By Yusuf Baboshia
General Sani Abacha served as the de facto president of Nigeria and commander-in-chief of the armed forces from 1993 till his unexplainable death on June 8, 1998.[i] He was a Kanuri from Present day Borno state but was born and bred in Kano, Nigeria and began his military career as early as 18 years in the Nigerian Military Training College. On 17th November 1993, he seized power from the Interim Governing Council of Ernest Shonekan and declared himself as the new head of state, thereby refusing to acknowledge the results of the 1993 election. When he began his administration he seemed to have dreams to execute for Nigeria especially his desire to implement discipline among Nigerians but he soon became more concerned with curtailing and fighting pro-democracy groups and whoever had opposed his actions.[ii] This included journalists, politicians, peer groups and whoever spoke or acted as against his government. Due to this concentration on shutting the mouths of his opponents a lot of human rights abuses took places under his regime. The most popular amongst them was the execution of Ken-Saro Wiwa and nine (9) members of the Ogoni Nine through hanging. Also, in September 1994 he issued a decreed that gave his government immunity over the jurisdiction of the courts and gave himself the right to detain anyone he deemed guilty in jail for three (3) months without trial. With this opportunity, he ensured that some politicians who were fond of questioning his actions were jailed for treason among them were Olusegun Obasanjo, Moshood Abiola and later on Wole Soyinka who was charged with treason even in his absence from Nigeria.[iii] Abacha was also known as one of the most corrupt leaders in the world as he and his family reportedly syphoned an estimated amount of €5 billion from the country’s income. It is believed that till date his family still enjoy the gains of this ill-gotten money. Due to his actions, Nigeria became a pariah state and the country suffered great opposition from many countries of the international community. This brought great economic consequences to Nigeria and many countries wanted little or nothing to do with the country. Regardless of the negatives, under his regime ECOMOG recorder, many military successes in West Africa and this buttressed Nigeria’s position as a leader amongst other West African countries.[iv]
[i] Falola, Toyin and Matthew Heaton, A History of Nigeria, USA: Cambridge University Press, 2008, p. 20.