On the 8th of June, 2008 at the 10th -year anniversary of the late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha outing in Kano, President Muhammadu Buhari cast a gloomy shadow on his puritanical attire with the comment that “Gen. Abacha did not loot the national treasury, contrary to the general impression.
President Buhari, who ruled Nigeria between 1983 and 1985, and now a democratically elected President from 2015 to now, was not alone in his pervasive twist of history at the time. His successor, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida who foisted Gen. Abacha on Nigerians also gave the late Abacha a clean bill after the remembrance prayers marking the death of Abacha, who ruled between 1993 and 1998.
Gen. Sani Abacha who eased out Earnest Shonekan within three months into Shonnekan’s transitional government on November 17, 1993, was visionless and totally power drunk. Gen Abacha did not have any economic plan but a political agenda to entrench himself as a life president. He disbanded IBB discredited SAP programme and introduced a monetary policy that began the official pegging of the Naira against the dollar and other nations’ currencies.
During Abacha’s era, the official rate of Naira rose to nearly 200 Naira for a dollar. He destroyed the Naira and basically rubbished the Nigerian economy, which actually elevated greed, bribery, and corruption and enthroned most of the crooks, cronies and pathetic personalities we have today as political leaders in Nigeria. He looted the national treasury and left the Nigerian economy with a horrendous national debt.
During his regime, most of the institutions collapsed. Sani Abacha persecuted, arrested and imprisoned many notable Nigerians including Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, music icon, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Beko Ransome-Kuti and many others. He arrested and jailed those who criticized him and charged notable Nigerians like Poet Wole Soyinka, the 1986 Nobel Prize winner in Literature and Ken Saro Wiwa, leader of the Movement for Salvation of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), for treason which is punishable by death for criticizing his government. Sani Abacha carried out ethnic cleansing in Ogoni, Okirika, and Adoni – oil-rich Delta regions of River State.
One of the worst of President Buhari’s military and political life was not only his pontification on behalf of a tyrant, a diminutive demented dictator — triple D — or the celebration of his boss’ evil deeds, neither is it Abacha’s unequalled despotic regime in the history of a bloodbath in Nigeria, but the claims that Abacha did not loot the treasury. Nearly 10-years after President Buhari denounced that Gen. Abacha ever loot Nigeria blind, N120 billion is about to be returned to Nigeria with the help of U.S government and a coalition of civil rights movement. Interestingly, fate has endowed President Buhari as the sole inheritor of the same loot he denied a decade ago!
Since President mounted the saddle in 2015, many questions have been begging for answers as to his commitment towards the war against graft. This includes and not limited to, how far is the President fairing in his anti-corruption campaign efforts? Should Nigerians trust President Buhari’s judgement on who is corrupt or not? Should we even trust that Buhari will judiciously utilise the recovered loot in the interest of Nigerians? How are we going to benefit from our repatriated commonwealth? Can Buhari convince us that the said dollars is immune from being re-looted?
By the way, let us bypass Gen. Sani Abacha heinous era and fast forward to the present Muhammadu Buhari government efforts at stamping out corruption. Last week the president was quoted as saying ‘only God can punish corrupt Nigerians’! That such lamentation is coming from a president who Nigerians’ collective hope of defeating corruption is stoutly erected on his shoulder, shows that we’re truly doomed as a people! President Buhari despicably demonstrated his incapacitation or lack of willpower to engender conscious policies that will strengthen existing anti-corruption agencies like EFCC and ICPC to the point of clamping down on economy fraudsters.
We can only believe President Buhari is serious about the war against corruption when Abba Kyari is investigated. Abba Kyari, President Buhari’s Chief of Staff was alleged to have collected N500 million from MTN management to mitigate its legal punishment for defrauding Nigerians. While MTN top management staffers roped in the scandal have been sacked, Abba Kyari remains Buhari’s COS till date. Has the former SGF Babachir Lawal who stole millions from IDPs been prosecuted? When will Buhari prosecute Ayo Oke, the sacked NIA DG?
What is Zakari Biu, the sacked police commissioner who facilitated the escape of Boko Haram Kabiru Sokoto, still doing in the Nigeria Police Force? How about the discredited Ibrahim Lamorde who is currently serving as a senior police officer? Has Buhari set up an investigative panel to find out the allegation on Gen. Buratai and his Dubai property? What of Abdulrahman Dambazau, Buhari’s interior minister, and his U.S mansion?
It is clear that President Buhari has no answers to Nigerian litany of woe, as earlier envisaged. Currently, Nigeria is rated as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It has the lowest primary school completion rates in Africa. Nigeria has the largest percentage of the 100 million children, mostly girls; who are out of school worldwide. Now, Nigeria has fallen below (MDGs) conditions of good governance namely; democratization, economic and political reforms, reduction of poverty, population explosion, fight against poverty and hunger, pandemic diseases, terrorism, conflict and wars and domestic peace, security, prosperity, and the rules of law listed as key important challenges facing Nigeria and most of the African nations. Nigeria has negated in all the conditions under Buhari’s government.
Buhari was voted into power to arrest the drift of a nation that fails to educate the young generation, a nation with institutionalized racism against its own people, discriminating against the potential segment of its own people, and goes on a rampage killing her innocent citizens, a nation that does not maintain its infrastructures or build new ones but prefers to embezzle and launder public money overseas, money budgeted for Federal projects, State programs, community and rural development, and nation that has disregarded education which is the foundation, pillar and engine of economic growth and prosperity.
The Nigerian civil society organizations efforts at the signing of the (MoU) between the Nigerian and Swiss governments that will repatriate to Nigeria $321 million in stolen assets stored in Switzerland by the late Nigerian military dictator, Sani Abacha is remarkable. This is so because it is the first from the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR), a summit that is focused on recovering assets from corrupt nations like Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and Tunisia.
Reverend David Ugolor, the executive director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) seems confident that the recovered loot wouldn’t be re-looted. “Nigeria must ensure swift passage of the Proceeds of Crime Act; effectively resource the new Asset Recovery and Management Unit; to create a single national body responsible for delivering the National Anti-Corruption Strategy; to strengthen the autonomy of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit”, he said.
The World Bank has a role to play in this by ensuring that the recovered loot is not re-looted by President Buhari who didn’t believe Gen. Abacha actually looted our commonwealth, in the first instance. It will be difficult for this government or the ones after it to steal the recovered funds if it’s tied to a capital project like airport construction or reconstruction; rail system development, electricity generation and distribution, scholarship for our best and brightest in the sciences across the country, or plough the money back into the development of agriculture and food sufficiency by companies with zero tolerance to corruption. Anything short of that will be efforts in futility.
Erasmus, A Public Affairs Analyst writes from Lagos.
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