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The True Story of General Sani Abacha

By Folu Shaw
  • The 1966 Coup against Ironsi
  • The 1975 Coup Against Gowon
  • The 1983 Coup Against Shagari
  • The 1985 Coup Against Buhari
  • The 1993 Coup Against Shonekan

One man participated in ALL the successful coup plots in Nigeria until he became President. One Man removed 5 Nigerian presidents. His name is Sani Abacha.

A lot of you may know his name mostly from the never-ending “Abacha Loot” that Nigeria keeps receiving from foreign countries. Yes, he did steal about 5 billion dollars which we have recovered. But today, I’ll tell you the story of a great soldier, an efficient coup plotter and a killer.

Let’s start with the Ugly Stuff

Abacha was a professional soldier and a damn good one at that. He was a man of few words but when it came to security, survival and killing his enemies (real and perceived) He was the very best.

The list of people Abacha reportedly had killed and attempted to kill is LONG:

  1. Mrs Kudirat Abiola – Killed
  2. General Shehu Yar’Adua – Killed
  3. Chief Alfred Rewane – Killed
  4. Dr Shola Omasola – Killed
  5. Rear Admiral Elegbede – Killed
  6. Admiral Omotenhinwa – Killed
  7. Chief Mrs Bisoye Tejuosho – Killed
  8. Alhaji Suliat Adedeji – Killed
  9. Toyin Onagoruwa – Killed
  10. Dr Sola Omatsola – Killed
  11. Tunde Oladepo – Killed
  12. Olusegun Obasanjo – Attempted
  13. Abraham Adesanya – Attempted
  14. Bola Ige – Attempted
  15. Olu Falae – Attempted
  16. Beko Ransome Kuti – Attempted
  17. Gen. Oladipo Diya – Attempted
  18. Anthony Enahoro – Attempted
  19. Prof. Wole Soyinka – Attempted
  20. Bola Tinubu – Attempted (Twice)
The True Story of General Sani Abacha
General Sani Abacha

A squad of highly skilled assassins were maintained by Abacha in Aso Rock to eliminate all real and perceived threats to his Dictatorship.

They were called The Strike Force

Led and commanded by Abacha’s Chief Security Officer, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha. The Ultimate Boogeyman of the Abacha Regime

Al Mustapha like his boss was also a thorough, ruthless and professional soldier. Under his command were:

  1. The Brigade of Guards (BGs)
  2. The Strike Force (SFs)
  3. The Military Police (MPs)

The True Story of General Sani Abacha

300 men were in the Brigade of Guards.

80 men recruited from mostly the Police, NIA, SSS and the military made up the Strike Force.

They were trained by the Israeli ‘Mossad’, Gaddafi’s Security in Libya and the North Korean military of Kim Il Sung.

Their job was simple, kill Abacha’s enemies.

The most FAMOUS Member of The Strike Force was Barnabas Jabila Mshelia, Code name; Sergeant Rogers.

The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Barnabas Jabila Mshelia aka Sergeant Rogers

Local and foreign elements allegedly wanted Abacha out or dead and the Strike Force was assembled, trained and commanded by Al Mustapha to go after them. And fast!

Al Mustapha like his boss was very skilled at sniffing out coup plots. They foiled 8 coup attempts in 5 years.

Sergeant Rogers and the strike force also assassinated a number of so-called ‘threats’ seen below:

  • Kudirat Olayinka Abiola
  • Pa Alfred Rewane
  • General Shehu Yar’Adua
  • Chief Mrs Bisoye Tejuosho
The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Kudirat Olayinka Abiola, Pa Alfred Rewane, General Shehu Yar’Adua, and Chief Mrs Bisoye Tejuosho

Rogers confessed to having participated in 3 assassination operations on the orders of his Commanding Officer, Major Al Mustapha.

  1. Alex Ibru – Feb 2, 1996
  2. Kudirat Abiola – Jun 4, 1996
  3. Abraham Adesanya – Jan 14, 1997
The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Alex Ibru, Kudirat Abiola and Abraham Adesanya

He shot Alex Ibru in the eye in Ikoyi and killed Kudirat in Traffic in Ikeja but Pa Adesanya survived.

Details of the attempts on their lives

1a) The hit on Alex Ibru was done on Falomo Bridge in Ikoyi, Lagos. He was shot in the eye by Rogers. He was flown abroad. His eye was replaced and he lived another 15 long years. But why was Alex Ibru marked for death? It all started with one of his many Business Enterprises – The Guardian Nigeria.

1b) Alex Ibru started Guardian Newspaper in 1983 based on an idea brought to him by Chief Olusegun Osoba, a journalist at the time and later 3-time Governor of Ogun state for almost 10 years. The Ibrus were wealthy. Alex was particularly on another level. He owned the Federal Palace Hotel and Sheraton in Lagos Expansion into Media was inevitable.

