abacha. I have also followed reactions from commentators and those who witnessed the days of the locusts. Regrettably, I ran away with the tragic conclusion that history has shown that men never learnt anything from history.
President Goodluck continues to amaze me. I have been thinking why a President of Nigeria will include the name of Nigeria’s dictators, particularly the ruthless General Sani Abacha as one of the honourees at the Centenary celebration. One clear answer is that President Jonathan may not have known what Nigeria suffered in the hands of Abacha from 1993 to 1998. The conclusion is that those who did not know how we got the democracy have been the ones ruling Nigeria since 1999.
This is the simple reason why Nigerians have been suffering for almost 16 years now. Men and women put their the lives on the line, walked a long road, scaled many walls, drilled the deepest wells, faced many challenges and literally chewed bullets to chase away military dictators, but lazy men and women, lame ducks, cowards and lily-livered impostors seized our hard-earned victory and have continued since 1999 to make a mess of our country. I regret to admit that there may be no hope in sight until we clear the Augean stable in Abuja.
For the avoidance of doubt and for record purposes, it is a taboo in Igboland to cast aspersions on the dead because the person is no longer alive to defend himself. There is no need to fight a man who is down and not alive to respond to anything. When Abacha died in 1998, I broke that tradition. This is because the late Abacha committed abominations in Nigeria (Abacha melu alu na Nigeria).
I hereby, therefore produce once again what I wrote about the late General Abacha in my book: Heroes of Democracy published in 1999. “Much has been written about this error of history in Nigeria and many more are still going to be written by historians. I am yet to see how General Abacha’s legendary bad records can be beaten by any other leader in Nigeria, dead or alive. Such a wicked dictator like General Abacha can never be left alone in Nigeria. Never in the history of Nigeria has one man so hijacked and traumatized the national psyche for his own selfish purposes. General Abacha jailed Obasanjo who narrowly escaped death in prison. His former deputy, General Shehu Yar’Adua jailed with Obasanjo could not survive as he died in Abakaliki Prison, the worst gulag in Nigeria. General Abacha dethroned the much revered Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki and banished him from Sokoto.
General Abacha murdered an International writer and environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other prominent Ogoni sons. General Abacha attempted to blow up the presidential jet of his deputy, General Oladipo Diya and when that attempt failed, after the bomb had exploded and killed those who were detailed to carry out the operation, General Abacha arrested his deputy and other top officers, paraded them before the national television in handcuffs and leg irons, charged them for plotting coup and sentenced them to death. General Abacha could not live to witness their death.
Abacha ordered killings of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane, Rear Admiral Olu Omotehinwa, Dr. Omatshola, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, Toyin Onagoruwa and others. General Abacha ordered the killings of more than 1,000 protesters in the streets of Lagos and its environs. General Abacha jailed the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola for four years without trial, killed his business empire and disorganised his family. General Abacha made Hafsat and Olalekan orphans. General Abacha silenced virtually all members of the oppositions at gun point and condoned no dissent. Those who were thought to be untouchables by the previous administrations lost their immunity. General Abacha wrote off an eight-year 40 billion naira transition project of General Babangida in just 20 minutes. He declared war on everybody in Nigeria and the international community. General Abacha closed down media houses in Nigeria for almost two years and the families of the workers suffered seriously. He stole 65 billion naira from the national till and converted the exalted office of the presidency to a private business. He also ran a fraudulent and highly sectional government for almost five years and elevated clowns to positions of authority. I can go on and on. General Abacha’s tenure (November 17 1993 to June 8 1998) represented everything that is bad, evil and wicked”.
Gumsu and Sadiq Abacha know nothing about Nigeria’s chequered history and the colossal damage their father inflicted on Nigeria. I feel sorry for this burden of history they have to carry for the rest of their lives. Actions carry consequences. The best the Abachas would have done is to maintain a dignified silence and wait till all those who know their father very well varnish from the surface of the earth. Time, they say, is a great healer of wounds. Deploying unwarranted anger on a well respected person like Prof. Wole Soyinka will not help Abacha family. Silence would have been golden for them. They cannot convince anybody except illiterates and common fools in Nigeria without souls, without hearts, without brains, without minds. We will never forget Abacha.
nIgbokwe writes from Lagos
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