Opinion: Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha – The genealogy of African kleptocracy

by Adeolu Ademoyo


So while  the Abacha Jnrs have rights to defend Abacha Snr-their father who used prebendalism to steal over 4 billion dollars of Nigerian resources as head of state, there is no doubt that  their defense of Abacha Snr’s prebendalism shows that Sadiq and Gumsu being beneficiaries of the systematic prebendalism of their father Sani Abacha, they must be well nurtured “junior”

In September 2012 when another scandal of the now well known -family run Nigerian corruption –the oil subsidy theft- broke out I wrote an essay titled “Bamangar Tukur, Arisekola Alao, Their Children And Oil Subsidy” In the essay I asked a simple question: “And in the specific sense of children of oil subsidy theft  to what extent are parents of oil subsidy thieving children  culpable? In other words, to what extent are Mr. Bamangar Tukur and Mr. Aríṣekọ́lá Àlàó culpable of the alleged oil subsidy theft of their children?

Then and now I believe the parents of oil subsidy thieves and other corrupt Nigerian parents  contribute either vicariously or fully to the  thieving ethics of their children.  My position is based on the view that lineage and family relations sustain Nigerian rogue state such that both children and parents are invested though unequally  in their predatory acts on the Nigerian treasury through corruption.  Some Nigerians disagreed then including one of my good friends a serving  Senator  from the western part of the country.

I refer to the honorable Senator not because I think he has done anything untoward, which I know of. I mention him  for specific reason because if someone like him disagree with the framework that Nigeria is a rogue state    run by a few  thieving families where both children and parents are implicated even though disproportionately, then we are in big moral trouble. Given Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha’s dubious defense of their daddy’s (Sani Abacha) dishonorable  rogue legacy I wonder if the honorable Senator will still stand by his position then.

Today, the same question is applicable to children of rogue heads of state. Our present focus is one of Nigerian rogue heads of state Sani Abacha. Reversing the question is appropriate. But  I am interested in one  question in this essay. The question is : to what extent have Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha’s “rebuttals” prove that their father was not a rogue?

While Nigerians know that the looting of public resources in Nigeria is done on family lines, children of Nigerian rogue families have always been hidden from public glare basically because  most of the times they have been ferried abroad to universities with Nigerian stolen funds only to return and be arranged and recycled  to occupy prized public posts. You may say this is the case of having your cake and eating it.

But the case of Sadiq Abacha and Gumsu Abacha is quite interesting since they have publicly and boldly stepped forward to defend their father’s rogue  and Kleptocratic  legacy. Since the case is already in the public domain, Nigerians have legitimate rights just as Sadiq and Gumsu do  to engage the issue with no holds barred.

Sadiq had responded to one of the Nigerians who pointedly articulated the moral  position of Nigerians against honoring thieves such as Sani Abacha. One of these moral voices is Wole Soyinka.

Sadiq and Gumsu, the junior Abachas have rights under the law to defend the rogue legacy of their father-Abacha Snr.  But more importantly,  with the Abachas, there are certain things here beyond  formal law, which help us understand  their position. Those things are the   “Filial, Kindred Fraternal”-the FKF. In other words being children of  a kleptocrat, there is a Filial,  Kindred and Fraternal basis for them to defend their father.

On FKF as a network of corruption in African states, many scholars have discussed  how the network of theft of public resources and looting of public  treasuries in African societies and other societies by state and non-state persons is sustained by a network of family: Filial, Kindred and Fraternal (FKF) relationships.

An extension of this family sustained  primitive  theft of public resources through a system sustained  by network of blood relatives, which the Abacha Jnrs are shamelessly defending,  is called  “prebendalism”.  Richard  A. Joseph, a professor and former director of the Program of African Studies at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, conceptualized this reality.

