Maryam Abacha: I Brought Buhari Into Politics

•Maryam Abacha

She hardly speaks to the press. Since her husband died in 1998, she has been living a very quiet life, at first in Kano and now in Abuja. In this rare interview with ABUBAKAR HASHIM, Maryam Abacha speaks on key national and international issues, paying tribute to the late President of Sierra Leone, Tejan Kabbah, whom her late husband, Gen. Sani Abacha, restored  to power in 1998

How has life been with you since the death of your husband?

We thank God for His kindness and love for us. We also thank those that have been around us in these moments of grief. We are still waiting for those that have distanced themselves from us to reconcile and come back. We are not angry with anybody. We are still friends to everybody. We look forward to the Almighty Allah to provide us the fortitude to bear this loss. So life has been quiet and peaceful with us. We are one and a happy family.

•Maryam Abacha
•Maryam Abacha

When you heard of his sudden death, how did you take it? How did you feel?

My husband’s death was like a coup. It was sudden and shrouded in confusion. General Abdulasalami [Abubakar] just called me, telling me to come and collect the dead body. We buried him like any other ordinary Nigerian. It was quite unfortunate the way he died. Allah knows best and unto Him we shall all return. May his soul rest in peace. I’m yet to fully recover from the shock of his death.

And how did you both meet?

Like any other would-be couple. He was a charming, handsome and likeable personality; a loving father who liked his children and loved ones. We became friends and got married. Here are pictures in the family album; before, during and after our wedding day. He was a caring husband, a dedicated father and an affectionate grandfather.

President Goodluck Jonathan awarded your late husband a centenary award. How did you feel receiving the award?

We felt happy. Maybe this is the beginning of good things to happen to Nigeria; maybe reconciliation… President Jonathan is a young man, he is using his time and energy to bring peace and reconciliation. I think it is high time we all come together to lift the country and stabilise ourselves. I hope it is the beginning of good things to come.

Do you still continue with the pet projects you embarked on when you were first lady?

I did those projects on government basis. They are still on there. Obasanjo did not change the names, neither did subsequent [Presidents]. The African First Ladies Peace Mission is still there, the Poverty Alleviation Programme, the National Programme on Immunisation, the Family Support Programme, the Family Support Basic Education Programme and the Family Economic Advancement Programme are all there. These are projects and programmes that touched the lives of the people, particularly women.

Maryam with her late husband, Gen. Sani Abacha
Maryam with her late husband, Gen. Sani Abacha

The National Hospital is there and so are the other hospitals around the country. I never did  any programme for my personnal benefit, but for the government and the people of the country. So today, in my personnal capacity, on whether I’m still embarking on these projects, I’m no longer in government so I’m not embarking on such projects. I tried my best as the then first lady to bring about all-round development, particularly for women in the rural areas. We did extensive reach-out to the rural populace and touched lives in the remote areas of the country.

Do you have any political ambition?

No, I don’t have any political ambition.

For the presidency, at least; the first woman President of Nigeria?

Not at all. I was a first lady. I just want peace for the country. Stability and development are not achieved by one person. There are governors, ministers, local chairmen, civil servants and the like. It is a cluster of people. The President alone does not make a government.

What is your assessment of General Muhammadu Buhari, and by extension, the All Progressives Congress, APC?

I brought General Buhari into politics; It’s not that I want to expose him. We did everything to support and encourage him. He called my son Mohammed to join Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. They rejected Mohammed by force during the governorship race. This was the trend, not only in Kano, but also in Katsina, Bauchi and other states. I think it is not healthy for democracy; not just because of Mohammed but for the smooth play of democratic norms and values. Democracy is the choice of the people. But when people put their own personal interest first and they interfere [in the process], then it is no longer democracy. It is unfortunate that elders like them could come belittle themselves in the race.

For the APC I cannot comment. It is not yet time for me to do so. However, it is good for democracy to have competition and opposition. It enhances democratic values, norms and stabilises the country’s image, and will eventually uplift our democratic credentials in the international comity of nations.

Your son, Mohammed, wanted to be governor of Kano State.

It is the people of Kano that wanted my son to be governor. They still want him to be governor. They’ve been calling us to come and intensify his campaign. In fact, they are even campaigning on his behalf. So it is people of Kano that want him as governor because they appreciate his father’s contribution to various fields of  endeavour.

They also appreciate the little projects and programmes I did in Kano and in the country. They say he should come and continue the projects and programmes in Kano.

The late General Sani Abacha contributed to the restoration of democracy in Sierra Leone. Could you comment on the role he played in the process.

I cannot tell you exactly how he played this role as I was not a soldier, I was just a housewife. But he tried his best for Sierra Leone and thank God it was a success and indeed, peace returned to Sierra Leone. The late Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was restored to power. It was indeed a tragedy to hear about  his death recently. He was an African statesman of international repute.

I remember one of his visits [to Nigeria] after he was restored to office; he was so calm, amiable and indeed, supportive of a just pan-African solution to African crises. He was indeed, a true democrat of continental proportion. My late husband honoured him and appreciated him.

