Sani Abacha; the Paranoid & Elusive Dictator who Kept Nigeria in economic toilet

Late Sani Abacha

I woke up before
5 a.m. but refused to get up till after 6: 15 a.m. By then I was almost late
for my morning prayers. So much had happened in the last twenty-four hours that
I felt like I had been on a sort of emotional rollercoaster. I needed to think
and decided to take a walk. Since we had agreed the previous day to see the
officer by 9 a.m., which was still more than two hours away, I made up my mind
to make it a long walk.

The sun was
already up by the time I was on the streets. As I moved along in the hot
weather, I began analyzing the political climate in Nigeria based on all that I
had learned since returning more than two weeks ago. I wanted to be as
objective as possible and at the end I arrived at some painful conclusions.

The Author Jamiu Abiola tells the GDA more story of how his father fell for Abacha’s dirty deal

Ousting General
from power was almost impossible. The general had somehow
devised and implemented some effective strategies that had put him firmly in
control of Nigeria.
General Abacha starved the
country of funds as a means of maintaining a firm grip on everyone, including
his loyalists. Even though budgets were passed, he would refuse to release
funds for months, resorting to all sorts of excuses such as audits, reviews,
etc. The country was at a standstill. Only a government trust fund, known as
the Petroleum
Trust Fund
, headed by General Buhari, a former Nigerian
military ruler, was carrying out meaningful governmental projects. General
, who had always been known for his honest and hard-working
character, was able to use the trust fund to execute a lot of people-oriented
schemes during that sad period in Nigeria’s history.

The Book of MKO according to Jamiu Abiola

“The general had somehow devised and implemented
some effective strategies that had put him firmly in control of Nigeria.
General Abacha starved the country of funds as a means of
maintaining a firm grip on everyone, including his loyalists. Even though
budgets were passed, he would refuse to release funds for months, resorting to
all sorts of excuses such as audits, reviews, etc. The country was at a

But as for General
, none of his ministries carried out any meaningful projects. At
the same time he had become elusive. He remained invisible to many of his
ministers and state administrators for long periods of time. He also had a way
of keeping them on their toes by spreading unconfirmed reports of a pending
general sack that would sweep them all away. Much later in 1996, though, he
carried out this threat in an unprecedented way when he dismissed twenty-seven
out of his thirty state administrators. No official reason was given for their
Such conduct by
a military leader can be counterproductive. It can cause panic and lead to a
coup. But General Abacha and his closest allies had things under control
because they made sure that only general officers completely loyal to General
were deployed to head all of the four mechanized brigade
headquarters in Nigeria. There was no way that a coup could have been
MKO Abiola…The Star Boy from Egba Land
The general
public was also not left out of Abacha’s plot. To boost the level of
his grassroots support, he used an old trick that always ingratiated
incompetent Nigerian leaders into the hearts of those whom they oppressed. General
, who was stealing from Nigeria more than any other leader ever
had, promised to create new states because he was sensitive to the yearnings of
Nigerians. This trick paid off. It even gained him some goodwill before the
states were created. He finally fulfilled his promise later in 1996 and that
was how the number of states in Nigeria rose from thirty to thirty-six.
MKO Abiola the Enigma

international community, however, remained the major thorn in the general’s
flesh. His civil rights records had turned Nigeria into a pariah state. But he
did not give up on the possibility of turning things around and the political
instability in some smaller African countries provided him with a golden
opportunity to do so. He showed his eagerness to help the     international
community to right the wrongs in those affected countries by participating in
peacekeeping missions. He was applauded for this stance by a number of world
leaders who gradually opened their minds to the possibility of working with his

MKO & Kudirat Abiola; First Nigerian Couple to die for Democracy

After analyzing
these factors that morning, I could not help but admire my mother all the more
for challenging such an evil despot. I became certain that she herself had not
analyzed the government from these angles because if she had, it would have
been difficult for her to gather the courage to confront the government. I also
concluded that morning that such a paranoid and elusive dictator would never
allow me to see my father. The key actors in his regime would question my
motives and will certainly conclude that my actions were part of a bigger plan
aimed at toppling the government. Such ruthless people hardly took chances, but
I was not yet ready to give up.
By 8:30 a.m., I
was back to the hotel. I took a shower and had breakfast. By 9: 15 a.m., we
were on our way to the policeman’s office. There was no traffic. We would have
gotten there in less than fifteen minutes but because we needed directions, it
took us forty-five minutes. We were all nervous on the way because we did not
know what to expect. We parked the car outside the building when we reached our
destination but before we went inside, the old man called me aside and said, “I would like for you to do the talking.”.
I asked him why and he said, “I saw you
speaking in Hausa in the hotel lobby. The officer is from the Hausa tribe and
since Hausa people love speaking their language, he will be pleased if you
communicate with him in Hausa”

Jamiu Abiola wants the World to read about the true story of his dad
On a normal day,
I would have been happy to carry out his suggestion but on that day I was
angered by it. My father had won the presidential elections because all tribes,
including the Hausa tribe, voted for
him. His victory was the primary reason that he was in jail and now in order to
see him, I am advised to make someone who probably voted for him happy by
speaking his language to him. To avoid an argument, I nodded my head at the old
man and told him, “As you wish”
A policeman
directed us to the man’s office. We walked fast and got there quickly, hoping
that he had not gone out. We spent barely a few seconds with his secretary
before being ushered into his office. We were surprised because we were not
even asked about our identity. The secretary pointed at him, a dark-skinned
chubby man with large eyes. He was chatting with a guest. He stood up at once
when he saw us. Just like his secretary, he did not ask us who we were. That
was when it crossed my mind that they all probably knew that my brother and I
were sons of Moshood Abiola.

General Abacha’s 2nd in command, Genere Oladipupo Diya (His Hands were tight on MKO Abiola’s Case)
As he shook our
hands, I noticed that a sad look had appeared on his face. I could see a
genuine concern and I appreciated it. Since we were not sure if he knew who we
are, we introduced ourselves and he quickly responded, “I know who you are”. After that he dismissed his guest with a wave
of his hand. Then he led us to a set of chairs. Speaking first in English and
not Hausa, I told him what we had come
for and mentioned the name of the government official who had directed us to
him. The old man looked at me and shook his head as if to say, “You will never learn”
The man’s eyes
lit up as if my words were a light switch. “Of
course your wish will be granted. Such things are automatic and why shouldn’t
they be? Your mother has just died and as a Muslim, it is your right to see
your father and condole with him and console him”.
He paused as if he had
just remembered something and quickly added, “It is also your right to be condoled and consoled by him”. As he
was talking, he saw how excited we were and he smiled broadly. “I would have taken you to him right away
but you know how these things are. There is protocol but don’t worry. Today I
will see General Abacha and get his
approval and tomorrow you will see your father. You have my word”.

Dignatories @ the Launching of ‘The President who Never Ruled’
That was exactly
what we had wanted to hear. We all stood up and began shaking his hand, one
after the other. The meeting was like a fairy tale. I
wanted to leave his office at once because I feared that I was dreaming and
would wake up. We bid him farewell and were on our way. He had not told us the
time to come the following day but he did not have to. I knew that we would be
there by 8 a.m. I did not care even if we would have to wait till midnight
before I see my father.
(Excerpts from
the book, The President Who Never Ruled by Jamiu Abiola; get copies
in any book shop across the world or write Jamiu Abiola through Read How Abacha blocked Kudi Abiola’s Kids from
seeing their sick Dad
in our next post on this blog)