How Abacha died a day before effecting plans to shut Punch newspaper

Former Head of State, Sani Abacha
Former Head of State, Sani Abacha

The late military dictator, Sanni Abacha, died a day before effecting his plans to shut down The Punch newspapers, a former chair of the paper, Ajibola Ogunshola, has said.

Mr. Ogunshola made this known in his introductory remarks at a public lecture delivered by a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington.

The lecture, which also marked the launch of “Defend the Defenseless”, a book written by Arese Carrington, wife of the former diplomat, held in Lagos.

Mr. Ogunshola, who was the chairman on the occasion, regaled the audience with tales of the role played by the press during the struggles for democratic rule under Mr. Abacha.

He also explained how The Punch was shut down by the military when he was the company’s chairman, adding that the first was shortly after Mr. Carrington was accredited on November 9, 1993.

“During the years of military rule,” he said, “the press as a whole suffered. The National Concord and The PUNCH bore the brunt of the fate that befell newspapers and some magazines.

“One of the journalists in detention then, Mr. Babafemi Ojudu, after his release, said that when under incarceration, he got information from some soldiers on June 7, 1998 that Abacha had concluded plans to close down The Punch again.

“But the day after, that was on June 8, Abacha died,” he narrated.

Mr. Ogunsola explained that Mr. Carrington, in what was against the norm, stood fearlessly against the military junta and joined in the struggle for democracy.

The former diplomat was U.S. ambassador to Nigeria between 1993 to 1997 and he is renown for his fearless stance on issues of human rights and democratic freedom.

The late Mr. Abacha ruled Nigeria as a dictator between 1993 and 1998, after taking over power from the interim government of Ernest Shonekan in a bloodless coup. He was notorious for his clampdown on pro-democracy activists and the press.

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