General Sani Abacha
Former President (1993-1998)
Date of Birth: 20/07/1943
Place of Birth: Kano
Education: Nigerian Military College, Kaduna, 1962-63; Mons Defence Cadet College, Aldershot, United Kingdom, 1963; School of Infantry, Warminster, UK, 1966 and 1971; Command Staff College, Jaji, 1976; National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, 1981.
Career: Transferred from the Air Force to the army, 1975; Chief of Army Staff, 1985; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1989-90; Minister of Defence, 1990; President and Commander of the Armed Forces, 1993.
Commentary: General Sani Abacha took power in a bloodless coup in November 1993 and left it suddenly in a 'cardiac coup' on 7 June 1998. He has the doubtful honour of being thought of by many as the most brutal dictator in Nigeria’s history. His regime is regarded as even more corrupt and brutal than that of General Ibrahim Babangida, and he is blamed for undermining Nigeria's military and economy.
Gen. Abacha and his family misappropriated billions of dollars from state coffers. In 2009, a court in Geneva, Switzerland, learnt how, from 1993-98, Abacha's family members and their advisors set up front companies to channel hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen state funds through established Western banks including Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. Abba Abacha, a son of the former military leader, was convicted for participating in a criminal organisation.
Abacha's death, allegedly in an orgy with Indian prostitutes, left many Nigerians puzzling over whether it was his failing health or his fellow officers that finally ended his career. Some of his closest confidants insisted he was poisoned; yet others in Abuja thought that his poor health made a nocturnal heart attack entirely plausible.
Abacha was ostracised in international circles after the 1995 killing of the political and environmental activist, Ken Saro Wiwa. His time in office was marked by frequent purges of the army and tight restrictions on political activity.