The late General Sani Abacha was one bloody former Head of State who rose to national prominence by announcing successful coup d’etats against constituted authorities, some democratic and others anti-democratic. A professional soldier from Kano Abacha, like Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Yakubu Gowon, and the present President, believed supremely in the born-to-rule power philosophy of many northern soldiers — even up till this moment in time. They may be barely-educated and buffoons but their belief in this biologically-superior ruling blood-line cannot be under-estimated. They believed (rightly or wrongly) that the British colonialists handed Nigeria over to their forebears in order to balance up the socio-economic equation of the federation. For them, therefore, the rest of us from other parts of the country are infidels that should answer to their whims and caprices and perish the thought of occupying the highest seat in the land.
When ex-President Goodluck Jonathan was there in Aso Rock, Reuben Abati, his then media aide, had told us recently how imaginary ghosts and demons were stalking every one else resident in the seat of power except himself who never slept inside the breathtaking edifice of state. Jonathan himself could not have seen any ghost or revenant hence his decision to seek for yet another 4 years in office as puppet Commander-in-Chief. The truth is that the core north from whose stock GEJ’s late boss, Umaru Yar’Adua, hailed from never hid their anger about being short-changed after the untimely demise of the good man from Katsina state. Some of these core northern politicians believed so much in fetish powers that they considered it right in Allah’s name to use same to strengthen themselves physically and spiritually. GEJ believed in God and used prayers and fasting for his own presidential survival. The Dame could have borne the brunt of the spiritual attacks targetted at GEJ given her constant battle with strange ailments overseas!
The late psychotic ruler was the one that announced the successful overthrow of the democratically-elected government of ex-President Shehu Shagari. Though corruption was cited as major reason for the putsch the Shagari administration failed to tackle corruption with some northern mafians in the system like the late Umaru Dikko exploiting his naivety to loot the treasury systematically. The Buhari bloodless take-over was welcomed across the board by majority of Nigerians given the terrible situation of things at the time the coup was executed. As a professional coup plotter Abacha was again on duty to announce the bloodless seizure of power from Gen. Buhari/Idiagbon. This time Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was the conquering Prince of the Niger. The crafty man from Minna locked Buhari away in Benin City for years as he consolidated power. Buhari’s then deputy the late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon was in far away Saudi Arabia worshipping Allah when the martial change occured.
The late Abacha, popularly called Khalifa by those who saw him as a potential ruler of the country, after supervising some successful coups seized his moment of glory when Babangida was consumed by the June 12/Abiola saga. IBB, as a martial master of the game, in his guileful best, had decided reluctantly to relinquish power to an illegal Interim National Government led by the malleable Chief Ernest Shonekan from the same area with the late Bashorun MKO Abiola who won the June 12 presidential poll, a controversial election whose outcome was annulled without any cogent reason by Ibrahim Babangida and his forces of anarchy. When IBB withdrew from Aso Rock to his Hill-top Mansion in Minna Shonekan only lasted for few months before Khalifa struck with his boys. Abacha simply announced on national radio and television that he had taken over control of the national institutions to the surprise of no one. And Shonekan was thus swept aside without any protest from any quarters.
Apart from being a master coupist Abacha would be remembered for other things. One, the dramatic consumption of the last poisoned apple administered to him by an imported Indian prostitute commissioned to do just that: permanently take out the paranoid kleptocrat; two, the killing of June 12 pro-democracy activists in Lagos; three, the famous Abacha-loot; four, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha and the killing of the late Kudirat Abiola in broad daylight in Lagos; five, the deposition of the late Sultan of Sokoto, Dasuki. But above all, upon settling down to the business of governance, something that tasked his infantile brain beyond its capacity, he had introduced a national mass-mobilisation programme called “Not In Our Character”. Perhaps he was trying to copy Babangida’s MAMSER.
According to him and other organizers of the programme it was not in the character of Nigerians to be unruly, to peddle in drugs, to be 419ers, to be prostitutes in Europe and elsewhere. It was not in our character to steal the national wealth and be indisciplined! It was not in our national character to antagonize one another or loathe other ethnic groups. It was not in our character to be lawless! It was not in our chacter to cheat during exams or bribe the teachers/lecturers with bottom power for high marks etc. I was still in Nigeria then doing my higher education in Benin City.
