General Sani Abacha Biography
General Sani Abacha was born on September 20, 1943, in Kano, Nigeria. He was Nigerian military dictator, who served as head of state between 1993 and 1998.
Abacha was formally trained militarily at Nigerian and British military training colleges.
He rose steadily through the ranks in the Nigerian Army and by 1983, he had attained the rank of brigadier when he assisted another former Nigerian leader, Ibrahim Babangida in overthrowing Shehu Shagari’s democratically elected government in 1983 that was to serve as Shagari’s second term in office.
With Shagari toppled, Muhammadu Buhari became Nigeria’s leader, but just two years later Babangida overthrew Buhari and installed himself as leader with Abacha second in command.
In 1993, elections were held and were won by Moshood Abiola, a candidate who was supposedly supported by Babangida, who, however, annulled the elections and set up a civilian interim government with Ernest Shonekan as the head of the interim government.
This allowed Abacha to quickly seize power and overthrow Shonekan’s interim government.
Abacha initially promised a return to democracy, but his actions were anything but democratic. He became power drunk and banned political activity of any kind, fired many military personnel, controlled the press, and assembled a personal security force of some 3,000 men.
While he supported the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its military arm, ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), in sending troops to restore democracy in Liberia and Sierra Leone, he brutally suppressed his countrymen at home with the use of force.
Chief Abiola and General Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military leader of Nigeria between 1976 and 1979, were jailed for treason. Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s Nobel laureate, was also charged with treason, although he had voluntarily left the country.
Abacha’s most brutal act was when he played judge and jury in the imprisonment, trial, and subsequent execution for treason of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists who were concerned with the environmental exploitation of their region by multinational petroleum companies.
Abacha’s sudden death in June 1998 sped up the process of returning Nigeria to civilian rule.
His military successor, General Abdusalam Abubakar, handed over power to an elected civilian government in 1999.
After Abacha’s death, it was rumoured that he and his family had enriched themselves with several millions of dollars, most of it held in European banks.
In 2002 a settlement, which returned most of the money to the government of Nigeria, under civilian President, Olusegun Obasanjo in exchange for dropping criminal prosecution, was reached between the Obasanjo government and the Abacha family.