Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Open letter to Sadiq Abacha by Ayo Sogunro

Dear Sadiq Abacha,

I do not know you personally, but I admire your filial bravery—however misguided— in defending 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.
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 8 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 bydegree. 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


The Open Letter Sadiq Wrote Before Ayo Sogunro Replied Him

If you want to think, speak and act logically then you should know all three.

1. The law of identity
2. The law of excluded middle
3. The law of non contradiction.

Now let's look at each one of these and see what they mean in practice.

1.The law of identity
The law of identity means that things are what they are, which at first doesn't seem very illuminating, but wait; it implies also the following, that things are what they are, whether you like them or not, it implies that things are what they are whether you know them or not, it implies that things are what they are whether you agree with them or not. 

However, if you don't like the facts as they are you are going to have to put up with them, because facts are what they are, if it's raining on your golf day, get used to it! Because the facts are what they are and are often not what you want them to be, like if the traffic lights turn red when you approach, stop complaining! The law of identity means that you must adapt yourself to the facts and start your work from there, it implies that the facts will not bend to meet your expectations. You must first adapt yourself to what life is and then get to work changing and improving things in your life, be brave to meet reality as it really is and not how you would wish it to be.

2. The law of excluded middle.
 The law of excluded middle means that you should give a straight yes or no answer always and there is no middle ground. The law means that there is no kinda yes and kinda no, there is no ‘sort of’ being married because you are either married or you are not, you are either a thief or you are not, you are either on time or not, you are either living in Nigeria or you are not. The law is the idea that you should not try to keep all of your options open by staying in the middle or hedging, when it suits you, like when you accepted an appointment during IBB's regime as chairman of FRSC. I bet that was a military regime you partook in. Please pick one wife and state your claim 100% to her, pick one idea and go for it 100%! Decide and commit Sir! There you might find great power and self satisfaction in the doctrine of decide and commit. No half way measures, no middle ground, exclude the middle! Here! The law of excluded middle Sir.

3. The law of non contradiction.
The law of non contradiction says don't contradict yourself simple. If you say you will be there then be there. If you say you will do it then do it. Don't say or fight for one thing and then do the opposite. Don't say one thing and then later deny that you said it. Don't say one thing and then later contradict it. Be consistent in your thoughts and actions. Observing someone who was a socialist in the morning but then became a capitalist in the evening is a textbook on contradiction, these are two polar opposites, such a person is clearly inconsistent and is therefore considered a flip flop, confused, easily led or misled or at best a lunatic who has no clear understanding of the basis of either doctrine.

Apply these three logics to others with consistency and then you can ask for the same or expect the same from others, and then you can also ask for others to deal with facts not fantasy, which is the law of identity. Ask others to make up their mind to decide and commit. The law of excluded middle.Then ask others to follow through on the things that they say they would do. The law of non contradiction.

Sir, I believe brilliance is not perfection. I have grown and watched you criticize regime after regime and at that young and naive age I was thinking why wouldn't this man just contest to be president so that Nigeria can be saved, I would have defiantly voted for Mr Soyinka if it would have brought an end to Nigeria's woes. To my utter surprise, I heard about your FRSC leadership and how funds were misused and a great deal of it unaccounted for. "Oh my God! In the end he turned out to be just the same as everybody else" were my next thoughts. My hopes for you, all ended up in great disappointment.

Here I find myself defending my father 15 years after his death because some of you have no one else to pounce on, or rather, you have chosen a dead person to keep pouncing on over and over again when you have more than an array of contestants.  A coward's act I believe.  "A common writer" is what I have heard you being referred to lately, and I believe a mature mind would now agree to such referrals. With all due respect, there is a great challenge that faces the country, we have to put our heads together, rather than clashing, our collective ships must sail in the same direction, let us leave the ghosts of past contention and face the future bravely as one, criticizing the past does not help the present or define a path to the future.

You say, with the weight of your sense of history and the authority you possess on national issues that " a vicious usurper under whose authority the lives of an elected president and his wife were snuffed out" referring to my late father, you must be growing old, or you would rightly recall that that president elect you refer to did not die while my father was alive. Did you slyly change your facts to fit a history that would better serve your narrative, or are you just plain forgetful? Either way, it shows you are losing your grasp of reality.

Comparing my father’s leadership to Boko Haram's current reign of terror,  is a rather cheap shot, you are in no position to examine, judge and sentence an entire regime based on the information you think you have, you are privy to almost none of the true facts, what is at your disposal is at best, hearsay, or were you ever minister of defence? did you ever sit in during security meetings, evaluate the facts and subtleties of national security? You remind me of Obama criticizing the Republicans  before he became a sitting president himself, vouching to put an end to all American occupation, this all came to an abrupt end once he had access to the briefs and security issues, economic and political, facing his nation. Surely he did what he could, and history will judge him. To lead is not to be a rock star, and to be a Nobel laureate is not to be a an antagonist of this countries legacy..We are Africa's leaders, whether we like it or not, we cannot trivialize the centenary celebration, it happens only once, let us come together, if only for this one occasion and agree to disagree.

Open rebellion against the current government at this time, on the manner of the centenary celebrations, for whatever reason, is tactless, it is not about you, it is about our nation, our beloved country. There is a time and place for everything. My late father was a Nigerian, lived in Nigeria and died protecting our interests to the best of his ability, critiquing placing him on the honor roll, along with many deserving dignitaries is your right, you have the right to your own opinions, but you do not have the right to your own facts. Facts stand alone, regardless of who espouses them, let posterity judge, but you are clearly politicizing a dead issue, how could you not be? Having an issue with the naming of a hospital after the late General and leader? really ? Now ?

It almost seems as if you want to turn back the hands of time, what else would you like to undo besides the naming of the hospital, would you like to unmake Bayelsa state, Zamfara state or the others?  What about the advances we made in commerce, reducing the inflation rate, what about security and welfare, how many projects, hospitals and schools were created? inflation went from 54% to 8.5%! my father oversaw an increase in our foreign currency reserves from 494 million dollars in 1993 to 9.6 billion dollars by the middle of 1997, that is unprecedented , 15 years after the PTF the benefits are still being reaped today in Nigeria, What of peace keeping and nation building, not just in West Africa but the entire continent, restoring democracy in Liberia and Sierra Leone, all these under my father’s leadership, are all these not laudable? Or would you like to undo them all. All this on 8$ per barrel of oil! You have to be kidding me.

You are a learned man, you would have to undo all your learning to knowingly wish to undo all these achievements! I will be the first to proclaim that my fathers leadership was not pitch perfect or spot free, that does not exist, maybe in utopia but not here on this earth, so let us keep our discourse set in the sphere of reality please, he deserves the award, and he did not campaign for it, let it go, Sir...and allow Nigeria to at least bask in our survival and endurance in our growing prosperity and development in these trying times. I have been accused of being an optimist, hence, I am optimistic that you will come around and accept that we can all come together and face the future together, forgive each other our wrongs while celebrating our rights, I am still an admirer of your works after all, however, I cannot and will not attempt to answer your every charge, this is not the time or place, this is a time for solidarity, if only you were wise enough to grasp this.
 I applaud the patience of President Goodluck Jonathan and his composure and restraint in not having a knee jerk reaction at such a pivotal moment in our nations history, but you would mar the occasion, Sir, in the future, please pick your battles, and do better to safeguard your relevance,  Enough Sir!



Sadiq Abacha.

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