To Sadiq Abacha – on behalf of Wole Soyinka by Ayo Sogunro

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Sadiq Sani Abacha gets the first reply to his open letter to Prof. Wole Soyinka from writer/activist, Ayo Sogunro. Read below and tell us what you think…

I do not know you personally, but I admire your filial bravery – however misguided – in defending the honour of your father, the late General Sani Abacha. This in itself is not a problem; it is an obligation—in this cultural construct of ours – for children to rise to the defence of their parents, no matter what infamy or perfidy the said parent might have dabbled in.

The problem I have with your letter, however, arises from two issues: (i) your disparaging of Wole Soyinka, who—despite your referral to an anecdotal opinion that calls him as “a common writer”—is a great father figure, and a source of inspiration, to a fair number of us young Nigerians; and (ii) your attempt to revise Nigerian history and substitute our national experience with your personal opinions. Continue…

Therefore, it is necessary that we who are either Wole Soyinka’s “socio-political” children, or who are ordinary Nigerians who experienced life under your father’s reign speak out urgently against your amnesiac article, lest some future historian stumble across the misguided missive, and confuse the self-aggrandized opinions of your family for the perceptions of Nigerians in general.
Your letter started with logical principles, which is a splendid common ground for us. So let us go with the facts: General Sani Abacha was a dictator. He came into power and wielded it for 5 years in a manner hitherto unprecedented in Nigerian history. Facts: uncomfortable for your family, but true all the same.

Now, for my personal interpretations: between 1993 and 1998 inclusive, when your dada was in power, I was a boy of 9 to 14 years and quite capable of making observations about my political and cultural environment. Those years have been the worst years of my material life as a Nigerian citizen. Here are a few recollections: I recollect waking up several mornings to scrape sawdust from carpentry mills, lugging the bags a long distance home, just to fuel our “Abacha stoves” because kerosene was not affordable—under your father. I recollect cowering under the cover of darkness, with family and neighbours, listening to radio stations—banned by your father. I recollect my government teacher apologetically and fearfully explaining constitutional government to us—because free speech was a crime under your father’s government. Most of all, I remember how the news of your father’s death drove me—and my colleagues at school—to a wild excitement, and we burst into the street in delirious celebration. Nobody prompted us, but even as 13 and 14 year olds, we understood the link between the death of Abacha and the hope of freedom for the ordinary man.

These are all sorry tales, of course. Such interpretations would not have occured to the wealthy and the privileged under your father’s government, but they were a part of the everyday life of a common teenager under that government. The economics were bad, but the politics were worse. And I am not referring to Alfred Rewane, Kudirat Abiola and the scores killed by the order of your father. Political killings are almost a part of every political system, and most of those were just newspaper stories to us. In fact, I didn’t get to read most of the atrocities until long after your father died. So, these stories did not inform the dread I personally felt under your father’s regime. And this was true for my entire family and our neighbours.

Instead, the worry over our own existence was a more pressing issue. Your father, Sani Abacha was in Aso Rock, but his brutality was felt right in our sitting room. We were not into politics and we didn’t vocally oppose Abacha, yet we just knew we were not safe from him. You see, unlike any dictatorship before or after it—your father’s government personally and directly threatened the life and freedoms of the average Nigerian. Your father threatened me. And if your father had not died, I am confident that I would not be alive or free today.
Think of that for a while.

Now, let’s come to Wole Soyinka. First: you can never eradicate the infamy of your father’s legacy by trying to point out the failings of another Nigerian. Remember what you said: A is A.  Abacha is Abacha. And no length of finger pointing will wash away the odious feeling the name of Abacha strikes up in the mind of the average Nigerian. Second: Don’t—as they musician said—get it twisted: Wole Soyinka did not antagonize your father just because he was a military man—Wole Soyinka was against your father’s inhumanity. Your father was intolerant of criticism beyond belief.

Your father made military men look bad. Your father’s behaviour was so bad it went back in time and soiled the reputation of every military man before him. Your father, finally, made Nigerians swear never—ever—to tolerate the military again. Soyinka may have worked with the military before—but your father ensured that he will never work with the military again. Do you see? Three: Evil comes in many forms: there is no qualification by degree. There is no “good” evil thing. Sani Abacha, Boko Haram, Hitler, slavery—they all fit into the same category of misfortunes. Soyinka is right: Abacha was just as bad as Boko Haram is—deal with it. Four: Soyinka has been kind enough to limit his criticism to the unenviable awards this inept government has given your father. But, you see, in a saner political system, we wouldn’t just ignore your father, we would have gone one step further and expunged the Abacha name from all public records. Wiped without a trace. Abacha would forever be a cautionary tale against the excesses of political power. In a saner political system.

