Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 23:42 GMT 00:42 UK
Abacha widow breaks her silence
General Abacha's corrupt military rule lasted four-and-a-half years
The widow of the former Nigerian military ruler, General Sani Abacha, has broken nearly a year of public silence to defend the record of her husband.
General Abacha led Nigeria into international isolation after taking power in November 1993, following annulled elections, which were widely thought to have been won by Chief Mashood Abiola.
Mrs Abacha says she has had to endure "difficult and painful" criticism of her husband's record, finding it an "agonising experience".
"His name and legacy [has been] subjected to the most malicious attack and bitter denigration ever visited on any former Nigerian head of state," she said.
She said she hoped Nigerians would "overlook the past and look into the future with hope and courage".
Abacha 'really loved' Nigeria
"No matter what may be said about my husband, I know for a fact that General Abacha really loved his country," she added.
Correspondents say her statement also contained a thinly veiled attack on General Abacha's former government and military colleagues.
"Government is a collective reponsibility," she said, adding that her husband did not work alone.
However, a senior government official dismissed Maryam Abacha's comments as a calculated attempt to win a reprieve from the incoming government of General Olusegun Obasanjo, who was jailed by General Abacha.