Richard  Joseph uses the concept to  explain the depth of corruption in Nigeria, which is sustained by a patron-client relationship or neo-patrimonialism. He argues that many people in Nigeria feel they have a “sense of entitlement to the revenues of the Nigerian state. These people include members of ethnic and religious groups, politicians, rulers etc. Joseph wrote “According to the theory of prebendalism, state offices are regarded as prebends that can be appropriated by officeholders, who use them to generate material benefits for themselves and their constituents and kin groups…”[3]

As a result of that kind of patron-client or identity politics, Nigeria has regularly been one of the lowest ranked nations for political transparency by Transparency International in its Corruption Perceptions Index.[4]

So while  the Abacha Jnrs have rights to defend Abacha Snr-their father who used prebendalism to steal over 4 billion dollars of Nigerian resources as head of state, there is no doubt that  their defense of Abacha Snr’s prebendalism shows that Sadiq and Gumsu being beneficiaries of the systematic prebendalism of their father Sani Abacha, they must be well nurtured “junior”  or “baby” “prebendalists” who if given the chance  will repeat and recycle their father’s inglorious legacy of prebendalism, of stealing and looting public resources. This is because for them given what they have written tweeted and published  there is nothing wrong with their father’s prebendalism for prebendalism is self-constituting and self-justifying! Its constituting elements are Filial, Kindred and Fraternal (the FKF) and the logic is family blood, which is said to be  thicker than water.

And this is understandable. Well-oiled family networks sustain corruption in Africa. Please check African dictators and thieves-Idi Amin of Uganda, Muammar Ghaddafi of Libya, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, Marcias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Samuel Doe of Liberia, Jean-Bedel Bokassa  of the Central African Republic, etc.

From the northern part of the continent, during the fall of Ghadaffi,  it is speculated that the network of theft of public resources  in Ghadaffi’s Libya  extended up to Nigeria since  Muammar Ghaddafi himself had kith and kin in the Northern part of Nigeria who are linked to Nigeria thieving family dynasty. This is why  members of the thieving and fleeing Ghaddafi family were  sighted  in the Northern part of the country and given succor locally in Nigeria  after the fall of Ghaddafi. These are facts that are verifiable.  Like Sani Abacha, Muammar Ghaddafi privatized and relocated much of his country’s resources abroad.

Given that corruption in Africa is sustained by the  FKF- relation, “Junior” or “baby”  prebendalists such as Sadiq and Gumsu inherited the proceeds of their father’s prebendalism they must  thus defend him tooth and nail. So a Soyinkaic moral and sharp critique is a major threat to a thieving family legacy. Hence the surviving “baby” prebendalists must fight back  even if illogically. Muammar Ghadaffi’s children did the same in Libya after the fall of their thieving and rogue father.

At this juncture, I invite the  public to the “logic”  of the desperation of the  Abacha “baby” prebendalists as an instance of the things African baby prebendalists do. In doing this a distinction must be drawn between casuistry and logical thinking. Casuistry is a cheat on logic because it uses the appearance of logic to make a presentation when in actual fact there is nothing logical in the presentation.

But we must define our terms strictly and properly as we do this. Validity and soundness are two criteria with which an argument is assessed. This is a universal claim. So the following questions are relevant: In defending his father the senior prebendalist,  did  the baby prebendalist Sadiq  Abacha present an argument? If no, then we stop there. If yes, we ask, is the argument valid? Is it sound? I call baby prebendalist’s presentation casuistry and a cheat on logic because the mere  mentioning of some logical terms means nothing. You have to put those terms together in an argument. Baby prebendalist Sadiq Abacha did not.

Let us take Sadiq Abacha element by element.

He mentioned “Law of Identity”.  We will ignore his muddling through an important tool of thought. In his muddling, he purported to account for the objectivity of facts rather than their relativity. Unfortunately like all prebendalists who suddenly develop amnesia when the fingers are pointed, Sadiq ended relativising facts even when he started out to defend the objectivity of facts.

