Hypocrisy In The Face Of Truth : The Abacha Verdict
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
London, United Kingdom
“The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones, so let it be with Caesar” - William Shakespeare in “Julius Caesar”.
The truth, the verdict, as we have always suspected it, is now out. The late dictator of Nigeria, Gen. Sani Abacha never stole any money. He never looted the national treasury contrary to the general, world-wide impression. He was a “courageous, loyal and honest military head of state who stood for the unity and development of the country during his years in government”. The man had been, for the past 10 years, wrongly accused, belittled, debased, and vilified by Nigerians and the whole world. And that is the gospel truth.
Yes, I, and many millions of Nigerians have always known Abacha was innocent of all the crimes they said he committed whilst in government. This truth came out after 10 years of his death. Good man. May the Good Lord forgive all his accusers and detractors. One hundred and forty million Nigerians have been wrong for fifteen years!!
First, this “truth” was confirmed by his widow, Maryam, long before the 10th anniversary of his death on Sunday, 8th June 2008. She went on a media blitz, telling all who cared to listen that her husband never stole from Nigerians. Well, she should know, shouldn’t she? And one thing for sure, she was a faithful wife, no doubt about that. That is revisionism at its best, or worst, whichever side of the fence you are on. It is a typical Nigerian game, as Reuben Abati put it. And it is coming just a few days before we remember June 12. There is something to this, I can bet. Compatriots, you see, that is our lot as Nigerians.
Seriously, it is a slap in the face of Nigerians. It is an insult, and it again underlines and emphasises my theory that our leaders always take us for granted and hold us in very great contempt. We are there to serve them, not the opposite. We are their slaves, to be trodden upon mercilessly and kept below the poverty line. In fact, we are nothing in their selfish and corrupt eyes. Between all of their governments, Nigeria is said not to have been able to account for over 400 billion dollars in oil and other revenue. So where did this monumental amount disappear to? Thin air?
And what further proof do you need that Abacha was the best Head of State Nigeria ever had? Two former Heads of State also confirmed that fact, that Abacha was not the ogre we took him to be. Muhamadu Buhari confirmed it, and so did Ibrahim Babangida. Very nice people. Well, again, as Nigerians who always shy away from the truth, what do you expect? The whole “truth” is coming from the horse’s mouth. Since these great former rulers of Nigeria said it, then we must believe them. It is the gospel truth, especially coming from Babangida, who, through his own nefarious and dastardly act, either by commission or omission, paved the way for Abacha to become a Head of State (and unwittingly, caused his untimely death). Nigerians, I am sure must be very surprised by both Buhari and Babangida’s utterances on this issue of Abacha. Buhari has a reputation for being a very strict, discipline and principled man, and was widely held to be one of the least corrupt Head of State Nigeria ever had. On the other hand, Babangida is widely held to have institutionalised corruption in Nigeria. He totally decimated the middle class in Nigeria, and through him, a lot of his cronies made serious money stealing the country blind. He himself is widely believed to be one of the richest men in Nigeria, if not in Africa, and nobody can put a finger on how he got his money. But we all know, but cannot prove it, that the man stole money.
You see, compatriots, the truth will always elude us because we never stand by it, and if the truth eludes us, progress and development will elude us too, and we will be condemned to eternal suffering as a people. That about sums up the reason why we are in the unfortunate position we find ourselves today and which will probably continue for another 50 years.
One of the central evils of our society is hypocrisy – defined as the refusal to “apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to others, which promotes injustices and social inequalities in a framework of self-deception, which includes the notion that hypocrisy itself is a necessary part of human behaviour and society” (Noam Chomsky). Hypocrisy is a form of insincerity, and is well qualified and defined in the Holy Books, both the Christian Bible and the Muslim Qur’an. It is a sin in the eyes of God. Even Buddhist texts condemn a man who takes hypocrisy as a right and normal behaviour.
Again, such pronouncements from these sources puts you in a dilemma, not so much because you believe they are right and you are wrong, but because they are now coming out ten years later, on the face of all the evidence against Abacha, to try to continue to pull the wool over our collective eyes. According to their thinking, Nigerians should collectively apologise to the Abacha family. That is the essence of their wise pronouncements.
