Abacha became head of state in1993 but died in 1998. He was reputed to be a ruthless dictator who ruled Nigeria with iron fist.
Under him, Nigeria became a pariah state. Democracy was restored in 1999 after Abdusalami Abubakar took over the reigns of government following Abacha’s death.
But speaking in Lagos on Thursday at the 95 Anniversary Lecture of the Yoruba Tennis Club held at the club’s Greeting Hall in Lagos, Shettima was quoted to have stated, “We need a leader with a vision and sense of responsibility and commitment and somebody who understands the nation like an Abdulsalami Abubakar and in our systemic circumstances, we need a leader with a dose of the hospitality of a Sani Abacha.”
He came under fire for the statement with critics saying his praise of the dictator insulted the sensibilities of Nigerians, on including his party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, who was among those forced into exile.
He said, “The obsession with distorting one’s views to settle partisan scores brings to mind a certain WBC Commentary. ‘The trouble with deliberate bias,’ it says, ‘is that it cannot be erased by sound education’.
“The video of my speech in Lagos is out there for those sincerely curious.
“I never attributed hospitality to Abacha in my speech. I did a rundown of our past Presidents and played up ‘the taciturnity and a dose of ruthlessness of a Sani Abacha’ to show we need strongmen to deal with the nonstate actors who’ve turned Nigeria into a vast killing-field.
“I was quick to tease the audience, appreciating the humour hovering around the hall, with the familiar jibe that nice men don’t make good leaders.
“By nice men I meant those who get easily manipulated and pressured to divert state resources to appeal to private expectations,” he said.