Abacha was brutal—and Soyinka was one of those individuals who gave us inspiration in those dark days. He was part of the team that founded the underground radio station to counter your father’s activities. Let me rephrase in pop culture language: Wole Soyinka was the James Bond to your father’s KGB. Most of the influential people either kept quiet or sang the praises of your father to stave his wrath. But a few like Soyinka spoke, wrote and even went militant against Abacha. But at the end, even Soyinka who never ran from a fight had to run from your father. That was how terrible things were. And now you want Soyinka to join the praise singers of your father? I’m not certain Soyinka has grown old enough to forget how he escaped your father,slipping across the border in disguise. You will have to wait awhile to get that praise from him.

Now, back to you. You have a deluded sense of your father’s role in the progress of Nigeria’s history. Nigeria has managed to be where it is today, not because of leaders like your father—but in spite of leaders like your father. This is a testament to the Nigerian spirit of resilience, and our unwavering optimism in a better future. You owe every Nigerian an apology for daring to attribute this to the leadership of Abacha. Those “achievements” you believe were accomplished under your father were simply all the things he had to do to keep milking the economy, and thereby perpetuate himself in power—they benefited Nigeria only if, by Nigeria, you meant your family and your cronies.

Your tone is that of a white master who justifies his oppression because he clothed and fed his black slaves. That is what your father did. The fact that we choose not to regurgitate, and reflect on that socially traumatic period doesn’t mean we accept it as your entitlement. We have not forgotten, and we will never forget. Sani Abacha raped Nigeria. Your father raped us. Your father raped us and then pressed some change into our hands. And he then tried to marry us forcefully, too. You may think all this is well and good—but then you’ve never been raped before.

But we now live under a democracy—the kind your father denied us—and so you are free to talk. And so you are free to insult the people who ensured that your father had sleepless nights. Had the revolution your father rightly deserved happened, you—and the rest of your family—would have been lined against a wall, before you could pen one article, and shot.
And we would probably have cheered.

But we live under a democracy now—a system of government where even the scions of former oppressors can talk, and write freely, about the benefits of dictatorship. That’s a democracy. A concept your father wouldn’t have understood.

Regards,
Ayo Sogunro

30 Comments

  • fame says:

    Straight Up!

  • Joseph says:

    “Oro lo fe gbo, E ban sofun. Kare o je, omo gidi bi yan, wo ayo Oni tan nle fun eyi to se yi omo sogunro”. Maybe he has forgotten, remind him for us.

  • Only God knows his plan for this country... says:

    The truth is always bittered, but though it has been put out cleared. Actually those were my primary school days. Kudos Bro.!

  • Only God knows his plan for this country... says:

    The truth is always bittered, but though it has been put out cleared. Actually those were my Sec. sch. days. Kudos Bro.!

  • ksy says:

    Never provoke a writer.

  • Aausim says:

    Hw can der giv some one who betrayed our country….. An awards…. God help ur country nigeria…. So dissapointed in our leaders…..

  • pls mr writer stop critizising some one. even ur dad get in to power can do same.pls 4get non sense.

    • sandra says:

      It’s because of people like you that this country is in turmoil. So because leaders can come and do whatever they like, we should fold our arms and watch them. Well, if you don’t trust your dad, i trust mine. Abacha was evil and a coward, period!!!

  • duduyemmy says:

    omo oro ni, eje kiwon bawon so, omo eran ki eran

  • Oludare Olorunsola says:

    Ayo, thanks and God bless. All these people will be put to book in this country one day.”Necessity will be the mother of invention”

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  • Hib says:

    I really liked your choice of words and grammatic construction. Your point are backed by facts, facts that are true. I like the part you said ‘the fact that we choose not to regurgitate and reflect in that socially traumatic period does not mean we accepted it as your entitlement. We have not forgotten and we will not forget!’. Thumbs up bro. They need to be reminded.

  • hy says:

    Hmmmmm, all d children in borno, yobe , kano, bauchi, gommbe, adamawa what will they say to this regime of Jonathan, soyinka, pst ayo, jerry gana??? Only Almighty God can judge. Don’t always think of itself alone.

  • Ebony Queen says:

    Even as a little girl, i remember those times, it got to a point we had to flee the then capital of Nigeria (Lagos) for fear of what may become of us if we stay back. I lost my dearest brother to those time, and was saved from losing my life. Abacha raped us mercilessly and imagine his vomit of a son opening his gutter mouth to give us unwanted cacophony. I was on my sick bed when i heard that the evil Abacha was dead, i jumped up from my sick bed and rejoiced with my fellow Nigerians because freedom had found its way back to Nigeria.

