Abacha brought out the best in Nigerians

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Next to the civil war, the five-year rule of Sani Abacha ushered in some of the bleakest moments in Nigeria’s history. But sometimes, a nation rises to its finest heights in its darkest hours. The Abacha-years brought a lot of pain and suffering, but they also brought out the best in Nigerian society, a time when many risked their lives for a cause greater than themselves: the future of their country.

Most of those who fought the fight were not famous; we don’t know their names. Only their families know their sacrifice. While Abiola’s place as the face of the pro-democratic struggle is obvious, I bow to the countless faceless members of civil society who waged a life-and-death battle with the man they called the Khalifa. A battle that showed what Nigerians are capable of if united in a common cause.

Who was Abacha?

For those too young to recall, a few words on the Khalifa appear in order. As with most rulers of his generation, Abacha’s biography is fragmentary. We know he joined the army in 1962, commencing a stellar military career. It was Abacha who announced Buhari’s 1983 coup on Lagos radio. By 1985, he was Chief of Army Staff in Babangida’s regime, his reward for having helped topple Buhari. But despite his high-profile position, he avoided the limelight, hardly ever speaking to the media. This did not change after he finally seized power for himself from Ernest Shonekan’s “transition government” in 1993. The Khalifa’s psyche is crucial to understanding his five-year rule. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell said this of Abacha in 1995: “He has the worst C.I.A [psychological] bio I have ever read, and I’ve read lots of them.”

Very short, Abacha was often bullied as a child and … Read More...