Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My husband has repeatedly accused me of rewriting history. After many years of marriage and hearing this accusation, I have learned to arm myself with the perfect response - evidence. That is why when his daughter used the toilet tissue paper to decorate the bathroom, I collected photographic evidence and recorded the act using a camcorder. Since that day, my husband has restrained himself from accusing me of rewriting history. I, in turn, have learned the incredible value of unquestionable evidence.

I couldn't help but think about all this when I read recent reports by various Nigerian newspapers about comments made by certain Nigerians at the recent 10th anniversary celebration of Sani Abacha's death. Sani Abacha is considered one of Nigeria's most notorious dictators. That being said, recent comments about Abacha's legacy forced me to chuckle and shake my head in amazement at the extent that some people will go to in trying to rewrite Nigerian history. This, despite the fact that we live in a technologically sophisticated world where everything said or done by any leader is recorded for all time and sometimes easily accessible on Youtube or the many other internet outlets that allow for the easy sharing of digital information.

So, as I read statements from former dictators General Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida, I realized that I would have to spend some time pulling up some facts that would contradict their statements. Particularly, their comments regarding Abacha and stolen Nigerian funds. Now, Babangida is quoted as saying,
" is not true that he looted public treasury. I knew who Abacha was because I was close to him."
Although I never knew Abacha personally and obviously Babangida did, I will beg to differ with the man known for deft political moves that he was lovingly nicknamed 'Maradona' by the Nigerian public. Less than 1 week before Babangida (AKA IBB) made this statement, the government of Switzerland announced that it "returned all monies stolen by former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha, to Nigeria without any conditions as to how the monies should be spent." A member of the Swiss diplomatic corp assigned to Abuja gave a specific breakdown of looted monies that were returned. The money was returned in installments and looks as follows -
  1. $290 million was transferred on September 1, 2005,
  2. $168 million was transferred on December 19, 2005,
  3. $40 million transferred at the end of January 2006.
  4. $7 million was transferred into a 'blocked account' in Nigeria, as the Swiss government could not identify its origin, this money remains in the blocked account.
I have to say that in this instance, I have to lend more credence to the Swiss authorities than Nigeria's Maradona. My lack of confidence in Babangida and Buhari's comments on Abacha's history of looting Nigeria's coffers is further bolstered by the fact that the U.N.'s Office on Drugs and Crime, and the World Bank, under a new initiative called the Stolen Asset Recovery (STAR) reported that a total of $505.5 million in stolen funds has been recovered by the Nigerian government from the Swiss authorities. This money, was stolen and stashed by the late Abacha and his family members.

Okay, I understand, Abacha might not have been as bad as other dictators like Indonesia's Mohamed Suharto, who between 1967 and 1998 stole approximately $15-35 billion. Abacha is reported to have only taken $2-5 billion from Nigeria's Central Bank. As a percentage of nominal GDP, Abacha took between 1.5%-3.7% of annual GDP. Maybe that is why Buhari and Babangida see things so differently.

But, the same excuse cannot be made for Abdulsalami Abubakar. After all, Abubakar led an interim military government that ruled Nigeria right after Abacha's death. Specifically, Abubakar, created Decree No. 53 in 1999 which led to a criminal investigation and the recovery of stolen monies and assets from Abacha's family members and associates. In fact, the United Nations credits Abubakar's Decree No. 53 with the recovery of $800 million in looted funds. Being that Abubakar was an integral part of that process, I find it shocking that he would discourage the National Assembly from looking into the failures of previous administrations by stating that politicians should "concentrate {on} making their contributions to our national development, instead of wasting time and public funds in investing past administrations."

Abacha might have been a notorious dictator, but one thing is certain, his creation of a Petroleum Development Trust Fund has been lauded by some as an important tool for Nigerian development. As, I am not familiar with the 'positive results' of this program, I will reserve any comment and try to learn more about it instead. Nevertheless, I can honestly say that in light of the recent Brutish Airways incident, I quite admire Abacha's 14 month ban preventing British Airways from flying in Nigerian airspace.

However, these two examples do not overcome the reality of Abacha's legacy - that he looted the national coffers, was the head of state when Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 others were murdered by the federal government, that Abacha's regime is tied to numerous human rights infractions and much more. For Buhari, Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and others to state anything other than this truth is akin to sticking one's head in the sand. This attempt to re-write history can only be challenged with concrete evidence, not argument or sentiment. In this day and age, with the preponderance of incredible technology and the fact that history is created every second and minute, rewriting Abacha's history will be incredibly hard and quite frankly, impossible.

Further reading:
- On...the fable of the gap toothed snake, the benevolent boar and the troglodyte (a very creative take on the historical ties between Babangida, Abacha and Abiola)

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Unknown said...

Pay I'm fuuurssst!

Unknown said...

That was menat to be 'pray'
yaaaayyyy I'm fuurst. Let me go read.

Unknown said...

Yes, it is virtually impossible to rewrite Abacha's history. Those who try to do so would only get derided. I remember SaroWiwa's assassination - that's what it was. Abacha's govt is probably the worst to date.