  • adeniyi says:

    Na Sadic find trouble and he don see am

  • Ken says:

    Ayo, God bless u and may we live long to harvest the fruits of democracy!

  • wonderlord says:

    The evil men do will surely live after them,if not for the love and generosity an average Nigerians have the entire family of late Sanni Abacha should have been killed or jailed by now.But our simplicity had been turned to stupidity.Never again we shall allow such people like Abacha and its cohorts to rule us aagain.Even the present president will soon taste his own bitter pill.Please tell that prodigal son of Abacha to meet their elders so that they would tell him correct information about their family.Already their name is in the black book of this country.If you don’t desist from this child play you will end like your father

  • olugbemga ayoola says:

    Thanks bro. Good point. He wants to hear word, let him hear it.

  • Chinwe says:

    Ayo, very well written. Its a pity that intead of atoning for the horrible sins of his evil father, sadiq had the guts to open his mouth against one of the greatest Africans alive. We are so tolerant in this country.

  • sandra says:

    To imagine that world leaders like Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Desmund Tutu, Rev. Jesse Jackson and the queen of England begged this man to spare the life of Ken Saro Wiwa, he went ahead to execute him. His sibblings should just keep quiet and plunder his loot even with tears in our eyes. No child would be proud to witness the shameful death of this dictator. Sadiq, abi na ashawo kill your father? You no dey shame!!!

  • Chibuzo Udealor says:

    Ayo, I must state, is a magnificent soul! He has spoken for the millions of shortchanged Nigerians. Jonathan ‘s recognition of the benefits of Abacha’s dictatorship is mind boggling! Why would Jonathan recognize both the victim and villain of dictatorship at the same time? It shows many things are bad somewhere! All hail Ayo!

  • Chibuzo Udealor says:

    Ayo, I must state, is a magnificent soul! He has spoken for the millions of shortchanged Nigerians. Jonathan ‘s recognition of the benefits of Abacha’s dictatorship is mind boggling! Why would Jonathan recognize both the victim and villain of dictatorship at the same time? It shows many things are bad somewhere! All hail Ayo!

    Abacha’s family should apologize to Nigerians for the defiling from Abacha!

  • phebean says:

    Sogunro,that is lovely.omo Iran ki Iran fegboro ode to gbo .

  • ambymekus says:

    CULTISM IN THE UNIVERSITIES THAT IS CLAIMING LIVES AND PROPERTIES EVERYDAY, WHO DO WE BLAME, STILL ABACHA? WOLE SOYINKA CAN ONLY FEED HIS FAMILY AND MUST UNDERSTAND THAT.

  • sunny says:

    well written bro Nigerian need not reply again, this is just enough. Thanks bro you nailed it. I can’t imagine Abacha children talking . where were you children when you father was busy killing Nigeria . God will have mercy on your, i still believe the sins of your fathet will be visited on you children.

  • Effanga says:

    Straight up response! Well delivered.

  • Orjih Berlin says:

    Abacha was better than ex President olusegun obasanjo. Nigeria Have Never Produce or has a Leader, is only Abacha has small skills of a Leader. Is the yoruba’s are spoiling or making Nigeria Not to move forword. Every Nigerian should pray for Abacha Soul to Rest in Perfect Peace.

  • jessica says:

    Thanks ayo, ure indeed a nigerian. I vividly remember adults talking about how the so called dictator abacha murdered ken saro wiwa alongside eight other people, even after pope john paul 11 pleaded with him to spare their lives. Sadiq or whatever they call you, if evil doesn’t visit your family now, it will surely visit later. Mind ur words.

  • Orjih ihechukwu says:

    Abacha was better than ex President olusegun obasanjo. Nigeria Have Never Produce or has a Leader, is only Abacha has small skills of a Leader. Is during obasanjo Time Many Nigerians want and wish to Travel Out of nigeria. Is the yoruba’s are spoiling or making Nigeria Not to move forword. Every Nigerian should pray for Abacha Soul to Rest in Perfect Peace.

  • nigerian says:

    Ayo..maybe if ur parents were president b4 de might ve even don worst,,all govt ve been bad,y criticising only abachas govt,,wole soyinka is always talking,wants 2 be heard,,let him contest 4 president ad save nigeria..pls let’s move forward ad 4get d past.let he witout sin trow d first stone,,

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