…..No one was going to stop Abacha. With possible opponents either dead, clamped in jail or on exile, the stage was set.
Until June 8.
I recall seeing the shroud wrapped around the mound that once was the most-dreaded ruler in Nigeria. The corpse was tossed in the cargo section of the plane for onward dispatch to Kano.
His successor, General Abdusalami Abubakar was all too eager to quit the scene. There was, however, one obstacle: MKO Abiola. Should his 5 year old mandate be given? Would he forgive those that ensured his incarceration and killed his wife? A dramatic twist came in when the then U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and the then Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku visited him in detention, and the latter addressed a press conference in Abuja saying that Abiola had given up his mandate. A quick rebuttal came through Chief Gani Fawehinmi after which another meeting came up with envoys from the United States, Mr. Thomas Pickering, Ms. Susan Rice and William Twaddel.
Abiola suddenly took ill after he was served tea by Ms Susan Rice, and after a 90 minute battle to save his life at the Presidential hospital, he was pronounced dead.
Abiola’s death would dramatically alter the course of politics of the Fourth Republic.
The ensuing transition programme was ‘designed’ to placate the South West over his death. Hence, the only presidential aspirants of South West descent contested the 1999 presidential election where Chief Obasanjo (PDP) recently released from prison won over Chief Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy/ All People’s Party alliance (refer to my April 1 post, Sticky Bums and Hardened Hearts).
It is my opinion that Obasanjo won because he looked more like the survival specimen of the keepers of the status quo. The dark secrets of the military looked secure with him having hung in the dark basement of the sordid past of a country desperately in need of amnesia.
The Fulani oligarchy felt safe with him, the South-East, having been played out of the APP ticket (up till this time, because the bulk of supporters of Abacha’s self-succession bid were in this party, the APP was derisively called Abacha People’s Party) when the relatively unknown Ogbonnaya Onu was picked and dumped to pick up Olu Falae, tilted towards Obasanjo’s PDP; and the South-South, probably with the hope of eventually benefiting from the PDP ‘zoning’ formula, followed suit.
The gullible religious folks swayed his way as well, since they heard he had become ‘born-again’ during his incarceration.
At the time of the election, Obasanjo was the ‘only Southerner accepted by the Northerners, the only Civilian accepted by the Military, and the only Christian accepted by Muslims’ he donated 130 million Naira, as well as several cars to his political party. For a man recently released from incarceration/death-row, that was a very questionable feat, but no one could be bothered. By May 29, 1999, most of the Retired Generals were card-carrying members of the PDP, with few ones in APP.
Perhaps this militarization of politics is the root of the sudden escalation of politically motivated killings in the Fourth Republic.
As a matter of fact, 1999 till date has the highest record of political assassinations in the history of Nigeria. September 1, 2002 would show how low we had sunk when the local branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and his wife were shot and the killers used a truck to run repeatedly over their dead bodies.
The Nigerian Police Force not only attained an apogee of incompetence, it became the order of the day that Politicians and Journalists were either killed by robbers, drug barons, or clowns.
It is interesting to note that Capital Punishment, till date, is yet to be a deterrent to crime. The establishment of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (2000) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (2003) has only served to heighten despair for those interested in the fight against corruption. Billions of looted funds got resolved as ‘family matter’ in particular, when the culprit is a member of the ruling PDP. Part of what was stolen is returned in exchange for ‘soft-landing’ where the corrupt politicians upon conviction spend short terms in ‘EFCC guest-houses’ and they are released to go-and-sin-more-but-be-more-careful.
Why would a grown man, a then serving Governor, knowing the implications of libel, insist that Chief Tony Anenih wanted to kill him ‘the way they killed Chief Bola Ige’ and all of a sudden we hear nothing more?
These are the issues gnawing deep at my heart, draining my pen of every substance. By the time you are reading this, the tally of over 352 Nigerians that have died of Cholera in just 3 months would have increased. I would not even bother about the statistics of those that have been killed navigating through our ‘road-infested-potholes’ (that sounds, wrong, does it? That is the only way I can explain when you have more pot-holes than roads), nor those that have been killed since Medical Doctors embarked on Strike Action because of poor remunerations.
No, they do not matter, they are not Politicians…All we want to talk about is Zoning, Election, The-Biggest-National-Cake-Ever-Baked, Party and Bullsmilk! (Yeah, I got you on that!)