In her historical fictional narrative titled “The Lost Sisterhood,” Danish-Canadian writer Anne Fortier quotes one of her characters as saying that “those who control the present can rewrite the past.” This is playing out right before us in what I called the curious posthumous deodorization of Abacha’s grand larceny in a May 7, 2020 social media update.
Loyalists and beneficiaries of Sani Abacha’s dictatorship control Nigeria’s present, and they are trying to exploit this privilege to rewrite the sordid past of their benefactor while the rest of the country is fixated on other issues.
Muhammadu Buhari has always been invested in cleansing Abacha’s appallingly grubby reputation as a murderous larcener. During the 10th-year-rememberance anniversary of Abacha in Kano in June 2008, for instance, Muhammadu Buhari remarked that, contrary to settled narratives in the Nigerian public sphere, Abacha never stole from Nigeria.
This 2008 Buhari declaration birthed a fringe, outlandish but nonetheless popular narrative in northern Nigeria that Abacha’s reputation as a ruthless crook who stole billions of Nigeria’s patrimony and salted it away in Euro-American financial institutions was the handiwork of Olusegun Obasanjo who was taking a posthumous pound of flesh from Abacha for imprisoning him.
In the aftermath of the unrelenting repatriation of what has now been called the “Abacha loot” from Western banks, a new farcical story line was fabricated, which is that Abacha actually “saved” the money for Nigeria for a rainy day!
Apart from Buhari’s public defense of Abacha’s larceny in 2008, the posthumous discursive purification of Abacha’s image as a greedy, conscienceless thief was largely informal and took place on the margins of polite society.
Abubakar Malami, Buhari’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, officialised the revisionism of Abacha’s thievery. In a May 4, 2020 tweet, Malami described repatriated Abacha loot as “Abacha assets.” “I am happy to confirm that the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday 4th May, 2020 received $311,797,866.11 of the Abacha assets repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey,” he wrote.
The change from “Abacha loot” to “Abacha assets” was a willful rhetorical move designed to lend official credence to the hitherto fringy, informal but nevertheless robust narrative that Abacha didn’t steal Nigeria’s money.
Led by Sahara Reporter’s Omoyele Sowore, Nigerians on social media pounced on Malami’s tweet and compelled him to retract his incompetent attempt at revisionism. In a woolly, shamefaced, error-ridden retraction, Malami said, “It is to be noted that by way of antecedence [sic] that Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has been consistently describing the recovered funds as ‘Abacha loot’ at several fora during the process of recovery of the looted funds, particularly before the eventual repatriation of the funds.”
But it didn’t stop there. Buba Galadima, a former Buhari protégé who is now at loggerheads with him because he has been shut out of the orbit of governance, has taken off from where Malami backed off. In aMay 17, 2020 interview with The Nation,he said the estimated $5 billion Sani Abacha stole from Nigeria’s trough was actually “saved” for Nigeria—on the advice of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein—in anticipation of US sanction against Nigeria so that “even if Nigeria’s account was blocked by the US, there won’t be panic.”
Galadima, who was Director General of the National Maritime Authority during the Abacha junta, said the notion that Abacha stole from Nigeria’s till is “based on ignorance.”When an editor forwarded excerpts of the interview to me on WhatsApp, I’d dismissed it as fabricated. I was wrong.
As I pointed out on social media on May 17, the idea that the Abacha loot was “saved” for Nigeria stands logic on its head, considering that Abacha “saved” some of that money in the US whose impending blockage he was allegedly plotting against. How do you “hide” something from someone by “saving” it in his house?
Plus, even Buhari, the choirmaster of the Abacha sanitization chorus, has grudgingly conceded that his former boss stole from Nigeria’s public treasury. For example, in an April 27, 2016 tweet, Buhari said, “Nigeria is awaiting receipt from Swiss Govt. of $320 million, identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under Abacha.”
“Illegally taken” is merely a synonym for stealing. In a February 4, 2020 statement from the US Embassy in Nigeria about the repatriation of the “Abacha loot” from US banks, the US government was unambiguous in stating how the money got to its banks.
“The monies were laundered by [Abacha’s] family, including his sons Ibrahim and Mohammed, and a number of close associates,” the statement from the US reads. “The laundering operation extended to the United States and European jurisdictions such as the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg.”
One of those associates who helped Abacha launder huge sums of money is Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu to whom the Buhari regime wanted to hand over $100million of the recovered money, according to Bloomberg, but for the resistance of the US government. If the money was “saved” for Nigeria, why did Buhari want to hand over some it to a person who has been identified as an accomplice in its theft?
The US Department of Justice identified Bagudu as one of Abacha’s network of proteges that, “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”
It isn’t only the US that unequivocally describes the repatriated funds as the product of Abacha’s criminal despoliation of Nigeria’s resources. In a June 12, 2017 Radio France International report titled “Swiss make deal with Nigeria on final payout for Abacha loot,” we learn that “The cash was originally frozen in Luxembourg and confiscated by the Swiss as part of a criminal investigation into Abba Abacha, Sani Abacha’s son. Switzerland had already returned some 700 million dollars following appeals by Nigeria.”
In a “Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative – Asset Recovery Watch” bulletin, there’s also a case against “Family of former President Sani Abacha,” where we read that,“In 2006, the World Bank was involved in a similar framework, providing institutional support for the return and use of approx. $723 million in public funds that had been corruptly diverted by General Abacha.”