Another disturbing thing about all these is the fact that these generals are now speaking out after ten years of Abacha’s death and when they visited the widow for his anniversary. Where were they all these ten years? If they has spoken up before now, we probably would not have had to go through all these investigations into Abacha’s loot, and Obasanjo would probably have had more time to concentrate on governing the country instead of wasting resources, time and energy to retrieving the loot and would probably no be plotting a third term in office. We may never know. Why do these people do these things to us? If they cannot tell the truth, they should just keep quiet instead of insulting our sensibilities.
According to post-Abacha government sources, some US$3 billion in foreign assets have been traced to Abacha, his family, their representatives and accomplices. In 2002, the Nigerian Government came to an agreement with the Abacha family (whose head now is Mrs Maryam Abacha) to return $1 billion out of $1.1 billion that had been identified, traced and frozen, with the quid pro quo that the Abachas will be allowed to keep the balance that had not been assessed not to be of criminal origin. If the money was not stolen, why did the Abacha family agreed to these terms? Estimates of the amount looted during his five years in power vary from 2 to 5 billion dollars, the higher figure representing about 10% of Nigeria’s annual income from oil over 5 years.
In addition, and contrary to our “esteemed and respected” former leaders, countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg have confirmed that Abacha loot with them has been frozen. The Swiss Government and others like Jersey, Belgium and the UK have repatriated Abacha over $1.2 billion to Nigeria. We also know that investigations conducted by the Obasanjo administration in collaboration with several international anti-corruption agencies, established that Abacha stole over 2 billion pounds stashed away in the UK, the US, Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong, apart from the three countries mentioned earlier.
We all know that Abacha used to call on the Central Bank to just print and bring money to him, and that he was always demanding bribes from contractors, yet Babangida and Buhari - and they are honourable men - as well as his widow, are saying to Nigerians and the whole world that the man never stole money. If that is not stealing money, I wonder what it is. They having a laugh, aren’t they? They can afford to laugh at us, especially Babangida, after all , he himself is an unrepentant thief still walking about freely in Nigeria, without any hope of being brought to justice or at least, to account for his own looting of the treasury and the many people who died as a result of his mis-governance, Dele Giwa, and the many military officers included.
And talking of Abacha who, as his co-traveller riposted, “stood for the unity and development of the country”, the late MKO Abiola, late Pa Alfred Rewane, late Kuditrat Abiola, late Ken Saro Wiwa and others hanged with him by Abacha, late Shehu Musa Yar’Adu, who died under Abacha’s detention and numerous others who were killed under very suspicious circumstances directly or indirectly (like MKO Abiola) must be turning and squirming in their graves now, on hearing what these compassionate former Heads of State had to say about the man who brought about their untimely deaths. And others who managed to escape with their lives, but who suffered a great deal under the ultimate ruler of Nigeria – Obasanjo, Diya (well, he did, didn’t he?), late Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chris Anyanwu and the several newspapers like Tell, The Guardian, The News, etc? What will these people be saying now that Buhari and Babangida have single-handedly given Abacha’s tenure in government a clean bill a health?
According to Reuben Abati in The Guardian of Sunday 8th June 2008, “the biggest damage that General Abacha did to Nigeria, however, was not even the public funds he looted, but the peoples’ hopes that he destroyed, the lives he ruined, the pain that he inflicted on many homes, the shame that he brought upon the country and the legacy of hate that he left behind. For years he robbed Nigerians of the opportunity to be citizens in their own country. Many fled”. The same applies to Babangida too, and as a matter of fact, Abacha was a creation of Babangida, and it was actually Babangida, more than any other former Head of State, that initiated the freefall and rot that is Nigeria today. So we can all understand where he was coming from by making such statements.
Ironically, in an interview in July 2000 for Newswatch, it was this same shameless and incorrigible man, Babangida, who was surprised at the revelations of Abacha’s loot, and admitted that Abacha’s death has brought “relative stability and that it gives us (Nigerians) hope”. In that interview, he also blamed the Nigerian society for allowing Abacha to grow into the dictator he became. I am laughing and shaking my head in disbelief as I write this article.
