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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 06/98: After Abacha  
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After Abacha Thursday, 18 February, 1999, 15:28 GMT
Obituary: Abacha leader with an iron grip
sani abacha
General Abacha: resisted pressure for democracy
Foreign Affairs Correspondent Fergus Nicoll, looks back at the rule of Nigerian military leader, General Sani Abacha:

When General Sani Abacha emerged from obscurity in November 1993 to take over the presidency, he was the latest in a long line of military rulers in post-independence Nigeria.

Like his predecessors, he was determined to maintain an iron grip on power. In his inaugural address to the nation, he said his government would be firm and humane - though critics said the latter was never a priority.

Quelling of dissent amongst the Ogoni people in Nigeria's oil-rich delta region led to the execution of nine Ogoni activists, including the internationally-recognised writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa.

But the incident showed how resistant General Abacha was to pressure from both within and outside the country for more accountability and democracy in government.

Nigeria's only penalties were suspension from the Commonwealth and a range of mostly modest sanctions - none of the measures did anything to loosen the General's grip.

Chief Moshood Abiola
Chief Moshood Abiola: said to have won 1993 election
Nor have pro-democracy activists made any progress in achieving the restoration of Chief Mashood Abiola, who was believed to have won the democratic 1993 elections, annulled by the military.

As for General Abacha, he proved himself to be a master of political craftsmanship by establishing a peculiarly Nigerian version of democracy. He created five political parties, then had them all approve his unopposed candidacy for an elected presidency.

There were the usual noises of disapproval from the international community, but - illness aside - General Abacha would certainly have got away with it.

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 ON THIS STORY
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General Abacha's inaugaural address in Nigeria
BBC News
BBC World's Jim Fish: "A reclusive figure who rarely left Abuja"
See also:

08 Jun 98 | Africa
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