1c) By 1993, Abacha sent Gen. Chris Alli, and Gen Olanrewaju to convince Alex to join Abacha’s government as Minister of Internal Affairs. Alex refused their offer. Later He sent Chief Ebenezer Babatope who explained that Abacha wanted notable Southerners in his government to ensure balance.

The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Gen Chris Alli and Gen Olanrewaju

1d) Alex Ibru accepted. While he worked for Abacha, his newspaper was highly critical of the Military Government and on 14 Aug 1994, Abacha shut them down.

1e) As Minister, Alex’s portfolio included Customs, Immigration and Prisons, now known as Internal Affairs. He was also the Vice Chair of the Provisional Ruling Council, PRC. In 1990, A fellow Deltan; Great Ogboru organised the failed Orkar coup that almost killed IBB (Head of State Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida) in Dodan barracks in Lagos and escaped to London via Seme border with the help of his Brother Turner Ogboru. Turner was caught and imprisoned. Alex negotiated his release with the PRC (Provisional Ruling Council).

The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Great Ogboru and Turner Ogboru

1f) When Major Hamza Al Mustapha heard about Abacha’s approval for Turner to be released, he convinced The C-in-C NOT to release him, even though Femi Falana had got a high court order to free him. Abacha instructed Alex Ibru to keep Turner in Prison but he had already been released. Abacha was Mad! Very upset!

1g) Abacha told Alex that what he did was Treason. And that was how Alex Ibru, Abacha’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General; Olu Onagoruwa who signed the release were marked for Death. On 18 Dec 1996, Olu Onagoruwa’s Son Toyin was assassinated.

The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Olu Onagoruwa and his son, Toyin Onagoruwa

2a) Kudirat Olayinka Abiola was MKO Abiola’s 2nd wife. She had 7 of MKO Abiola’s alleged 113 kids;

  • Hasfat
  • Jamiu
  • Abdul
  • Miriam
  • Khalifa
  • Lekan
  • Hadi

Sgt. Rogers and 5 others killed her on 4 June 1996 in her White Mercedes Benz by a gunshot to the forehead on the former Oregun Road in Ikeja which was renamed Kudirat Abiola Way.

2b) Kudirat Abiola was a woman with more balls than most men. She stayed and fought Abacha when most men (President Bola Ahmed Tinubu inclusive) fled Nigeria. In 1994, she led oil workers (NUPENG and PENGASSAN) to start a 12-week strike, oil revenues dwindled, and Abacha didn’t like her audacity. In Dec 1995, she faced bullets alongside Chief Anthony Enahoro during the March for Freedom protest in Lagos!

The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Kudirat Olayinka Abiola

2c) She was killed using an FN P90 submachine gun, Belgian Specification as seen below.

Sgt. Rogers’ weapon of choice fires 1000 rounds per minute, is easily concealed and specifically made for special forces, covert and counterterrorism operations. Kudirat didn’t stand a chance.

The True Story of General Sani Abacha
FN P90 submachine gun, Belgian Specification

2d) Kudirat Abiola had survived two assassination attempts by the same Strike Force. The 3rd and final attempt was code-named “Operation Cika Aiki” which literally translates to ‘Finish The Job’ in Hausa. She was a deep thorn in the flesh of the Abacha regime. RIP to a Hero of Nigeria’s Democracy.

Sgt Rogers confessed to killing Kudirat Abiola at the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission aka Oputa Panel instituted by President Olusegun Obasanjo.

3a) Pa Abraham Adesanya: Assassination attempts are never funny but Pa Adesanya made light of Sgt Rogers’ attempt to kill him. Even Rogers was perplexed how this man didn’t die. Baba told everyone that he was Ijebu and left it at that..Rogers confirmed he and his colleague Aminu Muhammed fired over 40 bullets at Pa Adesanya’s Mercedes Benz (Plate No: Ogun AE 3775 GB) at Total Petrol Station (Then Elf) near Sura Market on Lagos Island. Pa Adesanya and his driver escaped unhurt. Pa Abraham Adesanya’s Mercedes Benz was totally bulletproof!

The True Story of General Sani Abacha
Pa Abraham Adesanya

3b) Why did Abacha want to Kill Pa Abraham Adesanya? The annulment of the June 12 election which MKO Abiola won, the advocacy for the restoration of democracy and his Mandate were the reasons why many pro-democracy movements like NADECO decided to fight Abacha. Pa Adesanya was at the forefront!

A Nigerian Hero of Democracy!

In conclusion, Sani Abacha can be said to be many things; A Dictator, A Tyrant, A Coup Plotter or a Killer. They would all be right. But one thing we must never forget is that he was a SOLDIER!

Besides survival, A soldier is trained to kill and he; Sani Abacha was damn good at it.

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