Shubby Doo said...

The evidence is clear…I too read that account about the monies recovered that had been returned by the Swiss government.

Why are these guys are still doing us a irresponsible is it to state that it is a waste of ‘time and public funds in investing past administrations’ my mind it shows that they themselves are culpable...are they scared that investigating past administrations will implicate them?...probably

If only our govt’s main focus when in power was investing in our country...just think where Nigeria could be now! Instead the main purpose of some seems to be concentrating solely on exploiting the opportunity at hand by investing in the wealth of themselves and their is a shame...a crying shame

Beauty said...

Let me get this straignt and never mind about the Abacha & co That is why when his daughter used the toilet tissue paper to decorate the bathroom, I collected photographic evidence and recorded the act using a camcorder Mum actually collected video evidence. LOL. whao! No kidding? How about putting this on google video? I am sure, a lot of your readers agree with me.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Solomonsydelle,

You will be surprised that most of Abacha's loyal followers will continue to peddle a lie because they will benefit from it.

They are identified with Abacha, thus, any political plan they have is linked to his name, and if they create a hero out of him, they are the disciples who will continue his legacy. Of course, by attaching themselves to him, name recall is already an advantage. They will continue using the "Goebbels technique" that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth.

In the urban centers, this may not work, but with a little money (their share from Abacha's loot) they could buy a few radio stations and local papers in remote areas to rewrite whatever they want written, or say whatever they want said. With a little goodwill here and there, needy people will force themselves to believe the story.

I agree with you on the technology capability, but how much of Nigeria has access to these? How many are there in rural areas who have enough education to discern truth from lies? This is an area which your campaign cannot take for granted. The education of the masses is critical. Also, people have short memories. Look at China's students and young professionals, they hardly know anything about the purges in the70's nor Tiananmen. Good luck. :-) --Durano, done!

Beauty said...

In 2003 Transparency International rated Nigeria as the most corrupt place on Earth until Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala suposedly changed all of that at TED Africa where we got bashed for only bad mouthing Africa. She talked about how to help Africa and do business there We know the negative images of Africa -- famine and disease, conflict and corruption..... there's another, less-told story happening in many African nations, one of reform, economic growth and business opportunity At the time, a lot of people including I wrote a lot of rubbish about these same issues including the Abacha loot since corruption is not on the wane as she and others would have us believe at the time.

I have since written that everything else I have commented on corruption is trash when I came across (via TED) the Friends of the stolen asset recovery initiative (FStAR) . The World Bank, in partnership with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), launched it on September 17, 2007. It is an initiative to help developing countries recover assets stolen by corrupt leaders, help invest them in effective development programs and combat safe havens internationally.

The FStar team has tons of documents, facts and figures since 25% of the gross domestic product of African states is lost to corruption every year at the cost of about $148 billion. These people used to have a place to hide but with free storage from google, msn, IBM and others there is room to document everything including the history of the money trail. It is no longer the question of looted treasury, it is transparent accounting of in/out that will stem the tide of corruption in the end.

According to post-Abacha governmental sources, some $3 or $4 billion USD in foreign assets have been traced to Abacha, his family and their representatives, $2.1 billion of which the OBJ government tentatively came to an agreement with the Abacha family to return, with the quid pro quo being that the Abachas would be allowed to keep the rest of the money. Source Wikipedia, log in and write history, we have all earned the right to.

Chxta said...

What is history, but a fable agreed upon?

If all Nigerians agree that Abacha stole nada, then he stole nada. But until that day, Buhari and Babangida can go suck lemons.

The person I'm really disappointed in here is Buhari. This whole shiznit takes not speaking ill of the dead to a whole new level...

Beauty said...

@ChuxaWhat is history but a fable agreed upon? by Napoleon Bonaparte may be right for his time but politically incorrect in the century of radio and Tv. A lie is not acceptable when there were several witnesses. A fable is fabrication, a deliberately false or improbable account. History maybe a record or narrative description of past events but not a fable.

Chxta said...

Beauty don't be naive. Even in these days of Youtube, history can still be rewritten. All it takes is someone with the means, power and will to do it, and it will be done. Recommended movies, everything churned out by Hollywood about the Vietnam war.

Dojaa said...

In Nigeria we cannot differentiate our heroes from our villains, they are all one and the same people.

ababoypart2 said...

like Doja's comments. How do they say what the tired generals are saying "defending the indefensible"?

Femi B said...

Well i guess most people lie at burials and memorials and all to avoid "speaking ill of the dead" but i guess they could have avoided lying blatantly like that ...but on the good side, you have evidence that can be used against them on like a negative campaign ( do those work in naija?)

webround said...

was surprised to read what Buhari and Babangida said, especially Babangida who had said the opposite before. Maybe Babangida and Buhari are playing the game of politics of which it is often said - "in politics, there are no known friends or foes, only interests which constantly change"

with respect to PTF (petroleum trust fund), I did see roads that were built (they're still in good condition today), classrooms in my uni fixed up, drugs imported (personally know people who bought these subsidized drugs) with money from PTF

webround said...

i emailed you an article on virgin nigeria

Nigerian Drama Queen said...

