Jonathan’s Canonization of Dictatorship, By Adeolu Ademoyo

President Goodluck Jonathan put ash and dirt in the mouths of Nigerians when for reasons of his own political survival recently  “canonized” Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha.

Post-civil war Nigeria, the regime of Ibrahim Babangida effectively marked the commencement of the combination of the official institutionalization of corruption and state sponsored political assassinations by state persons and non-state persons.  The high point of this culture of state sponsored assassination was the death of Dele Giwa in October 19 1986 under the watch of Ibrahim Babangida.

The following ex-military operatives  Cols.  Haliru Akilu and A.K.  Togun both Director and Deputy Director of Directorate of Military Intelligence   under Ibrahim Babangida on one hand and Major  Debo Bashorun former Chief Press secretary to Ibrahim Babangida know the linkage between the then head of state General Babangida and Dele Giwa’s death.

Dele Giwa died of parcel bomb from the Nigerian military on October 19 1986. Shortly after his death Col A.K. Togun gave an interview to airport correspondents on October 27, 1986 where he said of Dele Giwa’s death ”…one person cannot come out to blackmail us. I am an expert in blackmail. I can blackmail very well. I studied propaganda so no one person can come and blackmail us after an agreement…”.  My questions are: which agreement? And between who and who, with who?

Using a traffic metaphor A.K. Togun further said  a cyclist was driving dangerously and he was warned but he refused  the warning. While driving dangerously, the cyclist was knocked down by a motorist. Col Togun asked: why must we blame the motorist? My questions are: who was the cyclist? Who was the motorist Col. Togun talked about in 1986?

After the death of Dele Giwa,  under pressure, Ibrahim Babangida set up a panel to “investigate” Dele Giwa’s   death. The panel was headed by the then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Jimeta. Col. Haliru Akilu, Col Togun’s boss at the Directorate of Military Intelligence was a member of that panel. Untouched, the report of that panel is in the dustbin of Nigerian history. These happened under “Saint” Ibrahim Babangida as head of state who Mr. Goodluck Jonathan recently “canonized” .

As a witness to the truth of that deadly period of Nigerian history I will like to know if President Jonathan asked for the Mohammed Gambo Jimeta panel report of the death of Dele Giwa before he Jonathan  “canonized”  Ibrahim Babangida.

After the election of June 12 1993 won by MKO Abiola, disgraced and under pressure Ibrahim Babangida handed the  evil torch of death and power  to Sani Abacha who then became the new head of state. Under Sani Abacha, the culture of corruption,  theft of public money, graft and political assassination was deepened. Nigerians who resisted the cancelation of the results of the June 12 1993 elections were murdered on the streets.  Many  fled to exile.

Professor Wole Soyinka has rightly described the award given to Sani Abacha as the “canonization of terror”. Vintage Soyinka, he  spoke the minds of Nigerians.  Nigerian children both at home and in the Diaspora this is the basis of  Wole Soyinka’s apt moral voice. Sani Abacha, Nigerian military head of state 1993-1998 (among others who are not known during the nature of that sad period)  killed the following who are known: 10 Ogoni leaders including  Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995, Pa Alfred Rewane, Kudirat Abiola.

Contrary to the brute data of Nigerian history, in canonizing terror for his own political survival and fortunes, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan said among other things that  “Mr. Abacha oversaw an increase in the country’s foreign exchange reserves from $494 million in 1993 to $9.6 billion by the middle of 1997; and reduced the external debt of Nigeria from $36 billion in 1993 to $27 billion in 1997… reduced an inflation rate of 54 per cent inherited from the Ibrahim Babangida administration to 8.5 per cent between 1993 and 1998, while the nation’s primary commodity, oil, was at an average of $9 per barrel…”

After reading Goodluck Jonathan eulogy on Sani Abacha I am inclined to ask what other things  heads of state do and  if what Goodluck Jonathan said  is all about the brute data of Nigerian history of the Sani Abacha period. If Goodluck Jonathan is right, then let the world put Adolf Hitler, the Nazi on the hall of fame in United Nations.

It is strange how Mr. Jonathan could  talk economics without ethics and honor. If according to Jonathan Sani Abacha regime “oversaw an increase in Nigerian foreign exchange from $494m in 1993 to $9.6b in 1997”  which was his job as a coup plotter who became president, it is on record that the Nigerian state recovered $500m stolen money from the same Sani Abacha, his children and wife.

The operating word here is “recover” which means that is not all what Sani Abacha stole as Nigerian head of state. If it is on  a factual state record (not an allegation) that $500m was recovered from Sani Abacha, his children and wife, then Sani Abacha was a thief who stole Nigerian money. This is the same thief Jonathan has “canonized”.

If the Nigerian state recovered $500m from Sani Abacha’s children and wife, it is reasonable to assume that  there is more in the hands of Sani Abacha’s surviving children, wife and political acolytes. So what is the basis of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan’s  eulogy of Sani Abacha in “canonizing” him that he increased Nigeria’s foreign exchange which was supposed to be his job anyway if  Sani Abacha thought he has one.

To put it plainly,  Mr. Goodluck Jonathan must have a miserable sense of honor and ethics if one of his predecessors –Sani Abacha –stole over $1 billion(if $500m was recovered) or $4.3b as widely reported and documented while the same Jonathan lauded this thief of a president for increasing Nigerian foreign exchange to $9.6b. In simple arithmetic   if over $500m was officially recovered from Sani Abacha, his children and wife,  and if there is at least a balance of $500m in their hands then Sani Abacha stole  at least 5%  or more of Nigerian foreign exchange  of $9.6b , the figure he was said to have brought the foreign exchange to from 1993-1997. The unofficial figure of what Sani Abacha stole is put at $4.3b.

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In contrast to the picture of Sani Abacha, which Mr. Goodluck  Jonathan painted in “canonizing” him, I present an alternative history of this period. Please read this:

“Nigerian police have recovered a stash of gold and diamond jewellery worth thousands of pounds from robbers who targeted a home of the country’s most notorious former dictator. Officials in arid Kano, in northern Nigeria, said four men swiped $125,000 (£77,000) of jewellery last year – a staggering 20m naira in local currency, or 100 years’ income for the average Nigerian – after raiding one of many sprawling, lavish homes of the former military ruler Sani Abacha. “We are still investigating. Not all the stolen jewellery has even been recovered,” said a Kano police inspector, Ibrahim Idris, as officials displayed a glittering pile that included two dozen gold necklaces and some 40 pairs of gold earrings. The greed of Abacha, who ruled for five years after a 1993 coup, shocked even Nigerians used to plundering on a grand scale. He is believed to have stolen $4.3bn while in office. (

No doubt Mr. Goodluck Jonathan is fighting a frantic  last-ditch battle of his life to get re-elected in 2015. In this process history,  truth, honor and ethics  become endangered and  casualty in his hand. In particular they become  tools in his hands to twist, muddle and  garner support for his re-election.

So canonizing  thieves and  murderers as a form of political appeasement is part of Mr. Goodluck Jonathan’s strategy for his re-election bid in 2015. This canonization represents the continuous low moral point in Nigerian history.

Adeolu Ademoyo is of Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


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