Mohammed Abacha: A Malapropos Tragedy?

by Banjo Odutola

Count Galeazzo Ciano (1903 – 1944), the Italian Fascist politician and son-in-law of Mussolini in his diary entry intimated: “La vittoria trova padri, e messuno vuole riconoscere l’insuccesso“. This translates to “Victory has a hundred fathers but defeat is an orphan.” The agitprop underlining this entry is enervating in its appropriateness. This of course, is in light of the relationship between Ciano and Mussolini: A man who ignored world opinion in his evasion of Ethiopia in 1930. As for my subject matter, his victory has more than a hundred fathers in Northern Nigeria; the orphans of his victory are the Northerners who together with other Nigerians recognise the ignominy of the Abachas.

Victory is sweet. It is alluring to people who cannot distinguish the morals that often accompany certain types of victories. This is why Victory can be amoral. The fog surrounding certain types of victories is mephitic. The victory of Mohammed as pyrrhic as it is, makes the tintinnabulation surrounding him, a grave nimiety for our nation as a whole.

Let me state herein, I am least concerned that Abacha is in a tug of war with the presidency. That, he is a denizen of Northern Nigeria is of no interest to me. If he is an Igbo or a Yoruba and the facts are not distinguished, my opinions will remain the same. So, what are the facts and the shame? These can be compartmentalised into three areas.

Firstly, Mohammed has been absolved of a criminal charge. I rejoice with him. No man deserves to be punished where the prosecution fails to prove its case. As long as the courts remain the arbiter of our justice, the incrimination of Mohammed in the gruesome murder of Kudirat Abiola has been defeated and the search for justice for the conspirators of the murder is another evidence that as a nation, the acme of civilisation still eludes us. We should be under no doubt, the death of Alhadja Abiola was not fortuitous; it was pre-meditated. Therefore, it is not only the assailants that should be prosecuted; every decent society provides for the conspirators to face the same music as the assailants. Nigeria ought not to be different and no one seeks the prosecution of an innocent man. Does anyone want to criminalise Mohammed for the sins of his father? I think not and the court supports that view.

The irony in the death of Kudirat must not be lost on our Moslem citizens. The government she opposed and which organised her elimination was headed by a Muslim: Alhadji Sani Abacha; many of the conspirators and perpetrators of this heinous crime are Muslims; many of the Schadenfreuders welcoming Mohammed back to Kano are Muslims. Accordingly, where in all of this infamy are the teachings of the Holy Prophet? Surely, this victory is beyond what the State intended for Mohammed, its spiritual element is sobering. This is the reason why the conviviality following the return of Mohammed to Kano is unfortunate. It serves no purpose for the victor to permit the type of cavorting so far witnessed.

Secondly, there are the findings of the Financial Services Authority of the United Kingdom (FSA), which was submitted 8th March 2001. The findings impale any cerebrating antics of supporters of the Abachas.

It may be helpful to explain the roles of the FSA: The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is a United Kingdom independent non-governmental body, given statutory powers by the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. It is a company limited by guarantee and financed by the financial services industry. Her Majesty’s Treasury appoints the Board, which sets our overall policy, but day-to-day decisions and management of the staff are the responsibility of the Executive. The FSA is incomparable to the compliance department of the Central Bank of Nigeria. It is a body feared by those that pay its pipers. Therefore, I believe its findings.

It works independently of the British Government. The allegation of Nigerian Idlers and Illiterates are overwhelmingly embarrassing, when allegations of the influence of the Nigerian government are used to negate the fundamentals of the findings of this august body. Let us be clear about the type of influence of our government. It cannot extend to such bodies like the British FSA. The facts and issues investigated by the FSA are beyond influence. Yet, inference can be drawn from their findings. This simply is that the Abachas and their cohorts laundered stolen money.

In considering the reports of Newsweek Magazine (March 13, 2002 Edition: The Lost Billions), I approach it with enormous care. This is not to state that the journalistic investigation is not worthy of commendation, as a lawyer, I prefer to comment on facts. However, regardless of my posits on the Newsweek treatise, Tom Masland, Jeffrey Bartholet and Scott Johnson marshalled their arguments beyond repudiation. So, if journalists cannot be trusted for the Newsweek article, the castigation of Lord Rix in a civil court action clearly jeopardises any moral victory of Mohammed. For this young man, victory has a tinge of tragedy for himself, his supporters and those of us that are taking the moral high ground.

