General Sani Abacha is pretty hard to forget for different reasons to different generations of Nigerians. Those that were alive in the 1990s remember him as the brutal dictator that turned Nigeria into a terrifying hellscape. The Abacha regime served human rights abuses for breakfast and political assassinations for dinner.
But younger generations of Nigerians remember him as the thief who stole so much that, every three Eke market days, a bunch of Abacha loot is still being discovered in the most random places on the planet. He’s now regarded as a sugar daddy whose past loot is making its way back to Nigeria in the present.
Regardless of which generation is passing judgement, a lot of people can agree that the Sani Abacha years weren’t such a great time for Nigeria. So, of course, it was going to raise eyebrows that an Abacha is contesting for public office in a democratic Nigeria.
Enter Mohammed Abacha
When he suddenly died in 1998, Sani Abacha left behind six sons and three daughters. Mohammed Abacha is the eldest surviving son of the late dictator and has had an interesting life since his father’s death. On May 26th 2022, he won the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to contest in the Kano State governorship election in 2023.
First, a backstory
Sani Abacha stole billions of dollars, and he did it with help from friends, close associates and family members. And his son, Mohammed, who’s been a central figure implicated in his late father’s thieving activities, was arrested in 1999 by the government of Olusegun Obasanjo over corruption and money laundering allegations. When he was released in 2002, the government announced that it was based on an agreement that required the Abacha family to return more than $1 billion stolen from Nigeria. That deal also allowed the Abacha family to keep the sum of $100 million they claimed was acquired before Sani Abacha took over Nigeria in 1993.
Mohammed was also arraigned in court for alleged involvement in the Abacha government’s assassination of Kudirat Abiola but was acquitted by the Supreme Court before the commencement of trial.
Man’s the proverbial cat with nine lives.
Now, about Abacha’s political career
The first thing to know about Mohammed’s political career is that this isn’t the first time he’s contesting to become the governor of Kano. He’s been trying to get into power long before anyone ever came up with the idea for TikTok.
His first serious stab at running for office was in 2011. He was a member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) which you may remember as the party of a certain Muhammadu Buhari at the time. In fact, Abacha’s wife and Mohammed’s mother, Maryam, said in an interview in 2014 that her son became a member of the party due to Buhari’s influence.
Dictator. President. Influencer — work rate >>>
Mohammed won the CPC’s ticket in a primary election, but the party submitted the name of another aspirant, Lawal Ja’afaru Isa. The younger Abacha’s attempt to fight this in court ended in failure, and Maryam wasn’t happy with Buhari over this.
Mohammed wouldn’t take no for an answer, so he contested again in 2015. But he withdrew from the race just before the PDP’s primary election for unexplained reasons. But he didn’t stop there.
Mohammed was a bit luckier in 2019 when he won the ticket of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA). He was finally on the ballot for the governorship election and it seemed to be his time to shine. More than 2.2 million people voted in that election, but Mohammed ended up with only 3,035 votes.
So, what now?
Even though Mohammed won the PDP’s governorship ticket, he’s currently not the party’s only candidate for the election.
This situation of two winners is made possible only through the magic known as “parallel elections”. But what does that even mean? Well, PDP had a civil war of personalities that created two opposing factions in the party. The two factions then went ahead to organise separate elections with different winners.
Mohammed won the PDP’s ticket in a contest against one other aspirant, Jafar Sani Bello. Sadiq Wali, the son of a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, won the other election which was organised at the Sani Abacha Youth Center in Kano. You can’t make this kind of irony up.
What’s left now is for the PDP to decide whose name will be submitted to INEC as the authentic candidate. This means that Mohammed must be praying that whatever happened in 2011 with CPC doesn’t repeat itself in 2022 with PDP.