How Abacha announced Buhari’s takeover and overthrow

Twenty-one years ago, precisely on 8 June 1998, former Nigeria’s maximum ruler, the late General Sani Abacha died mysteriously in office.

He was a man with peculiar history- he was a symbol of mutiny who announced the overthrow of three consecutive governments in Nigeria. He also symbolised public treasury looting in a proportion never seen in the history of Nigeria nay Africa. More than two decades after his demise, his loots, stashed in so many foreign accounts across the globe, are still being recovered.

On December 31, 1983, as a brigadier in Nigeria Army, he announced the overthrow of civilian government of Alhaji Sheu Shagari.

Major-General Buhari, who took over as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after the overthrow of Sheu Shagari, promoted Abacha to major- general in 1984.

But, in a funny twist of event barely a year later, the new Major-General Abacha, in an uncharitable manner, announced the overthrow of his commander-in-chief and benefactor, General Muhammadu Buhari on 27 August 1985. The latter was detained for over two years by the succeeding government in which Abacha held strategic post of Chief of Army Staff and later Minister of Defence.

He would later, in another twist of event, appoint the same Buhari (now retired) in 1994 as Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), after he (Abacha) had become the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Abacha ironically wanted an impeccable hand with the required experience to head such a very juicy and strategic agency and finally settled for the retired general as the only one with such qualities at the time. Buhari served meritoriously on the board till 8 June 1998 when Abacha expired.

Abacha had, on 17 November 1993, forced the Head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, to resign and assumed the position of Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

During his five-year rule, he maximally expressed dictatorial powers. He imprisoned, tortured and murdered anyone who challenged his authority. He rigorously pursued agenda to perpetuate himself in office.

Therefore, when it was clear he was not going to handover as expected to the acclaimed winner of June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola, popularly called M.K.O Abiola (G.C.F.R), Nigerians nudged M.K.O to claim his mandate by declaring himself president.

Abiola yielded and the popular ‘Epetedo Declaration’ came into being. Abacha got infuriated and ordered arrest of the acclaimed President. He charged Abiola with ‘treasonable felony’ and caged him till both of them expired.

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