How time flies! On June 8, 2016, it would be 18 years since the death of former Military Head of State, General Sani Abacha. Despite his concrete achievements, Abacha’s memory always comes under vicious vilification from the so-called pro-democracy agitators of June 12, 1993. We cannot let Abacha’s record to the interpretation of his hardened political enemies, such as Professor Wole Soyinka, who alleged that Abacha had no “redeeming virtues” as if the Nobel Laureate has no imperfections of his own.
General Sani Abacha who died on June 8, 1998, represents different things to different people. To his political enemies, especially the former members of the National Democratic Coalition, NADECO, he was the “worst disaster” to befall Nigeria. But to objective Nigerians, Abacha was one of the most unfairly reviled and misunderstood Nigerian leaders. The verdict of history may always be distorted or mutilated if it is written by one’s enemies. Therefore, my duty as an objective observer of political events in Nigeria is to set the record straight.
What I have always notised is that, whenever the June 12 anniversary is being celebrated, Abacha’s enemies hijack the event to pour unprintable insults on his memory and deliberately playing down his positive contributions to Nigeria within the brief period he was destined to rule the country. It would amount to gross injustice to assess Abacha out of proportion, remembering only his shortcomings and ignoring his achievements.
Despite all the unimaginable evils attributed to Abacha, his implementation of development projects was more credible than his political enemies would honestly admit. When General Abacha took over on November17, 1993, Nigeria’s foreign reserve was around four billion dollars. However thanks to the prudence of his administration, the foreign reserve rose to ten billion dollars ( $10 billion). And this was achieved, despite the fact that his political enemies branded him a disaster.
Abacha‘s management of the proceeds of petroleum subsidy withdrawal
was more credible and result-oriented than other subsidy withdrawal
policies we had in the country. Although Abacha increased fuel price to N20 per litre, he produced more results than other governments that came before him or after him. For example, the former Obasanjo administration increased fuel price to N75 per litre but it didn’t make the remarkable positive impact made by PTF under Abacha.
The Petroleum Trust Fund established by Abacha was such a big success that it became a reference point, setting a standard yet to be beaten as far as the implementation of subsidy withdrawal policies is concerned. With only 60 billion allocations throughout its period of operation, the PTF had achieved great results that disarmed Abacha’s political enemies. Thanks to PTF intervention, the conditions of public hospitals, roads, schools, water supply and other areas of social services had improved remarkably. Our public hospitals were once described as “consulting clinics”.
However, with the establishment of PTF to manage the proceedings of subsidy withdrawal, dilapidated public schools, hospitals road and water supply system were rehabilitated and restored to functional status. Before PTF, public roads were death traps, hospitals were in shambles, school operated without roofs and desks or stationery.
Transparency was largely the only secret behind the success story of the PTF. Corruption, greed and lack of transparency in the civil service had contributed to the poor execution of public projects. Headed by the General Muhammadu Buhari, the PTF didn’t allow the typical corruption that pervades the civil service to undermine the execution of public projects.
Many Nigerians found it incredible that the PTF could have achieved such impressive results with only 60 billion naira allocation throughout the duration of its brief operation. Huge expenditure of money alone is not enough without honesty on the part of those entrusted with public funds to execute projects. In 2001, former President Obasanjo publicly admitted that he was ashamed of the conditions of the federal roads. This was at a time the Federal Ministry of Works was allocated N350 billion by the National Assembly.
The PTF was allocated only N100 billion naira throughout its entire existence and one hundred billion is a drop in the ocean compared with 350 billion naira allocated to the Federal Ministry of Works during former President Obasanjo’s administration. Yet, despite this differences, the PTF had achieved more results with less allocation.
Blinded by inveterate hate and prejudice, Abacha’s enemies would always pretend not to remember that the current railway rehabilitation, the National Hospital, the Gwarinpa Housing project, to mention but a few, were the outcomes of Abacha’s development strides. How many houses did Obasanjo build for Nigerians? How many roads, schools and hospitals did his self-righteous government construct for Nigerians? Instead of building more houses, Obasanjo was selling the houses he didn’t build. His anti-corruption crusade was a charade. Corruption grew like weed under his nose, but he was more interested in receiving the Abacha loot, which was re-looted. Admire
him or loathe him, you must give Abacha credit for the good things he did for Nigerians.
On Abiola’s unfortunate death, the naivety and miscalculation of the former NADECO leaders was responsible for his tragic demise. Abacha offered bail to Abiola in 1995, but the so-called pro-democracy agitators asked him to reject the bail offer from Abacha. In fact, Abiola’s eldest son Kola was so angry with NADECO’S naivety for rejecting the bail offer that he went to court, seeking to fire his father’s lawyer, the late G.O.K. Ajayi, who was appointed by Kudirat
Abiola. No thanks to their miscalculation, Abiola died an avoidable death. General Abacha would not have pressed ahead with the prosecution of Abiola if he had accepted the bail offer. NADECO leaders misled him and, on that account, they bear moral responsibility for his avoidable death.
Nasir, an economic and development analyst, contributed this opinion from NO. 74, Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse 11 Abuja