If the Abacha repressive regime were a soccer team, Professor Ibrahim Gambari would be one of the “1st eleven players” or at least a quarter back on the reserve bench in the government squad.
Though Abacha didn’t play soccer, he certainly sat on a killer squad that faced down members of the opposition-all lovers of democracy, and ordinary Nigerians in and out of Nigeria-while his bestial reign lasted, in addition to Abacha Professor Gambari has served almost all the dictators that has scorched the piece of earth known as Nigeria.
Professor Ibrahim Gambari, who some people claim is an intelligent man, used his ‘intelligence’ to defend the draconian policies of the Abacha regime while he was Nigeria’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations. He was one of Abacha’s equivalents of the “goebel” representing the infamous dictator with vigor and a propensity that could only be found in fascist Italy of old. He was once quoted as saying, “Nigerians don’t need democracy because democracy is not food. It is not their priority now.” As more pressure mounted on the Abacha regime from all corners of the world, Professor Gambari became more notorious and ruthless in defending and deflecting attacks against the Abacha dictatorship.
I remember his many appearances on cable news channels, especially after Abacha murdered environmentalist and author, Ken Saro-Wiwa following what can be described as a kangaroo trial. Professor Gambari stoically denied that the Abacha regime had committed a crime; he labeled Saro-Wiwa a “common criminal” who had engaged in the murder of some Ogoni elders. It was Gambari and Tom Ikimi who went all over the world to convince and blackmail governments of nations opposed to the killing of Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8. They tried in vain to convince the governments of some countries, but it was also clear that they might have succeeded in blackmailing some countries into silence or acquiescence. There are claims that Professor Ibrahim Gambari had access to the Nigerian treasury; he had limitless resources to do what ever he wanted in the name of protecting the Abacha regime, no wonder he was able to pay for the juicy properties sold by the Federal government in Ikoyi recntly.
After the demise of Abacha, his other co-dictators and collaborators were put in their place: Call it the Nigerian Hall of Shame. Professor Ibrahim Gambari has not been touched; he has not been called to account. Unlike the Usenis, Mustapha, and Gwarzo, he did not appear before the hapless “Oputa Panel” to explain his ignominious role. Instead he was elevated by Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary-General, to the position of Under-Secretary and Special Adviser on Africa at the UN. The reasons are not far-fetched. Kofi Annan wasn’t too keen on democratization efforts in Nigeria; he was already in cahoots with the Abacha regime through his son, Kodjo, who was involved in the oil business in Nigeria. Kodjo lives a life of opulence in Lagos. There had been rumors Gambari was the link between Abacha, Annan and their businesses.
Even after the death of Abacha, Kofi Annan’s visits to Nigeria were primarily to prevail on Chief M.K.O Abiola to forget about his June 12 mandate. He didn’t care about Abiola’s freedom so he quietly went to meet him in jail and asked him to ‘fuggetabutit.’ It is a known fact that Prof. Gambari had already briefed Annan adequately about the “real deal” and shortly after Kofi visited Abiola, Chief Anyaoku followed, then the Brits and then the Americans and the rest is now painful history.
It is intriguing that Professor Gambari has now become a darling of so many Nigerian organizations. Honors are pouring in from everywhere and he is getting awards and making speeches all over the place. Recently a group named “World Congress of Afenifere” invited people to come toNewark, New Jersey to listen to a Gambari lecture. I didn’t know what to think, except the reminder that even the leader of the Yoruba race, Chief Abraham Adesanya, was in the company of General Abubakar when he came to commission the now defunct “AbubakarA. Abdusalami Lecture Series” at the Chicago State University in 2001. For this program General Abubakar had committed a lot of money described by the Chicago State University President, Dr. Elnora Daniel as”largesse”, this he gave from his ill-gotten wealth. Shortly after the Chicago imbroglio, Dr. Conteh, who was the brain behind the lecture series was relieved of his plum job at CSU and the “Abubakar Lecture Series” died a natural death. I am proud to say I was there at CSU with Lanre Banjo, Pete Sophie, Kayode Oladele, members of Amnesty International, USA, and many more Nigerians from all over the United States to protest the “beautification” of Abubakar. In the milieu that ensued Abubakar was served a court summons that accused him of human rights violations, and ever since he has not been seen parading US universities in search of a dubious legacy and undeserved honors. The case against Gen. Abubakar has advanced tremendously at the U.S. Appeals Court, Circuit Seven. The court reached a decision on the case between Abubakar, Enahoro, and others (case #03-3089 on May 23, 2005). The 31-page decision of the appellate court presided by Justices Cudahy, Kannes, and Evans concluded that the Abubakar case should be referred to trial.
For Professor Ibrahim Gambari, he seems to have escaped justice both locally and internationally. He can always claim that he was just a diplomat doing his job. But, since the days of the Nuremberg trials such arguments no longer hold water.
Professor Gambari is getting bolder by the day, and as such on June 12, 2005, Professor Gambari, according to sources at the UN, is going to make a speech at a weeklong event tagged “Medgar Week” being organized by the Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York according to the . It is not clear why the college has not put the information on its website as at press time. They know all too well that Professor Gambari is to Nigerians here in the US, the equivalent of what David Duke (a white supremacist) would mean to African Americans.
It has become clear that the day, “June 12” has some sanctity to Nigerians everywhere in the world. I have no doubt that Medgar Wiley Evers a committed civil rights leader will be turning in his grave right now, certainly Abiola must be boiling with rage wherever he is and definitely the date “June 12” should never be the party day for shenanigans and collaborators.
This article was first published in 2005.