A Kanuri from Borno by tribe, Late Gen.Sani Abacha was born and brought up in Kano, Nigeria. He attended the Nigerian Military Training College and Mons Officer Cadet School before being commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in 1963.
The Army General who was born on the 20th of September 1943 and died on the 8th of June 1998 was a Nigerian soldier and politician who served as the de facto President of Nigeria from 1993 to 1998.
Abacha's regime is one of the most controversial in Nigeria's history. His regime became the first to record unprecedented economic achievements: he oversaw an increase in the country's foreign exchange reserves from $494 million dollars in 1993 to $9.6 billion by the middle of 1997, reduced the external debt of Nigeria from $36 billion in 1993 to $27 billion by 1997, brought all the controversial privatization programs of the Babangida administration to halt, reduced an inflation rate of 54% inherited from Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida to 8.5% between 1993 and 1998, all while the nation's primary commodity, oil was at an average of $9 per barrel. His administration is also credited with creating the most comprehensive and realistic blueprint for Nigeria's development through the Vision 2010 committee chaired by his predecessor Ernest Shonekan.
Abacha's Military career is distinguished with a string of successful Coups, He is by some records the most successful coup plotter in the history of Nigeria's Military,He took part in the countercoup of July 1966, from the conceptual stage, and may have been a participant in the Lagos or Abeokuta phases of the January 1966 coup. He was also a prominent figure in three coups d'etat of later decades, the first two of which brought and removed General Muhammadu Buhari from power in 1983. When General Ibrahim Babangida was named President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1985, Abacha was named Chief of Army Staff. He was later appointed Minister of Defence in 1990.On November 17, 1993, while he was Chair of the Joint Chiefs, General Abacha Overthrew the Short-lived Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan .
Despite his achievements as highlighted in the beginning, Abacha's government was accused of human rights abuses, especially after the hanging of Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by the Oputa Commission (only one of several executions of Ogoni activists opposed to the exploitation of Nigerian resources by the multinational petroleum company, Royal Dutch Shell Group); Abiola and Olusegun Obasanjo were jailed for treason, and Wole Soyinka charged in absentia with treason. His regime suffered opposition externally by pro-democracy activists He however supported the Economic Community of West African States and sent Nigerian troops to Liberia and Sierra Leone to restore democracy to those countries.
During Abacha's regime, a total of £5 billion was reportedly siphoned out of the country's coffers by the head of state and members of his family. At that time Abacha was listed as the world's fourth most corrupt leader in recent history. Abacha's national security adviser, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, played a central role in the looting and transfer of money to overseas accounts. His son Mohammed Abacha was also involved. A preliminary report published by the Abdulsalam Abubakar transitional government in November 1998 described the process. Sani Abacha told Ismaila Gwarzo to provide fake funding requests, which Abacha approved. The funds were usually sent in cash or travellers' cheques by the Central Bank of Nigeria to Gwarzo, who took them to Abacha's house. Mohammed Abacha then arranged to launder the money to offshore accounts. An estimated $1.4 billion in cash was delivered in this way.
Abacha died in June 1998 while at the presidential villa in Abuja. He was buried on the same day, according to Muslim tradition, without an autopsy. This fueled speculation that he may have been executed extrajudicially by way of being poisoned by political rivals via prostitutes. On the contrary, the government cited his cause of death as a sudden heart attack. It is reported that he was in the company of two Indian prostitutes imported from Dubai. It is thought that these prostitutes laced his drink with a poisonous substance, making Abacha feel unwell around 4:30am. He retired to his bed and was dead by 6:15am.
Abacha was married to Maryam Abacha and had seven sons and three daughters. He has fifteen grandchildren — eight girls and seven boys.
After Sani Abacha's death, the Obasanjo government implicated Abacha and his family in a wholesale looting of Nigeria's coffers. The late dictator's son, Mohammed Abacha, continues to maintain that all the assets in question were legitimately acquired. In 2002, Abacha's family purpotedly agreed to return $1.2 billion that was taken from the central bank.
Having said all of these General Abacha is credited with restoring Nigeria's standing as an African Power when he twice ordered the Nigerian Military to Intervene and restore the civilian and Democratic governments of Sierra Leone and Liberia after a series of Military Coups in both countries.
May the soul of this General rest in peace. Amen