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« Nigerian Governments can Achieve Most Things Now if it Really Tries | Main | Obasanjo's Three Administrations and the Rights of Women in Nigeria »

March 09, 2006

Remembering the Bravest of them All

by Peter Opara (Boston, Massachussettes)---

He challenged them to try; they knew he meant business and did not venture out. For us in the violence zone, it was a good respite from fear.

“Nobody has the right to kill another.” So wrote a clearly pained Nigerian regarding what is truly a usual and customary behavior in his country – bloodshed and mayhem.

The writer then went on to commit heresy – favorable mention of a brave, no nonsense former Nigerian Head of State General Sani Abacha.

What has ever gone wrong in Olusegun Obasanjo’s Nigeria in the past six years that has not been blamed on General Abacha?

The famous Shakespeare’s statement that many are wont to mistake, misuse and misapply - here truly is it – “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is of’t interred in their bones, and so…” in this instance, let it be with Abacha.

“Enough is enough” was the maxim of the man who the Nigerian Daily Times of a day or two following the coup d’etat of 1984, dubbed “The Action Man” – Abacha.

Is there a Nigerian today that yearns not a call from the seat of power thus – “Enough is enough” of the killing of innocent men and women in Nigeria? If not from Abacha..since he is no more, and some people forget.. would it then matter if such call came from Obasanjo who has uttered nothing but trite or trifle since the maiming, killing and burning of people’s belongings began in Maiduguri last week?

One does not mean empty “enough is enough”. One is talking credible “enough is enough” sustained by established aura and capacity to act as at and when needs be for common good. How such is wanting in Nigeria of today is common knowledge even to the perennially oblivious.

General Abacha’s “enough is enough” was as good in private, as it was in public. He never minced words, you knew where he stood – with you or against you; he brooked no nonsense, that is, he brooked not whatever he did not like, and he made it clear to you.

From a distance, one watched him chase his friend - sit-tight Ibrahim Babangida, out of office. This is a fact not known to many Nigerians. He had made the mistake of aiding the same Babangida to office in the first place, to replace the noble General Muhammadu Buhari, whom, he, General Abacha, successfully recruited to help in remedying Nigeria. How brave should one say was Abacha, when he tried recruiting the father of all no nonsense – Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon in the same Nigeria-remedy endeavor?

Yet still, one watched from a distance, as General Abacha easily disposed of the bumbling incompetent, illegal arrangement headed by Ernest Shonekan – a robber of his kinsman’s mandate, a pretender to leadership. One watched, as General Abacha clamped down on sundry crimes and criminals – 419ers, abandon contractors, thieves a la loan, fraudulent bank operators – most of who trooped abroad and constituted the bunch of “human rights” protesters.

One watched General Abacha say to rebels in Sierra Leone – “enough is enough”. When they failed to listen, he went into Sierra Leone, kicked out the rebels and reinstated the democratically elected government of Ahmed Tejan Kabba.

One watched from a distance as General Abacha said, “enough is enough” to warring Liberian thugs. When they failed to listen, he went in, grabbed one of the recalcitrant thugs, and brought him to Nigeria.

These decisive actions by Abacha paved way, however slightly, for peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“The evil that men do, lives after them, the goods are interred in their bones”. Here were good deeds of Abacha that none remembers. Now need for the brave beckons?

None dare talk about good deeds of Abacha, else you will be branded “evil” or supporter thereof. Then one asks, what evil? Who does not see sundry evil that pervade Nigeria today, 6 or 7 years since General Abacha is been gone?

The so-called man of God that serves in General Abacha’s stead has, every Nigerian can attest, recorded more evil deeds in his six years in office than all past Nigerian leaders put together.

Today, corruption is the arrow with which Obasanjo’s regime hunts anybody it does not like. But corruption resides well inside the seat of the regime, while it blames and chases General Abacha’s shadows and those whose faces it does not like.

Then the usual and customary bloodletting Nigerians are known for, that abated when General Abacha was at the helm, erupted, not once, not twice, not thrice…keep counting.

Only days ago, an event that had its beginning in far away Denmark sparked blood orgy in far away Nigeria. It has been days and the all-knowing Obasanjo has uttered nary a word – just trite and trifle. If Obasanjo could borrow from General Abacha or at least pretend and yell, “enough is enough”, then rioters could be reminded that there is a limit.

And what does clearly pained citizen Joseph Rinyom do than to remember when it was that killing and maiming of fellow human beings on the basis of religion or ethnicity ceased - the time of General Abacha. Thus Joseph Rinyom remembers -

Abacha was not all that evil, as a commentator made it out to be, especially for those of us within the middle belt (which we refer to as the religious war belt). I cannot recall a single religious crisis during his time, and it was not for the want of trying on the part of Muslims. When he (Abacha) appointed Col. Dominic Oneya, as the first ever Christian governor of Kano, the sheiks swore that he would not be sworn in. He (Abacha) simply asked the military units in Kano to roll over anyone found rioting. No one came out in the streets.

When he (Abacha) imprisoned El Zakzaky, the firebrand Zauzzau (Zara) sheik, his followers threatened brimstone. He (Abacha) challenged them to try. They knew he meant business, and did not venture out. For us in the violence zone, it was a good respite from fear.

Remembering the goods, some of them - “interred in the bones” of the bravest of them all.

Peter Opara is a communications consultant, and author of Understanding the Nigerian Nation Tribes – Why they Boil; Think In Time – Essays and Encounters of the last Quarter of the 20th Century; The Man of Biafra – in the City Where America Began.

Posted by Administrator at March 9, 2006 01:24 PM


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