This are the “fact” the Abacha prebendalist family  wanted Nigerians and Africans to know. Under Sani Abacha’s regime, Nigerian foreign reserve climbed to 9.6 billion dollars in 1998. The following are the facts same Abacha family did not want Nigerians and Africans to know. Under same Sani Abacha regime Nuhu Ribadu said  in London in November 2006, that “Abacha took over $6bn from Nigeria,” and that $2bn of the loot had been recovered. Ribadu repeated the same figure in the same month during the 12th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Guatemela.

Also, recently, Ribadu repeated the same claim in Dakar at the 2nd Annual High Level Dialogue on Governance and Democracy in Africa. As Minister of Finance in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, in 2005 – a year before Ribadu made his claim – at a news conference in Switzerland reportedly said that Nigeria had recovered about $2bn total of asset from Abacha. Today same Mrs. Iweala claimed only $500m was the amount recovered when she was in government. And just last week, the United States government froze 458million dollars of Sani Abacha prebendalist family’s assets abroad.

Let us ignore (I am not saying accept) for the purpose of argument and clarification the usual contradictions among Nigerian ministers and public officials on looted public funds and resources by their fellow class men, women and children, my question is: how did junior prebendalist  Sadiq Abacha “forget” this cold objectivity that his father stole up to 4.3 billion dollars out of which 500m dollars or 2 billion dollars was “recovered” and 458 million dollars are frozen  when Sadiq Abacha was bogusly talking about some “law of identity” in an incoherent and intellectually dubious attempt to account for objectivity of fact?

It seems Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha are uncomfortable with these facts hence they want to relativise them by talking about only AN ASPECT (my father brought foreign reserve to 9.6 billion dollars in 1998) while ignoring THE WHOLE (your father, Sani Abacha stole close to 4.3 billion dollars out of which Nuhu Ribadu said on different occasions that  2 billion was recovered, while the minister for Finance also forgot about this 2 billion and mentioned 500m dollars. And while this was happening the United States government froze about 458million  dollars assets of your prebendalist father. And both you and your prebendalist family are sitting on the unrecoverable part of the Nigerian public money your father stole)

It is intellectually dubious and a moral cheat on fact and logic for Sadiq  Abacha  to purport to talk about objectivity of facts in his incoherent talk about “law of identity” while ending with a relativisation of facts of Nigerian history  in order to suit  the attempt to rehabilitate his disgraced rogue father.  It is only in Nigeria and in Africa that inheritors of a rogue legacy have the moral audacity to talk especially when they are  being honored by  current rogue presidency –Jonathan Goodluck presidency-for the sake of the latter’s political survival.

Law of Excluded Middle.  It seems Sadiq Abacha simply thinks throwing logical terms around implies an argument. The critical thing is that Sadiq’s father Sani Abacha stole close to 4 billion dollars of Nigerian money some of which Sadiq and  Gumsu Abacha and their mother Mrs. Abacha in Kano Northern Nigeria still sit on as inheritors of stolen Nigerian  money. So how does the Law of Excluded Middle disprove this?

If the ill digested reference to the law of excluded middle by “baby” prebendalist  Sadiq Abacha is to show that Soyinka  created the FRSC under Ibrahim Babangida’s regime, the point is how does that ill digested reference show that Sadiq’s father is not a thief? If Sadiq is aiming for an argument this might be one of  the arguments “You Soyinka created FRSC under IBB therefore my father is not a thief..”

Or is it that “You Soyinka created FRSC under IBB, therefore you cannot criticize my thieving father?” Whichever one prebendalist  “logician” Sadiq Abacha  chooses, it is a dead end. Any of my children will throw this out as silly, and incompetent and will say simply “It does not follow-period”, for what logical connection is there between the fact that someone X created FRSC under another thieving dictator –IBB and that (i) either your father-Sani Abacha  is a thief or that (ii) that person cannot  show that your father is a thief?   Again, it is only in Nigeria where education is in complete ruins caused  by  the prebendalism of a few roguish Nigerian families such as the Sani Abacha family that this will make rational “sense”

Law of Contradiction.  I read and re-read Sadiq Abacha’s  inchoate and ill digested allusion to law of contradiction to see if he  Sadiq Abacha understood what it means, I could not see  that  his post showed any understanding of what this means in the context of the rogue legacy of his dear father. The principal issue is the Kleptocratic  character of someone called Sani Abacha. Now suppose it is  claimed that X a person called Soyinka contradicts himself, my question is:  how does that show that a person called Sani Abacha is not a thief?