Not all the money Abacha stole has been recovered. Of the $5 billion that Abacha looted and squirreled away—or “saved” for Nigeria, to use Galadimian logic—in the banks of countries that wanted to “block” Nigeria’s money, $3.624 billion has been recovered so far. Can Galadima help Nigeria recover the rest of the money since he appears to know where the money has been “saved”?
The purveyors of the transparently fraudulent narrative that Abacha “saved” money for Nigeria in foreign banks which his detractors have decided to call “loot” should be told that they can’t rewrite history.
People, mostly young northerners who were not of age when Abacha’s evil regime reigned, have even sent me private messages asking me to help stop the demonisation of Abacha. For them, it’s a regional and religious project. But that’s misguided. Islam teaches us to be fair, just, and truthful. It doesn’t teach us to lie to salvage the image of a dead thief among us.
The unvarnished truth is that Abacha did NOT save money for Nigeria; he STOLE from it with conscienceless glee. It’s distressing that one has to even say this in spite of the clear evidence that stares us in the face.
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
FG Declares Monday, Tuesday Public Holidays To Eidul-Fitr Celebration
THE Federal Government has declared Monday, May 25 and Tuesday, May 26, 2020 as public holidays to mark this year’s Eidul-Fitr Celebration. Tribune Online reports that the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, made the declaration on behalf of the Federal Government in a statement made available to… Read full story
THE Federal Government has disclosed that there are plans to soon reopen schools nationwide, saying, however, that this will not be done in two weeks as being speculated in some quarters. Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, made the clarification on Thursday during the Presidential Task Force on… Read full story
NLC Decries Incessant Harassment Of Healthcare Workers By Security Agents
The Lagos State Council, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), has decried the recent harassment and intimidation of healthcare workers by security officers, including Nigeria Police in the state. The state Chairman, Mrs Agnes Sessi, expressed the concern at the inauguration of the union’s Labour-Civil Society Situation… Read full story
Air Peace Announces Plans To Downsize, Stop Inflight Services On Resumption
Nigeria’s domestic airline, Air Peace has indicated plans to downsize once flight operations resume. The Chairman of the airline, Mr Allen Onyema who declared this during a webinar organised by Aelex partners with the theme: “Survival Strategies for Nigerian Airlines’, said the downsize will affect some of his workers even… Read full story
Court Jails Man 26 Years For Abducting, Marrying, Impregnating 14-Year-Old Ese Oruru
A Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Capital, has convicted Yunusa Dahiru for the abduction of 14-year-old Ese Oruru and getting her pregnant in the process. The presiding judge, Justice Jane Inyang, sentenced Dahiru to 26 years imprisonment in a judgment she delivered on Thursday… Read full story
Rising Inflation Puts CBN In Dilemma ― Uwaleke
The rising inflation rate poses a challenge to monetary policy especially in the face of the need to stimulate economic activities through a lower interest rate environment and rescue the economy from recession. Uche Uwaleke, a professor of Finance at the Nasarawa State University who stated this in reaction to… Read full story
VIDEO+PHOTOS: Man Lands His Helicopter At Filling Station To Fill The Tank
It was a strange moment in Poland when a man landed his helicopter at a filling station to fill up on gas before paying and flying off, the Daily Mail of UK reported on Thursday. Mobile phone footage of the scene shows stunned customers looking on as the pilot landed his chopper to a petrol pump at the station in… Read full story
WHO Reviewing Impact Of Trump’s Decision To Withhold Funding
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday said it was reviewing the impact of the decision of the United States President, Donald Trump, to withhold its funding to the organisation on its works and activities. Tribune Online reports that the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Fiona Braka regretted… Read full story
How Lockdown Made Pregnant Woman To Die During Labour In Ogun
A pregnant woman, Mrs Waidat Adedeji, died on Thursday, at Ita-Otu General Hospital, Ibiade in Ogun Waterside Local Government Area of Ogun State during labour. Tribune Online learnt that the woman who fell into labour and was being taken to the hospital on a motorcycle by the rider along with one of her children… Read full story
We’ve Spent N800 Million To Test 16,000 People For Coronavirus, Says Lagos Govt
Lagos State government on Thursday said it had expended about N800 million in carrying out 16,000 COVID-19 test in the state so far, disclosing that each of the test, which had been fully paid for, costs between N40,000 and N50,000. The Commissioner for Health in the state, Professor Akin Abayomi, made this known… Read full story
Why Buhari Gives Appointment To Those He Knows —Kokori
Chief Ovie Frank Kokori, a former secretary general of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and current stalwart of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Delta State, is worried by the rate of unending corruption, insecurity caused by herdsmen and kidnappers and issue… Read full story
Customs Intercept N1.2bn Cannabis On Lagos Waters
Operatives of the Western Marine Command of Nigeria Customs Service(NCS) have intercepted drugs suspected to be Cannabis Sativa valued at N1,002,050,000 during a seagoing patrol on Lagos waters. The Controller of the command, Comptroller Olugboyega Peters, revealed this in a statement in Lagos on Thursday… Read full story
Father And Son Surrender To Police After Killing Neighbour For Allegedly Sleeping With Wife
A father and his son have surrendered themselves to the police in Nasarawa State after killing their neighbour. Mr Henry Oboteh, a trado-medical doctor, who was said to be in his mid-50s, was killed by one Mr Collins, his son and his security guard on Wednesday, May 20, at Angwan Tiv in Masaka, for allegedly… Read full story