How Late Gen. Abacha Died, His Personal Doctor Shed More Light on his Mysterious Death


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Professor Sadiq Suleiman Wali was General
Sani Abacha’s personal doctor. Professor
Wali spoke to the press, revealing the details
of Abacha’s sudden death seventeen years
after his mysterious demise.
An event in 1998 has changed the Nigerian
history. By June 1998 Sani Abacha had
ruled Nigeria for almost five years. Isolated
by the West, Abacha had promised
democratic election and a transition to the
civilian rule by October 1998, but with just
months to go the country’s five licensed
political parties all nominated general
Abacha as their candidate for president, his
rule looked set to continue.Professor Sadiq
Suleiman Wali was General Sani Abacha’s
personal doctor. Professor Wali describes
Abacha as “a quiet person, calm person. He
could be really firm on some issues, but
normally he didn’t talk much. ” Professor
Wali has served as physician to the three
previous Nigerian heads of state after being
reluctantly recruited to that role in the early
1980-s. He considered himself politically
neutral and lived outside the sprawling
heavily guarded presidential complex known
as Aso Rock in the capital Abuja. But he was
a fixture in the presidential entourage.
Professor Wali says Abacha’s health was OK
just before his death. “ Abacha was generally
healthy though he had some health issues,
he was treated, he’s responded [to that
treatment] very well. He didn’t have any
heart-related diseases at that time. ” On the
7 of June, 1998 Wali’d been with Abacha,
as he hosted the Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat and all seemed well. The next
morning General Sani Abacha was due to fly
to the OAU summit being held in Burkina-
Faso and professor Wali was due to go with
him. Professor Wali recounts that “ around 6
am I had a phone call from his security
officers, and they said, “please come, come
to the villa, come urgently!” Before I even
could get ready, they came and picked me. I
had no idea what it all was about. ” The car
carrying the doctor sped towards the
presidential villa through a special entrance
– a shortcut which only the president was
allowed to use.The doctor realised
something was seriously wrong.
“I arrived then I saw chief security there and
he said “doctor come in, please, come in!”
We all rushed and I just saw the president.
There was another doctor who came earlier,
resuscitating him. Abacha was in the sitting
room. He was on the couch. He was in his
normal work clothes. I didn’t panic. I’ve
seen a lot of serious problems before in my
practice, but to affect him was very tough,
definitely. I joined and we did as much as we
could to resuscitate him. But I realised that
he was dead because he was firming. We
just continued resuscitation and even
injected some things, but it didn’t work.”
After 40 minutes trying to resuscitate the
stricken General Professor Wali declared that
General Abacha had died. “I said, sorry –
there’s nothing we can do” . There was no
immediate public announcement, in the
country prone to coups Abacha’s head of
security first increased the guard around the
presidential complex and then called the
heads of the armed forces to gather to
decide on the replacement. “Immediately the
security officer took over, and he invited all
the service chiefs to come to Abuja, by then
most of them were based in Lagos. ” says
doctor Wali. When the service chiefs arrived,
some of them asked to see the body to pay
their respect to their former leader “They
wanted to make sure, that he is dead. And
some of them were crying” – tells Wali.
Professor informed the family of what have
happened. Obviously, the sudden death of
an apparently healthy head of state raised a
few questions. Professor Wali was
determined that there should be an autopsy
to find out what caused the sudden heart
attack. After much deliberating, the family
declined, preferring the quick burial in line
with Islamic tradition. But the doctor was
determined to find some clues as to what
have happened. “I still try to take some
samples of blood and urine and hair and
things like that, just thinking for the future
chemical tests,”
Professor Wali said, adding that “ it’s very
difficult to say [whether he died of natural
causes]. What I can see. The blood test we
did, has shown some raised cardiac
enzymes [proteins that are released into the
blood by dying heart muscles].That’s why
we thought maybe it was cardiac attack .”
Every Nigerian has his own theory about
what happened to General Abacha. There
are rumours that he has been poisoned, or
that he spent a night entertaining young
ladies. Professor Wali conmented on those
rumours that “when I entered [Abacha’s
premises], there were no ladies. It might be
true but I did not see them. Concerning the
poison, as I said no post-mortem has been
done, so I couldn’t assure whether he was
poisoned or it was a heart attack .”
While the generals deliberated on who would
take over, plans were made to take
Abacha’s body in his hometown of Kano
later that day. It was decided to finally tell
the public what had happened. But the
mystery around Abacha’s death still remains
seventeen years after his sudden and
unexpected demise.


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