By Dr. ‘Leke Otunuga
Dear Sodiq Abacha,
I am going to appeal to the wisdom of the ‘law of excluded middle’ you so brilliantly espoused. I am going to shoot straight and unequivocally by telling you the hard truth. For one, you should have stayed out of the discourse for whether your father deserves a place on the list of personalities to be honored at the Centenary celebrations. Wisdom dictates that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. “A good name is better than gold and silver,” so says the Yoruba proverb. Your family has traded its good name for gold and silver in ill-gotten wealth. You have no one but your late ‘Sani the devil’ father to blame for that. You should ipso facto direct your misguided venom to the appropriate quarters – your homestead!
By spewing your misguided stink around town, you have indeed shown the whole world that you are not a bastard child of your father. True to type, I dare say. But in the final analysis, you are nothing but a …child of Nigeria, and that is the real issue. No wonder that most African cultures prescribe communal ostracism for criminals and their progeny. Evil is perhaps a pathological microbe that can be genetically reenacted in the offspring of fiendish individuals!
I usually would normally not dabble into spats between people, especially when remaining neutral is necessary for diplomacy and peace. In this case however, I am involved. I am not dabbling into the brouhaha; I am part and parcel of the squabbles: your insults stretch to every Nigerian. I am a Nigerian, and proudly so. I was already an adult in 1993 when your dictator father – General Sanni Abacha – took over power in a devious palace coup that shoved Chief Ernest Shonekan off the power seat he illegally and immorally occupied at the expense of the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential elections. I was an adult; almost out of higher institution.
As a member of the Students Union of my university, I participated in several public protests and ‘aluta’ against the oppressive regime of your father. Twice I escaped death by the whiskers when your father’s personal assassins – the Nigeria policemen at the time – reigned live bullets on peaceful protests by unarmed students. You probably did not know that it wasn’t only political notable figures that were killed by your father. Many innocent students, trade union officials, market men/women, and other faceless and unsung Nigerians were sent to untimely deaths by the mean-spirited and wicked hack-them-down policies your father so vigorously pursued. Scores of others became refuges in other lands where your father’s far-stretched arm of terror could not reach. You wouldn’t know these facts of history because you were either cocooned within the luxurious recess of Aso Rock, or hibernating in the most affluent corners of the world with the benefit of your father’s ill-gotten wealth. Whatever the reason may be for your selected amnesia, be reminded of the ‘rule of identity’ you so proudly flouted: truth is truth irrespective of how damning it is to your patrimony and irrespective of whether you like it or not. The truth of your father’s reputation is beyond you, me, or anyone else. History cannot be rewritten.
But Sodiq, you are not obliged to take my word for it. Socratic wisdom contends that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Since you are so desperately in search of identity and meaning, I implore you to venture out of the cocoon of your father’s kleptocracy for once. I challenge you to burrow into the streets; any street in any State in Nigeria, and ask hard questions bordering on what and who the people think your father was. Be careful, though: the truth you find may be so shocking you will disown your father posthumously. I am sorry for taking liberty with that conclusion: I presume that you are a misguided young man desiring to do the right thing… in which case the truth will liberate your soul.
Your father’s international reputation is not to be doubted. In a press release issued by the US Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs published by Sahara Reporters and titled, ‘U.S. Freezes More Than $458 Million Stolen By Former Nigerian Dictator in Largest Kleptocracy Forfeiture Action Ever Brought in the US,’ it was revealed how your father’s traunche of stolen money belonging to the people of Nigeria are still being traced across the world. Please note the affirmation by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman in the report: “General Abacha was one of the most notorious kleptocrats in memory, who embezzled billions from the people of Nigeria while millions lived in poverty.” Also, note some key words in the title of that press release: ‘stolen,’ ‘dictator,’ ‘kleptocracy.’ Those are the words of foreign security and governmental agencies. That is how your father is viewed across the world. Now, should such a figure be accepted as our national hero? Not if you put a gun to our collective heads!
Sad truth: your father was not just a brutal dictator; he was also a thief of international repute. While the Jonathan administration seem to suffer from retrograde amnesia, the people of Nigeria and indeed the entire world quite vividly remember your father’s reign of terror, murder, kleptocracy, nepotism, press intolerance, and brutal assassination of opposition figures. We have committed your father’s odious history into the slimiest area in the dustbin of political memory. Should the father eat sour grape and the children’s teeth be set on edge? Yes if you and your family continue with arrogant obstinacy like you just displayed. Yes so long as you continue to bask in the euphoria of our commonwealth so brazenly stolen by your father.
Last line: Wole Soyinka outclasses your father on all fronts, and you know it. I am sure you secretly wished men like WS were your biological father, rather than the dead sadist whose name and gene you bear. I so wish that this rejoinder will serve as an epiphany leading to a sober reflection by you. Since you write as one very educated, I expect that you will follow the path of wisdom by apologizing to Nigerians for the undeserved insults you spewed on us. But we all know that common sense is not a course of study in any university; it is oftentimes genetically acquired through parentage. That is the crux of ‘Mendel’s Law.’ But then, who would you have acquired common sense from…?