But  given that Sani Abacha father  belongs to the conclave of Nigerian rogue families who use the Filial-Kindred-Fraternal as a network of prebendalism to loot, it will be legitimate to say that we should  talk about all the Nigerian rogue families-both known and unknown, both past and present- who steal public funds and use the proceeds to set up their children both at home and abroad  just like  rogue father Sani Abacha did for Sadiq and  Gumsu Abacha.

But to suggest that an ill digested notion of law of contradiction   proves that   Sani Abacha is not a rogue must be a serious display of casuistry and a basic cheat on reason.  Again, it is only in an African “intellectual” terrain where education is in tatters that this will make rational “sense”. In other words, it does not follow. You have not and  cannot use your mere mentioning of a law of thought to prove that  your father Sani Abacha was not a rogue, which he was.

Into the middle of the essay, Sadiq Abacha appealed to emotions and pity by asking Nigerians to come together. My question is : come together for what when Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha  as  children of a rogue are sitting pretty fat on  the unrecovered and unrecoverable (given the way their rogue father must have dodged the funds) Nigerian public fund? Sadiq and Gumsu  need to look Nigerians straight in the face and disclose the locations of the rest of Nigerian money their rogue father took out and must have placed in their care.

Deliberately for the  purpose of an argument and clarity, I put it out there that my  own children and their mother  are not inheritors of stolen Nigerian public funds and will never be for I will never touch public funds like Sani Abacha did. Let every Nigerian parent say the same. Having said this I ask pointedly if  Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha will expect Nigerian children  who are not beneficiaries of stolen funds like them to sit down with them and children of other Nigerian rogue families  from all Nigerian ethnic groups and talk while these inheritors, these baby prebendalists  are sitting fat  on stolen public funds?

To Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha and other children of Nigerian rogue families, what will Nigerian children who are not inheritors  and beneficiaries of stolen public funds say to you and your children who are inheritors and beneficiaries of a rogue legacy and stolen public funds in such morally dubious  call of “coming together”? Let us pat one another on the shoulder “forget” the past while you sit on stolen funds and move on?  What will children who are not inheritors of stolen public money, who are not baby prebendalists   say to children of Nigerian rogue families, baby prebendalists in such “coming together”?

And for those who may say that this is too much, I retort without any apology that  the failure to be blunt with ourselves is the core of the moral failure in public governance in Nigeria and in Africa

Now I have a simple last conclusion. Hypothetically speaking as we say in an argument, suppose all what Sadiq Abacha  claim in his  reference to the laws of thought are true, what validly follow? In general does it follow that their  father –Sani Abacha-was not a rogue?  In specific terms does it follow that it is wrong to talk about one rogue,  one prebendalist –Sani Abacha and not all  Nigerian rogues  and  prebendalists?

The point is that  shocked  by the sharp moral rejection of their father’s thieving legacy and prebendalism by most Nigerians who still believe in the possibility of a morally just Nigeria, the baby prebendalists  Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha needed to tweet and  shift the conversation.  And the way they have done that is to again conduct another form of cheating. This time it is  a cheat on logic, reality, and historical and empirically verifiable facts of Nigerian history. They attempted to cheat on the laws of thought. But the laws of thought are what they are. They are un-amenable to the new cheating of the junior prebendalists of a rogue legacy such as that of Sani Abacha. Sadiq and Gumsu Abacha should therefore look for another way to cheat.


This article was published with permission from Premium Times Newspapers


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