Africa News Service
(Copyright 2000 Africa News Service)
Lagos – Contrary to a long string of conjectures and theories surrounding the death of late Gen. Sani Abacha, fresh information confirm he was indeed murdered by a powerful clique. Sunday Dare,Bamidele Johnson and Goodluck Ebelo report.
January 11, 1998, was a joyous one for late head of state, Gen.Sani Abacha. On that date, about 200 members of his personal security outfit, the notorious Body Guards (BGs), graduated from their training academy in Libya. Much as he would have loved to, the former dictator, due to escalating opposition to his rule at home, could not be physically present at the BGs’passing out ceremony. He was, however,represented by his close friend and then Solid Minerals Minister, Alhaji Kaloma Ali, and his Chief Security Officer, Major Hamza Al- Mustapha. Kaloma,authoritative sources said, played a huge part in facilitating the training of the BGs in Libya. He is said to have a Libyan wife as well as being close to the Libyan Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Dedi, whom sources say, has his family root in Kano. Libyan leader, Col. Muamar Ghadaffi was also not present but sent one of his sons as a sign of the cosy relationship that blossomed between him and Gen. Sani Abacha.
The training of the BGs, TEMPO learnt, involved extremely rigorous sessions in dealing with perceived physical opponents of Abacha’s transmutation plans. They were given elaborate lessons to make them dexterous kidnappers of perceived enemies in addition to the other terror skills they had learnt in the Asian country of North Korea.
Sources said Al-Mustapha’s eyes gleamed with satisfaction at the deftness the graduands displayed at their passing out ceremony. His satisfaction was said to have been accentuated by the fact that the BGs would be capable of dealing with the myriad of domestic opposition to his boss’ envisaged transmutation. Ghadaffi was said to have severally warned Abacha
that it was only a matter of time before domestic civil and military opposition shoved him aside. Thus, Mustapha’s joy was bolstered by the tremendous form his wards were displaying and believed Abacha could not be touched in his desire to perpetuate himself in power.
About seven months later, Abacha’s supposedly impregnable wall of protection (BGs et al) was breached and fatally too. The former dictator suddenly gave up the ghost in the early hours of 8 June,1998, throwing the entire nation, except, perhaps, his family and cronies, into unfettered fits of jubilation.
The official disclosure of Gen. Abacha’s death came in form of a statement signed by the then Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Major-Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. The statement read: “The Head of State, General Sani Abacha passed away in the early hours of this morning.” It was silent on the circumstances or causes of his death. With the silence began a prolific
spinning of theories as to what killed Gen.Abacha. One of these claimed the strongman passed away in his sleep while another said he died in the Aso Rock Villa’s guest rooms. Yet, other theorists claimed that the general’s much-publicised battle with a liver ailment killed him. The theories were legion. All of them, however, agreed that Gen. Abacha loved life and power. And through these two indulgences, TEMPO can reveal, he finally reached his denouement.
While he ruled, Gen. Abacha appropriated and enjoyed the power and the paraphernalia that came with it. During his reign, the nation was on a permanent auto-drive, while he soaked himself in sybaritic pleasures. One of such, sources claim, was sex. He reputedly kept the company of several nubile girls of various nationalities who were ferried, in droves,into the inner precincts of Aso Rock like prized goods. Senior military officers and civilians who served him knew how best to please their leader by an unebbing supply of crumpets. It was this sexual weakness that was eventually exploited to get him off the scene. TEMPO can now authoritatively reveal that Gen. Sani Abacha was indeed, murdered.
Exasperated by Abacha’s intransigence over his transmutation scheme and a realisation of the near futility of a forcible removal, sources say, a few serving and retired military officers came to the conclusion that Abacha’s removal could best be achieved by exploiting the general’s weakness for women.
A few days before his death, the plan to kill Abacha was perfected. Brig- Gen. Halilu Akilu,ex-president Ibrahim Babangida’s hatchet man and alter-ego, was said to have set it in motion. He procured two Indian girls whom he introduced to Abacha’s philandering pal and former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni, reliable sources confirmed. The two Indian whores were actually introduced by Akilu as reputable business tycoons in search of business connections in Nigeria . With a hefty carousing reputation, it did not take Useni a long time to think up of other uses the girls could be put. The international plank of Akilu’s plan has always generated heat because of the implications it has to the overall resolution of the political crisis, especially the inescapable link it has to the natural death theory of Bashorun M.K.O. Abiola’s passing.
