An open letter to Mrs. Mariam Abacha

 Monday, October 18, 1999

 Tonye David-West Jr., Ph.D




Dear Mrs. Mariam Abacha:

I've been bemused for the last couple of days as the trial of Major Hamza El-Mustapha, Sergeant-General Rogers, Muhammed Abacha [your son] and others get underway in Lagos. Particularly bemusing are the unguided and unmeasured intonations you have made and your taking to the media microphones in an earnest plea for forgiveness, softening of stance, dropping of charges against your "veritable" son, the innocent one, the angel who will never hurt a fly, the alter and "All-Nigerian" boy, Muhammed.

You indicated that Muhammed was never in the military or in power neither did he instruct anyone to kill or imprison anybody. He is simply innocence, you asserted and must be released forthwith. But wait a minute, Mrs. Abacha, which country have you been living in for the past five years? Saudi Arabia? Kuwait? Niger Republic? I certainly understand your loyalty as the mother of Muhammed as mothers worldwide would assume same posture owing to maternal instincts, no parent wants to believe the worst of their son or daughter. But to assert categorically that your son is unblemished in these matters in the face of glaring evidence to the contrary wallows in the corridors of absurdity, to say the very least.

One would read with teary eyes the alleged atrocities of this "innocent" thirty three year old who acccompanied his father to loot our national treasury with unalloyed impunity depleting our resources in the process to no certain measure. Perhaps, Mrs. Abacha, you could explain to us how this "angelic" being who enrolled and later was asked to leave the Nigerian Defense Academy and later bagged a law degree from the University of Maiduguri became a millionaire in the dollar sense? How many thirty three year old millionaires do you know, Mrs. Abacha? How does a thirty three year old own and run multi million dollar companies in Nigeria and overseas, own private jets and flies all over the world? What was his salary as a lawyer, that is, assuming he went to law school and was admitted into the bar? So Mrs. Abacha, where did your "innocent" son get the money to lavish at will?

O' wait, Mrs. Abacha, there is more. Your son has been accused of applying electric prods on political prisoners who were held for their political beliefs by his father, your husband. The case of the political adviser to Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya, Prof. Femi Odekunle, stands out. Applying electric prods? Do you know what this means, Mrs. Abacha? Your son was torturing prisoners with impunity and heartlessly, laughing and enjoying the pains and cries of men three times older than him. I would like to think you raised him better than that. Doesn't our culture teach respect for elders? What respect did he show to this particular political prisoner? Did he respect his human rights? Did he respect the fact that this man had a family who were denied access to him? Was it not your son who ordered that cold water be poured on the professor at 5 a.m. every morning so he could then go in and apply those electrical prods? Applying it to parts of the human anatomy which for that sake of decency I need not mention here?

Your son's actions were inhuman and bordered on sheer insanity. Where did he learn this behavior, Mrs. Abacha? Is it a case of "like father like son?" Did he learn this in law school? I think not, so where did your son learn how to torture political prisoners? You mentioned that he was not in power so why was he involved in the torturing orgy? I thought that cruel behavior was the exclusive preserve for unscrupulous officers like Mustapha, Sergeant Rogers and Frank Omenka? Why couldn't he be a "regular" son and divorce himself from his father's hobby of torture? And how about the allegation that your son ordered his driver to drive the car that carried the men who murdered Kudirat Abiola? O', how did we know this? The murderer, the man who pulled the trigger, Sergeant Rogers confessed, yes, your son's partner in crime confessed. So your son was an accomplice in this gruesome murder of an innocent woman who was simply seeking the release of her husband who was held by your husband because he tried to take what was rightfully his. Can you understand this point and the grave repercussion of your son's actions? We are talking about murder of an innocent woman here, Mrs. Abacha. Your son, as a lawyer, knows the full implications of this, I suppose. MURDER, is a capital offense in Nigeria, Mrs. Abacha, and your husband in congruence with this law enforced it more than anyone else.

Please indulge me Mrs. Abacha while I refresh your memory some more. You stated that your husband, the late Gen. Sani Abacha was a good man who served his country to the best of his ability, and that no matter what anyone says he was a good leader who never killed or imprisoned anyone. You mentioned that he created the Human Rights Commission, Better Wage Commission, "this" commission and "that" commission. Sure, but do you know that your husband also created the "Death Chamber Commission?," the "Torture Commission?" and the "Lets Assassinate The Political Opponents Commission?" Did you know that? Should I jog your memory, madam? Remember Ken Saro-Wiwa whom your husband accused of killing four government chiefs and executed him on November 10, 1995 along with eight of his kinsmen? Remember them? Mind you, Ken Saro-Wiwa was already in GOVERNMENT prison when those government chiefs were killed, so if at all the bogus charges were true, then at worst he was an accomplice, the same crime your son is being charged with in the case of Kudirat Abiola. So could you understand if your son was sent to the gallows, if convicted? Could you, madam?

Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged like an animal and the hangman was only successful at the third try. Could you imagine the pain Mr. Saro-Wiwa went through when your husband was putting him to death? He was hanged once, it was unsuccessful, a second time and it was unsuccessful as well and before the third try, he asked the hangman for permission to say a word or two to the prison reporters. Suffering a broken neck at that point and barely able to mutter a word, he simply said "which country on earth would treat its citizens like this?" With that, the ropes were again flung around his neck for the third time and the hangman (who was flown all the way from Sokoto to Port-Harcourt to perform his agonizing task) earned his pay this time. After Ken Saro Wiwa, the hangman moved to the other eight victims whom he hanged with relative ease after finding his touch at the third try around the neck of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Need I remind you that your husband ordered that the tape of the hangings be flown to him immediately in his Villa in Abuja for his viewing and for the ascertainment of the death of these men? I ask you madam, did Ken Saro-Wiwa get a fair trial? If indeed he was responsible for the murders of those four government chiefs as your husband claimed, why did he (your husband) try him before a military tribunal and not a civil court? Of what interest was his case to your husband if Saro-Wiwa's [and his co-defendants'] hanging was not politically motivated? Did Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight kinsmen commit a military offense to be tried by a military tribunal without proper representation? And what happened to that Human Rights Commission your husband formed? Did that Commission ever advocate the rights of these men or of the hundreds of others your husband threw in jail?

How about Maj. Gen Shehu Musa Y'Adua? Who killed this man? Who injected him with poison at the University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital where your husband's men had taken him under the guise of medical check-up? Who imprisoned the current president under feigned charges of a coup plot in 1995? Who attempted to kill Diya with a bomb [which narrowly missed him] at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport at Abuja while he was on his way to Makurdi for a burial? Who killed one of the two hired men who mishandled the bomb so he does not some day write a tell-all book? Who killed Pa Alfred Rawane, the seventy nine (79) year old man and arrested "Area Boys" in a fruitless attempt to make it look like an indiscriminate killing by hoodlums? Who imprisoned Dr. Beko Ransome-Kutu? Who drove Wole Soyinka, a most respected literal mind and first and only African/black winner of the Nobel prize in literature out of Nigeria to wallow in an alien white man's land when he could be in Nigeria educating and waxing Nigerian minds? Why was Nigeria suspended from the CommonWealth, an organization it had belonged to since 1963?

O' wait, not so quick, I'm not finished yet, madam. Why was Nigeria made an international pariah state, a nation which had hitherto enjoyed good relations with other nations and has had significant impact on international events? Why did Canada, a country which had enjoyed very close relations with Nigeria for decades close its embassy in Nigeria and severed diplomatic ties? Why did the Nigerian Super Eagles not defend its 1994 African Nations Cup title in South Africa 1996, earning it a two year suspension from CAF, an occurrence which was unimaginable in the past? How much was your husband's salary per year that he was able to buy plush houses in excess of fifty and have bank accounts in excess of fifteen billion dollars? Why did your husband need a "Security Vote" of more than $1.5 billio? Was it another ploy to steal money? Why did Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, your husband's National Security Adviser have $250 million in his possession? Why did your husband occasion all sorts of evil on Nigeria but forgot about the crucial function of governing? Why did Nigerians whose country is the sixth largest oil producer in the world have to line up for fuel? Why didn't your husband repair the ill-functioning refineries but deliberately allowed them in their state of disrepair so that your son Muhammed can make assorted profits from importing oil?

Where was the so-called Human Rights Commission you said your husband created when scores of Nigerians were being murdered in several of "Abacha's Maximum Security Hiltons" which were scattered all over the fruited plains of Nigeria? And that Wage Commission, whose wages did it increase? If I am not mistaken, the law of economics states that you must first create jobs before you talk about wages. Where are the jobs your husband created for millions of Nigerian youths? So why was a Wage Commission necessary?

O' Mrs. Abacha, which country have you been living in the past five years? Do you still think your husband tried his best for his country? Or you meant to say he tried his best to ruin his country? Do you still think your husband killed no one or imprisoned no one? Just ask the families of Yar'Adua, of Pa Rawane, of Abiola, of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the sundry list of victims which seems infinitum.

Madam, can you understand if Nigerians refuse to have a short memory about these events and forgive as you have asked them or why their hearts are not overflowing with benevolence at this time? And by the way, what are you asking Nigerians to forgive your husband and son for if you maintain that they have done nothing wrong? Who asks for forgiveness when there is nothing to be forgiven? Can you understand the contradiction here? Can you understand if Nigerians seek justice for the injustice your husband and beloved son wrath on that country and its innocence citizens? Can you understand if President Obasanjo answers the call to be the conduit to justice? Can you understand if Nigerians take to the streets today in harmonized resentment of your husband's pogrom? Can you understand if the name "Abacha" becomes synonymous with "evil" in the Nigerian lexicon?

Mrs. Mariam Abacha, can you understand the gravity of the miscellaneous pillage your son in step with your late husband wrath on this country? Can you simply understand? Can you understand if the hangman is introduced to your son if the evidence against him are proven? Can you understand that those who live by the sword die by it? Please, do not see this trial as "the sins of the father being visited on the son," for the son is awash in his own sins and atrocities orchestrated through his own apparatus of death and destruction.

You are well advised madam to seek spiritual help. Go to the Mosque, kneel before Allah Almighty and ask him to forgive your family for the atrocities it has visited on the generality of Nigerians. For the Holy book says "do not fear those who can only destroy the body, but fear him who can destroy both the soul and the body." As I conclude madam, I will leave you with the following quote as found in the book JULIUS CEASAR. "The evil men do often live after them but the good deeds are interred with their bones." It may be late for any good deeds to be interred in your husband's bones. But the least your family can do now is to assume responsibility for its actions and let the law run its course and let the "chips" fall where they may.

Tonye David-West Jr., Ph.D
Political Scientist