Babangida is not even a source to consider when discussing looting. The term '419' started in his era. I went to school with his children. Il leave that there.

I dont need any evidence to tell me Abacha looted. To put it simply, I lived right next to the 'Villa' during his presidency. Not only did my eyes see the fruit of his looting-it witnessed his corruption.
I dont even know where to start from. Is it the journalists that were fed to crocodiles/hung? Is it his pregnant girlfriend that was put in prison and gave birth to her baby in prison? Is it friends of the family who were journalist and had to leave Nigeria for good? Is it the constant fear we all lived in? It may sound like a tale now-but it was hell then.

naijaleta said...

Congratulations, you really did justice to that issue in your post. I must say, much better than mine. I was equally enraged when I heard that report about Abacha not stealing any money.

Sherri said...

why are we all surprised about this?
admitting Abacha is a thief wud be admitting he's a thief too.

besides the not speaking ill of the dead crap, this just shows how depraved these people are!
the impunity! arrggggg!

guerreiranigeriana said...

...well done ssd...well done...we nigerians have a hard time choosing who we should praise and difficult, you know...hail the thief because he did one good deed more than that other leader...please...past 'leaders' of naija are jokes...i can't say that i would take anything they say seriously...

...history is a funny thing...i liked chxta's napoleon quote...i do think it still stands fact, excuse me as i have some 'history' to go make up and write...

Atutupoyoyo said...

Great post Solly. Thank you for refuting their absurd claims with some strong facts.

You may be surprised to know that I am completely in support of the occasion in which these lies were uttered. Any celebration of Abacha's death will always cause me to raise a glass or two by way of toast.

Babangida has been lying since he came out of the womb, his lies surreptiously embedded in the cacophony of cries and shrieks of birth. He is as familiar with the concepts of truth and human decency as I am with medieaval alchemy. Like you, it is Abubukar's claims that surprise me the most. I had a modicum of respect for that man but sadly he has now grouped himself into the same band of thieves.

It hurts me that our history and our promise has been tarnished by these four men who do not even posess the decency to refrain from insulting the intelligence of those they stole from. It is a bit like the common crook who steals from you in broad daylight and then spits on your head. The insult is far greater than the injury.

brap said...

I agree with chxta people can distort whatever they want. I mean even videos can be staged and dead people's images are now recreated on video. Anyone who has noticed the trends in media today will agree that advanced technology has not helped to improve transparency.
Personally I do not know what the recovery of funds has done for nigeria anyway. Like my mother will say

Anonymous said...

babangida said what...that abacha didnt loot public fund!!!oh please said...

Abacha was not only Nigeria's head of state, but he ordered the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 other Ogoni environmental activists!
Abacha was worse than dirt; one of the worst scum of the earth, who headed a tyrannical junta during the dark days of Nigeria military dictatorships.
The despotic Abacha's regime will forever remain ingrained in the memories of ordinary Nigerians who suffered the brunt of his iron-fisted rule!
There will never be a re-writing of Abacha's brutal history with flowery rhetorics by the likes of his cronies; IBB, Buhari,etc. NEVER!

God's child said...

IBB and Abacha...everything I think of that combo, I remember that coup of 1990, and Abacha's voice on the radio.
How people report their siblings when they steal? LOL there goes the answer.
Nice way to bring forth the evidence my dear.
God help Nigeria :)

Anonymous said...

Very well written.

This should be published on "This day",Guardian...and any other popular newspaper.

You have managed to capture the mis deeds of the tyrants only unlike others, your is backed with evidence...

thanks for stopping by mine...

TheAfroBeat said...

Have to go with Sherri on this one, kettle no fit call pot black. IBB and Abubakar looted much more than Abacha, so they are simply doing unto Abacha as they would have had him do unto them. Thanks for calling them out on it though, coz i'm sure there were hundreds of "respected Nigerians" at that gathering and no one had the guts to even cough, let alone stand up and yell "liar" at the speakers. Sha, as long as we get blog, we go continue to speak out!

Naapali said...

Thanks SSD for countering lies with facts.
@tAB nice to know you are well.

Waffarian said...

Didn't I used to be number 1 on this blog? Haba!

As for this Abacha story...I swear to God I laughed. Except they all think we are totally stupid, they can feed that story to the dogs. The amazing thing is that they actually DARE to say that? Even daring to insinuate that is an insult to every single Nigerian.

Men! Na wa sha...we don suffer for that country.

Anonymous said...

What next? Make Abacha and all the other previous Generals into Saints? Better Still, have a public holiday just for these guys?? Pleeeasseee....

Atutupoyoyo said...

You have defaced this blog for too long. Please remove the picture of that man and give us our weekly fix.

Anonymous said...

interesting post, thanks for visiting my blog

Anonymous said...

If Sanni Abacha is a saint as the 3 wise men from the North now are now claiming then, the execution of Lawrence Anini, Monday Osunbor, Isola Oyenusi and all other notorious armed robbers is nothing but crime against humanity.

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