Even, the Americans confirm that the direction of press reports tallied with much of the classified materials they had. James Rubin, American State Department’s spokesperson said then: “With respect to Gen.Abacha, we do not have a conclusive evidence that Gen. Abacha was poisoned,” but acknowledged “we are aware of reports to that effect.” Intelligence analysts in the United States of America also agreed that Abacha was poisoned.
TEMPO sources say that the international intelligence agencies were aware of the poison option but thought of it as one of many possibilities. Akilu, still retaining vital links with the Nigerian security apparatus, literally sauntered, undetected, past the corterie of Abacha security men and loyalists. Useni seemed the perfect choice for the job. Akilu who picked him was said to have had a mountain of intelligence files on Useni while in office under Babangida. It is also said that the cosy relationship between Abacha and Useni, even before the latter took over power, was sustained by their mutual interest in sex romps. And Useni reaped immensely from procuring girls for his boss. Though the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Useni easily worked his way into a virtual number two position in the regime, his unhindered access to the man, an advantage that Useni never declined from using even in the ungodly hours of the day, was a cinch to Akilu’s plot.So it was an unwary Useni who willingly agreed to get Akilu’s ladies linked to Abacha. Without any hitch, the two girls got access to Abacha and instantly had a direct line to his loins. Investigations further revealed that the two Indian girls were not exactly two- bit whores but intelligent ladies recruited to carry out a predetermined mission. The girls acted out the script perfectly. Information available to TEMPO reveal that the night of 7 June, 1998, was one heavily sex-laden night with the Indian ‘spices.’ Abacha was said to have taken on the two ladies in a heady party. Useni, keen on making his boss happy, left
before midnight so Abacha could have some privacy.
The six-room villa guest house, has a floor which served as the slaughter house for all the damsels that Useni and others procured for Gen. Abacha. While the party with the Indian girls downstairs went on, Abacha was said to have dashed upstairs at intervals to see Onyinye, the Igbo beauty, who was not allowed to venture downstairs. Onyinye, perhaps the most visible Abacha girlfriend is known to cruise around Abuja in her 4-wheel jeep. In accomplishing their mission, the Indian girls employed the intervals Abacha left them to savour the beauty upstairs. The apples and drink were spiked with noxious substances. As they worked on Abacha sexually, they urged him on to have generous bites of the apple and naturally the drink to wash it down. After about three hours of vigorous love-making, Abacha suddenly began to jerk, at first mildly and later violently. Within 30 minutes, he collapsed and died.
Major-Al-Mustapha, Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, now facing trial for political assassinations, promptly arrested the Indian ladies. Sources disclosed that he changed his plan to arrest Gen. Useni in order not to let out the news too quickly that his boss was dead. He needed time to make contacts and to plot. Mustapha was equally said to have realised that a major arresting a Lt. General, when he did not plan a coup, would have raised eyebrows and backfired.
The period between Abacha’s sudden death and the time the news was made available to the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) was the most tasking and difficult for Mustapha. He had to weigh the options with consultations with Maryam Abacha. First, to seize power, he needed to secure the support of all the army’s general officers commanding, (GOCs), get fire
backing from the brigades, have the artillery and armour in his control and successfully place all the service chiefs under arrest. Major Al-Mustapha did not have all these. He knew his limitations and simply played safe. He decided to offer Brig. General Buba Marwa, former military administrator of Lagos State and Brig. Gen. Yakubu Mua’zu, Commander Brigade of Guards the post of the Head of State. Both of them, it was gathered, developed cold feet and rejected the offer. Apparently, the two officers did not trust Mustapha. While Mustapha sought the acceptance of either Marwa or Mua’zu, the PRC members who had been assembled were getting restless. Convinced that the option left was to settle for Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, favoured by Maryam Abacha, the late dictator’s widow and Gen. Babangida, Mustapha proceeded to formally inform the PRC about Abacha’s death.
Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, then Chief of Army Staff and a known angler for the throne, was the first to react.
“How can you assemble us Generals here to deceive us. If it is false, you will be dealt with,” he reportedly threatened Mustapha. Yet, the silence engulfed the room and the tension around was palpable. It was Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar that eventually eased the tension by demanding that they all be allowed to see Abacha’s dead body. All the PRC members
trooped out, with Mustapha leading, to see the body themselves. Inside sources disclosed that almost immediately, the politics of succession commenced. Bamaiyi started moves to win the support of other members to become the Head of State.