What message do you have for the people of Sierra Leone on the death of Kabbah?

I send my sympathy, my condolence and my prayers. May God give them peace, may God give them the fortitude to bear the great loss of the father of democracy in that country. May God give the present president, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the power to emulate what the previous president had done, particularly entrenching stability, peace and democracy in Sierra Leone. I wish President Koroma all the best. He is a young man.

I wish the people of Sierra Leone all the best. I have never been there but I hope to be there in my lifetime. I learnt it is a small and beautiful country with about six million people, with lots of natural resources including diamond and oil. May God Almighty grant the late President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah eternal rest. May Allah also grant my late husband eternal rest. Nigeria and Sierra Leone have a long, historical relationship.

We look forward to building on the strong ties that have cemented us for so long a period. That was why my late husband stood by Sierra Leone in the time of her crisis; to restore democracy, sanity and stability in the country. We couldn’t stand by and watch Sierra Leone fall into anarchy, because the entire West African region would have been affected. So we moved in to bring back normalcy and sanity to the country.

So my wish for Sierra Leoneans is that they maintain peace and stability, especially the peaceful democratic course we’ve seen in past elections. We want this to continue so that other countries will emulate it.

…Published in TheNEWS magazine


  1. To us in Sierra Leone,the Late Gen. Abacha was a saviour. God used him to help restore sanity to our war ravaged country. Had it not been for his decisive step to have his men in ECOMOG move into the country, SL would have been doomed.
    He may have done atrocious things to Nigeria and Nigerians but who are we to judge?
    Gen Abacha will always be remembered in SL as the man who helped in restoring peace to our beloved land and we will always cherish those memories and pray that God forgive all that’s he’s done to whom ever and grant him eternal peace.

  2. This is a shame to journalism….You get a once in a life time opportunity to interview the wife of a dictator-thief and murderer and all you ask her is her goodwill message to sierra loene…SHAME ON YOU AND YOUR EDITOR.

  3. Could you please leave this innocent woman alone, we are all African and Nigerian at that, Women don’t play any major role in what men do.
    Nigeria is a patriarchal society, so this poor woman can’t be held responsible for the atrocities the husband committed.
    In as much as the husband did terrible stuffs during his reign, we should not forget that no matter how strong you are – power is just for a short period.( transient )

    If you are not convinced, ask Ghadafi, Saddam, Castro! IBB, OBJ. I am sure Goodluck is aware of this.

  4. Madam you could as well introduced you killer husband to politics rather than him killing people indiscriminately why you sat down enjoy his evil. If you have introduced your dictator husband to politics, life after him would have been better than how battered life after him is today. Madam tell something else, and stop looking for cheap popularity.

  5. Madam thank God u mention that u are a complete housewife stay and take care of ur children tham spending loot that will later give u hypathation

  6. Madam wake up from your slumber no one want your son to become governor, they only want your family to waste part of the loot you and your dead husband stole while at the helms of affair of this country.

  7. I am proud as a Sierra Leonean having read the tribute made by Maryam Abacha about the late former President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of country during the interview. Late President Kabbah was indeed a great man and an emblem of peace and democracy in Sierra Leone. He was the man who restored Sierra Leone from the brink of collapse. May his soul and the soul of Maryam’s husband rest in perfect peace.

  8. Sam, I cannot begin to reply your comment…if someday your children discover that you are this Sam, I wonder what they will feel about you and your heartlessness. Abacha loot could have put in place modern railways serving every local government in Nigeria, 774 first class primary health provision bases, 50 resferal tertiary health care units of world class, and one million value adding jobs in this economy.

  9. Nigerians should learn how to comment on people private life, who is a saint in this country. Gen Abacha and his family did their best for Nigeria and the sub-region, so if you can praise him and the family keep you trash shot.

  10. The reporter is the least intelligent journalist in the industry. Like the ostrich he buried his head in the sand avoiding the most glaring issue of the looting of national treasury of billions of GB pounds and the recent confiscation of 500 USD by the US government. In saner societies the Abacha family will be languishing in jail by now.

  11. Here comes the super-rogue on a self-redeeming, image laundering project. Which politics? The sit-tight, self-transmutting kleptocratic, autocratic politics? You and your family remain our incurable nightmare, shame, big shame you answer the name Nigerian with decent and God-fearing Nigerians. Yerima Abdullahi should rise and implement the Jangabe treatment on you and your clan. Maryam with millions hisses!

  12. How come this interview didn’t broach what Abacha and Maryam, and their children were most, world-wide, popularly known for – stealing, revelry, debauchery, assassination, including any imaginable vile values?

    I am not surprised though, taking into consideration not only where the interviewer is from but also the depraved level that journalism practice has been brought down to in Nigeria and the general pervasive stupidity and laid-backness of Nigerians!

    • Abacha is my man any day any time for teaching the Yorubas loud mouths the lesson they always deserved.

      Abacha rest in peace, Amen.

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