It was not in our character to be unruly and undisciplined? Well, we disagree! It was in our character during the Abacha Locust years to be undisciplined and unruly at home and abroad. Nigerians in general are generous with their mouths. We like talking big and bragging about our wealth and academic acquisitions. When we travel abroad we like behaving to be noticed thereby attracting loathsomeness or scorn to ourselves. It was in our character during the years of the late martial Sani for some of our compatriots to peddle globally in narcotics. Cocaine and cannabis business was going strong then and even today it has not abated! NDLEA officials keep apprehending some smart people hiding the stuff in many places unimaginable, some women among them concealing theirs inside their private gardens!
We export our ugly and beautiful girls to Europe and the Americas for prostitution. It was in our character, then and now, to do so by exploiting their naivety and state of poverty (especially those from Edo and Delta states) shipping them abroad and selling them to established madams (some of them old retired prostitutes themselves) and making huge profit out of same. It has become a big business that some security personnel of some European countries were used to raiding some of the residences of the international human traffickers, arresting them and freeing their sexual hostages. But the trans-Atlantic trade in sex continues unabated!
It was in our character, of course contrary to what Maigida Sani had told us, to empty the national treasury as elected or selected politicians and workers. If we tabulate the staggering amount of money stolen from Nigeria in the last decades (starting from the IBB era) then we would be shedding tears for our unfortunate nation. It was indeed in our character to despise other ethnic groups and loathe one another. This federation is not working and cannot work unless we radically reform it and make it true in form and meaning. Ours still remains a nation of haters where people prefer to be selfish and care less about the condition of others.
I could remember majority of Nigerians refusing to buy into this bogus scheme of national deception, one carefully orchestrated to hoodwink the gullible population and lure them into forgetfulness of the democratic challenges of the time. But Abacha soldiered on! The dictator dug in in moments of national political trouble associated with June 12 maintaining a troubling silence and nursing a secretly-kept illness that saw his lips at a time broken up. He dared everyone — the international community inclusive — and pro-democracy agitators had to scamper abroad for safety. His security goons led by Al-Mustapha turned the state into a terrorist one imprisoning or killing any opponent that voiced out any dissent. Even his son Mohammed was in the middle of the terror machine! The dark-goggled Khalifa was having a good time dictating the national tune while the economy shrunk and the population terrified into silence of the graveyard.
Nothing demonstrated Abacha’s hypocritical and unpatriotic character more than the famous Abacha-loot! Millions (if not billions) of Dollars stolen outright and stashed away in foreign bank accounts. Years after his timely organized elimination we are still being regaled with the infamous tale of the Abacha-loot. No one knows for sure how much of the loot has been repatriated and how much more are still hanging offshore. But one thing we are sure of is that some of the pilfered millions and billions had ended up in private pockets of highly-placed Nigerians!
When Baba was in power any inquiry about it was met with buck-passing. And when the late Yar-Adua was coronated by OBJ and his gang nothing much was heard or done to disclose the exact amount involved or how much had (then) been remitted back to our national coffers. When GEJ came in following the death of the husband of Turai the otiosity of authority and acute corruption under the Ijaw-man ostensibly took precedence over calls for rendition of account of the Abacha-loot. The World Bank wonder Lady, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the other OBJ/GEJ economic witches and wizards sought rather to bamboozle us with figures. And the soap opera goes on and on!
And now under PMB nothing is being said and no question is being asked because the President as opposition leader years ago had told a bewildered nation that Khalifa never stole a dime! Then one was wondering if the retired General was engaged in empty grandstanding — defending the obvious indefensible or defending a fallen Fulani brother-in-arms! It was a serious disservice to the nation and an insult to our collective intelligence! We refuse to give honour to an executive thief no matter his tribal origins or status in the society! Speaking the inconvenient truth to power constitutes our national duty as writers.
Not In Our Character in an Abacharized Nigeria? Really? Someone should tell that to the Marines! Or better still, tell me I was just dreaming!! Bonne et heureuse annee 2017 a tous et a tout! (Happy new year 2017 to everyone!)