Mustapha avoided Bamaiyi completely while the PRC meeting lasted. Mustapha, still in control, had ordered all the orderlies that came with the PRC members to the car park. He instructed members of the presidential Body Guards (BGS) to lock all entry and exit gates, leaving only one gate at the rear open. The PRC members were unaware of these developments.
Soon, they were all herded into the aircraft for the journey to Kano to bury Gen. Abacha. While the burial lasted, the succession politics went on. Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, moments after Abacha’s body was lowered into the grave, called Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and two GOCs, Sar’ki Muktar of the I Mechanized Division, Kaduna and Brig- Gen. Godwin Abbe of the 82 Division, Enugu, aside.
Babangida simply whispered to the two GOCs: “Remember the assignment I said you have for me. Call me.” The two GOCs were said to have answered “yes”. Thereafter, Babangida left for Minna after a short private discussion with Gen. Abubakar. Babangida, even under Abacha, still had a strong hold on the GOCs. Abacha knew but was handicapped because he needed
these officers to hold on to power.
With the support of the GOC’s who did Babangida’s bidding and the fact that Maryam Abacha and Mustapha preferred Gen. Abubakar, the latter became the new Head of State. Useni’s role in procuring the Indian girls that snuffed life out of the late dictator, saw to his immediate ostracisation from the emergent centre of power. When Mustapha briefed the BGs and Strike Force, (SF) members about Abacha’s death, they reportedly urged him to step in as head of state, pledging their loyalty. But Mustapha refused. His reason: “what impression do you want me to create in the minds of the Abachas? They will think I killed oga.”
Indeed, if Abacha had not been murdered by the Indian ‘prostitutes,’ the story would have been different. The late dictator had plans to elevate his good friend, Jerry Useni. Two weeks before his death, TEMPO authoritatively gathered that Abacha had gathered his service chiefs and told them he would continue in power. He had completed plans to retire them
and also retire from the Army himself.
The game plan was simply intriguing. He, Abacha would retire from the Army and move to Kano. Jerry Useni would, however, be appointed the Chief of Defence Staff with full powers to complete the transition programme. Major Mustapha would remain his Chief Security Officer. To make sure that Useni play by the script, the BGs and SF will be divided into
two groups. One group will remain in Abuja with Useni and Mustapha, while the other group will move to Kano with Abacha.
Gen. Abacha, after retirement, will declare his intention not to step into politics. Emirs, chiefs and prominent pro-Abacha northern politicians had been lined up to pay him visits and to urge and insist that he contest as a civilian to become the president. Marches, demonstrations, media campaign and adverts were to follow suit with the same plea, that Abacha must contest. Abacha will then announce his candidature on the strength of the pressures from prominent Northerners, Nigerians and the masses.
Useni was to conduct a kangaroo presidential election and hand over power to General Sani Abacha.
An inside source disclosed that the latest plan was a well-knitted one and not even all the members of the Abacha kitchen cabinet knew about the details. Then the Indian girls came calling and that put paid to all the plans of self- succession. The manner and timing of his death caught everyone around him napping and scampering. Before they could recover, things moved and changed fast. The Abacha family came under heat. Gen. Abubakar played the Babangida script to the letter.
While Nigerians rejoiced that the dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha finally bit the dust, different theories about his death flew around. The theory of Viagra; and the speculation on heart attack and injection by the Indian girls were bandied across the country. This theory of injection was given some reinforcement about 10 months after Abacha’s demise, when his widow, Maryam, alleged that the strongman did not die of any illness but was murdered by some of his close associates. In an interview published in a Lagos weekly tabloid, Mrs. Abacha said her husband was hale and hearty but would leave the resolution of Abacha’s sudden death to physicians.
Mrs. Abacha’s howls did not seem without some justification against the background that Gen. Abacha still performed a state function the day before his death. It was the former strongman himself who received and saw off, at the Abuja Airport, Palestinian Liberation leader, Yasser Arafat who came for a one- day official visit to the country. Nigerians were, however,unbothered about what killed their outgone tormentor and whether he was murdered or not. What mattered then was that they were rid of the dark-goggled dictator, who unleashed so much terror and deaths on the people.