Who was Nigeria’s 10th Head of State? I’m certain it would be a hard guess for you.
Who was Nigeria’s most brutal Head of State. Chances are very high that you’d mention the late General Sani Abacha.
What regime in Nigeria was the most repressive? Aha! Now, you’d have to think twice. The Buhari/Idiagbon regime (183-1985) or the Abacha regime?!
From whatever perspective you intend to look at it from, more Nigerians alive and of age today fondly recall memories of repression during the Abacha days, and he is known to have taken a hard stand on dissenting voices and political opposition, including executing state sponsored assassinations.
This doesn’t clean up the dictatorial and numerous flaws of General Buhari during his first stint in office. But while we consider both regimes repressive, the name on the lips of everyone remains that of Sani Abacha who was by every standard, a totalitarian leader (or ruler if you like).
Just as the state harassed members of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO); many of who went into exile within and outside Nigeria; a number of prominent leaders became casualties under the repressive regime including General Shehu Yar’Adua who died in jail. Kudirat Abiola killed on the streets of Lagos, Environmental Activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others popularly known as the Ogoni 9 who were publicly hung for daring to fight against injustice.
The Abacha regime (1993 -1998), is reputed to have recorded some economic successes to include overseeing an increase in the country’s foreign exchange reserves from $494 million in 1993 to $9.6 billion by the middle of 1997; reduction in the country’s external debt from $36 billion in 1993 to $27 billion by 1997 as well as reducing inflation rate from 54% to 8.5% between 1993 and 1998.
He also recorded huge strides on the continent, as he intervened in the Liberian Civil War by sending troops through the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) initiative. One unjustifiable and incontrovertible fact however, as had been previously stated is that gross human rights violations were a norm.
And on his demise, there are at least 4 occasions when the Nigerian government have applied to collect billions of dollars looted on his name. Unarguably, he was such a corrupt leader.
Therefore, on the 23rd anniversary of his demise this Tuesday, many Nigerians have taken to social media to express their thoughts about that regime. Many are also comparing dozens of actions and inactions by the Buhari/Osinbajo presidency with the dark days of the Abacha regime.
The question on the lips of many is: “Aren’t Nigerians truly reliving the repressive days of Abacha with this recent muzzle on the freedom of expression by a Nigerians?” If the Attorney-General of the Federation would be so comfortable to see courts continue their strike while citizens witness these doors to justice slammed at them, then are we really different from an Abacha era where he had absolute powers?
Clearly, this is a democratic government and it would forever remain a mystery that a government led by a ‘born-again democrat’ and dozens of lawyers in its cabinet would prohibit citizens’ use of a social media platform without any enabling law, then go on to threaten prosecution.
It would certainly be difficult for anyone to tell who and what inspires General Buhari in leadership, but with the current signs on the wall, we hope this isn’t Twice Upon A Time!
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.