Buhari, in his own simple statement said that “allegations of looting against Abacha was baseless and ten years after Abacha’s death, those allegations remain unproven because of lack of facts”. And this is a former Head of State uttering such nonsense and profanity in the face of all the documented evidence from Switzerland, UK, US, Luxembourg, etc and the fact that money was returned to the Nigerian Government by these governments after admitting they were stashed there by Abacha and his accomplices. This in the face of the Abacha family themselves returning some amount. Well, I suppose returning one billion dollars is not the same as returning one Naira. Abacha must have worked really very hard to make even one billion dollars within five years. We can all do it, can’t we? People are making that amount everyday, especially in Nigeria, and especially people in government, aren’t they? It is a normal thing in Nigeria. The money is lying there and everybody is making it by picking it off the ground, aren’t they?
So you see why this country is at risk? With former leaders like these, who needs to worry anymore about where Nigeria is going? I can understand commiserating with a widow, but not this irresponsible and far-from-the-truth utterances. It is depravity at its worst. It is fabrication at its best and a feeble attempt at self-recognition and promotion. They probably were trying to look good in the eyes of Maryam Abacha and the whole Abacha family, but I see it as our penchant for hypocrisy, insincerity and deviant behaviour.
I used to think Nigeria has been ruled by corrupt leaders (this is still so), but now I have changed my mind. Nigeria was ruled and is still being ruled by depraved, murderous and heartless leaders. Not a thought for the long-suffering citizens. Not a thought at all. This will not be the end of such things. We are going to be regaled with such utterances in the years and decades to come, because the truth and sincerity will always elude us. When Babangida himself dies one day, you will be surprised at the encomium that will be heaped on him. By that time, he would have turned to be the greatest President Nigeria ever had. That is our lot and luck in this country. We are also so easily forgetful, and that is exactly what our leaders want. The wool is permanently over our eyes. Their “juju” is working on us.
However, I picked something up from Reuben Abacha’s piece which exposes us, the people of Nigeria, as sycophants, flatterers and full of hypocrisy. “On Friday, June 6, one Prince Clement Bebenimibo was quoted in The Vanguard, p. 12, as saying that Ijaws of the Niger Delta should forever remain grateful to General Abacha because "he it was who made the Ijaw to have a sense of belonging in Nigeria by creating an autonomous state, Bayelsa state for them." He wants the Ijaw to declare an Abacha Day, and worship their benefactor on that day. Bebenimibo is certainly not speaking for all Ijaws. The same Abacha turned Ijaw and Ogoniland into a battle field, his government encouraged conflict in the region and many Ijaw lives were wasted. There was an advert yesterday on p. 45 of the Nigerian Tribune signed by Brig-Gen Yakubu Mu'azu (rtd) on behalf of "former military administrators", and another advert: "We remember our great leader" on page 15 of the Saturday Sun signed by members of the Nigeria Youth Organisation (NYO)”.
That about sums up all that sincere and patriotic Nigerians all over the world are fighting for. There will always be forces of darkness, and these are ordinary people, mostly faceless, who will always thwart efforts of progress and development. These people are in no doubt on the pay of these leaders to praise them. I acknowledge their loyalty, but it is grossly misplaced and is an insult to the lives lost and ruined under Abacha, as well as to other Nigerians who suffered under his misrule. He was a greedy corrupt, evil, irresponsible, murderous, utterly depraved man, who should never have made it to where he found himself, if not for the apathy and bad luck of Nigerians.
He was simply bad news for Nigeria, and this was evidenced by the fact that on hearing about his demise, millions of Nigerians all the country took to the streets dancing in joy that he had died. It sounds heartless and gruesome, but that underlines the feelings of a people towards their leader. I would not wish people dancing on my grave or rejoicing that I am dead. For Abacha, people did, and that should tell his shameless widow, family, fellow-travellers like Babangida and Buhari and many others of their ilk that such an unkind fate awaits their own deaths. God, History and posterity will never treat them kindly or forgive them.
“The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones, so let it be with Caesar”
Let the truth be said always.
Akintokunbo Adejumo, a social and political commentator on Nigerian issues, lives and works in London, UK. A graduate of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria (1979) and University of Manitoba, Canada (1985), he also writes on topical issues for Nigerian newspapers and internet media including Nigeriaworld.com, Nigeria Today Online, Nigerians in America, Nigeria Village Square, ChatAfrik.com, Gamji.com, etc.
He is also the Coordinator of CHAMPIONS FOR NIGERIA, (www.championsfornigeria.org) an organisation devoted to celebrating genuine progress, excellence, commitment, selfless and unalloyed service to Nigeria and the people of Nigeria.