Abacha: History is our witness

By Letters
In Nigeria
Mar 11th, 2014
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SIR: I have followed with a keen interest the controversies and debates that followed Professor Wole Soyinka’s piece titled; I regret my share of this National insult after President Jonathan honoured the late General Abacha during the Centenary celebration few days back. I have read the ripostes from Gumsu and Sadiq Abacha, the late dictators two children. 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.

One clear answer as to why a President of Nigeria in the 21st century will include the name of Nigeria’s dictators, particularly the ruthless General Sani Abacha as one of the honorees at the Centenary celebration 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 we are rubbishing today 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 lives on the line, walked a long road, scaled many walls, drilled the deepest wells, faced many challenges and chewed bullets to chase away the military dictators but lily-livered and 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 to 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.

Here below is 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 General Obasanjo who narrowly escaped death in prison. His former deputy, General Shehu Yar’Adua jailed with General Obasanjo could not survive as he died in Abakiliki 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… Abacha ordered killings of Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, chief Alfred Rewane, Rear Admiral Olu Omotehinwa, Dr. Omatshola, Alhaja Suliat Adedeji, Toyin Onagoruwa and others….”

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. Deploying unwarranted anger on a well respected person of Professor Wole Soyinka will not help Abacha family. Silence would have been golden for them.

• Joe Igbokwe

Lagos

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