Thirdly, when victory is confused with morals such as in this case, it is safe to regard Mohammed’s victory as ostensible but a tragedy in all respects. The celebration of his victory says a lot about us as a nation. It is cruelly sad that the incarceration of Mohammed Abacha and his freedom become a political issue worthy of representation to the Emir or a cause for which the State Governor seeks to be a Paladin. Let us for once be candid, this young man has available to him, the wealth of our nation. In simple terms, money that could have been used for our Schools, Hospitals, Roads, Children…etc: if antecedents of our leaders instruct…well, it can be said that the money could have been stolen by someone else, so why not the Abachas? That type of assertion reduces a necessary contrition to a polemic and robs it of morality. Hence, it is wrong to proffer such excuses. In fact, if the assertion merits exposition, we are a doomed lot and we may ourselves expedite our own perdition. I am tempted to contrast this victory to the current victory of a British Television host.

On Saturday 31st. March, 2001, the British television and radio news reported that a man had been found dead that morning, wearing just a pair of grey boxer shorts, in Michael Barrymore’s pool. This became front-page news in the Sunday newspapers, and articles continued to appear in the newspapers for some time. When later questioned by the police Michael Barrymore said that he did not know who the man was. It transpired that the man was 31-year-old Stuart Lubbock, a wholesale butchers’ supervisor from Harlow, Essex. He had apparently met Michael Barrymore at the Millennium Club in Harlow, and had afterwards gone to the entertainer’s home in Beaumont Park Drive, Roydon, near Harlow, Essex where an impromptu party took place. Stuart Lubbock told people at the party that he was going to the pool for a swim. He was later found floating motionless in the pool. Police and ambulance crews were called to the home and Stuart Lubbock was found to be unconscious just before 6 am and taken to hospital where he was declared dead at 8.30 am. The result of the inquest absolved Barrymore. Although, the British people accepted the result, the attacks and reactions to Barrymore make his victory a tragedy. As far as Barrymore’s career as a funny television host is concerned, the moral high ground of his people has condemned him to the heap of life. He has lost his television career. If the Barrymore’s victory can be turned into ashes in his mouth, why are we a different people? Abacha may enjoy his freedom for now and concentrate on spending our national funds; someday, posterity would recall the level of our morals. I trust that history would recall that part each of our leader has played in this tragedy.

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Dike Okere May 11, 2010 - 7:07 pm

I think Nigeria is not yet ready to face any kind of probing. Let us do the first thing first, start our probing from where the corruption started. Let us go back to ITT era, Babanginda era, Obasanjo era(who receives Abacha’s fund) and where is that fund today…

CHIDI NWOKO March 22, 2010 - 11:41 pm

Some time i woundered why we are calling abacha family alone, what of ibb is it because abacha died untimely.

If we the nigerian most probe to my point of view ibb alone is

More richer then todays nigerian let us ask ibb where

He kept all the money he stole or is it because he ibb is still alive.what did he achieved since for eight years if not lotting.

OLAF August 6, 2009 - 5:24 pm

It is didheartening to observe that the four responses above missed the jist of Odutola’s article. I am inclined to think that these guys either did not understand English; or, are deliberately ignoring the salient points in the article. Whatever the case may be their comments are deplorable in that they were comparing apples to oranges.

jimoh July 5, 2009 - 6:29 pm

He is already preparing to contest 2011 election as the gubernatorial candidate for Kano State. This is a shame of a nation. Nigeria is a banana republic indeed.

Gbenga Oshodi (Gbengene) May 27, 2009 - 1:40 pm

I would have no one to blame in this matter neither would I blame the Abachas for any offence. If we are putting the Abahas in the firing line, hwere is Yakubu Gowon and those who governed the Country of Nigeria during his tenure of office. Where are all the billions lotted and banked abroad especially in the U.K banks, French Banks and the Swiss Banks. What about Obasanjo OFN -Operation Feed the Natios that was later tuerned in Obasanjo Farms Nigeria – The Otta Fame was Government Land which becomes Obasanjo’s property- Please leave the Abachas alone.

BABANGIDA BABAJI ABDULLAHI January 17, 2009 - 10:55 am

I read mr. Bamjo odutolas' pieces mohammed abacha: amalapropos tragedy with admiration and hope for our beloved country nigeria.but what i have been waiting is another version of the same story, i expect him to write something about the accusation labelled agaisnt gbenga obasanjo.

michael May 14, 2007 - 7:43 am

only GOD can saves us from the hands of wiked


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