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Why there’s nothing wrong with honouring Abacha

Abacha’s implacable enemies were unhappy with the award, but their anger cannot obliterate his positive and remarkable record in office in just five years. In…

Abacha’s implacable enemies were unhappy with the award, but their anger cannot obliterate his positive and remarkable record in office in just five years.
In fact, no sincere Nigerian can dispute the reasons given by the federal government for considering the late General Sani Abacha worthy of the centenary award among other eminent former public office holders. According to the federal government, the late General Sani Abacha administration had increased Nigeria’s foreign reserves from 494 million dollars in 1993 to 9.6 Billion dollars by the middle of 1997. The Jonathan administration also gave Abacha credit for reducing Nigeria’s external debt from 36 billion dollars in 1993 to 27 billion dollars in 1997.
In addition, Abacha was recognized by the Jonathan administration for reducing an inflation rate of 54 percent which he inherited to 8.5 percent between 1993 and 1998 while Nigeria’s major revenue earner, oil, was at an average of nine dollars per barrel.  Would any sincere Nigerian dispute these facts, which are on record?
Throughout the five years he ruled Nigeria, General Abacha became the first leader to bring credibility to the management of the proceeds of petroleum subsidy withdrawal. Before Abacha, Nigerians were always skeptical about the transparency in the management of subsidy withdrawal proceeds. With the establishment of the Petroleum Special Trust Fund (PTF), General Abacha had for the first time changed the attitude of Nigerians towards the policy of petroleum subsidy withdrawal. The PTF was launched in July 1995 and, with just N60 billion allocation to it, the agency achieved remarkable results beyond the expectations of the most stubborn skeptics.
No sincere Nigerian can deny the fact that the PTF had brought remarkable improvements to our hospitals, schools, water supply systems, roads and other essential areas of social services. For the first time, Nigerians had access to safe and affordable drugs in public hospitals. In addition, the PTF had introduced tough standards in the award and execution of government contracts. Unlike the previous years, the PTF had ended the era of contractors taking government money or mobilization fees and disappear.  Love him or loathe him, you cannot deny the fact that Abacha had brought greater transparency in the management of the proceeds of petroleum subsidy withdrawal.
Abacha’s policy formulation was always focused on the welfare of the ordinary man. Enemies of the PTF succeeded in scrapping the agency in 1999 with the advent of democracy, but the country only succeeded in bringing back the corruption, greed, disregard for due process and impunity that characterized the award of government contracts. More and more billions were budgeted for roads, but the results were dismal. At one point, former President Obasanjo publicly said he was ashamed of the conditions of federal roads.
Even if our memories are short, we cannot at least forget too soon that the Gwarinpa Housing Estate, the largest in Sub-Sahara Africa, was built by the General Abacha administration. The National Hospital is another standing legacy of the Abacha administration. One can go on and on to list Abacha’s achievements. Again, one can say without any fear of contradictions that Abacha richly deserved the centenary award. Despite his shortcomings, which are human, Abacha’s achievements by far overshadow his perceived weaknesses. His record will always speak for him because his achievements were so outstanding to be obliterated by even the most hardened skeptic.
S. Dabai wrote in from No. 55, Koforidua Street, Wuse 2, Abuja. [email protected]

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