48 Laws of Power… Law 17: Profile Sani Abacha

48 Laws of Power…Law 17: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability.

Late Gen Sani Abacha

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control.

Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off- balance and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves.

Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.


Abacha who was born on September 20, 1943, was Nigeria’s military head of state from November 17, 1993 to June 8, 1998. Below are some notable things you need to know about the ex-military head of state:

1)  Abacha is a Kanuri from Borno by tribe, he was born and brought up in Kano, Nigeria.

2) He received his formal military training at Nigerian and British military training colleges -Nigerian Military Training College and Mons Officer Cadet School.

3) In 1965, Abacha married Maryam, also from Borno state. They had seven sons and three daughters.

4) Abacha was the first and only military head of state who never skipped a rank to become a full-star general.

5) He is by some records the most successful coup plotter in the history of Nigeria’s military. Abacha participated in every single successful coup in Nigerian history.

6) Abacha announced the coup that brought an end to the government of President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983, and brought Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to power.

7) Abacha was named Chief of Army Staff when General Ibrahim Babangida was named President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1985.

8) On 17 November 1993, Abacha overthrew the short-lived transitional government of Chief Ernest Shonekan.

9) It was under Abacha that Nigeria became a perpetual importer of petroleum products, as all the refineries packed up.

10) His wife set up what is now known as the National Hospital, Abuja. It was originally named National Hospital for Women and Children

11) During Abacha’s regime, he and his family reportedly stole a total of £5 billion from the country’s coffers.

12)  In 2004, Abacha was listed as the fourth most corrupt leader in history.

13) His death is shrouded in mystery: the most popular version is that he died after spending time with some Indian prostitutes imported from Dubai, they were believed to have laced his drink with a poisonous substance but the official version is that he died of heart attack.

14)  Abacha was said to have felt unwell around 4:30am. He retired to his bed and was dead by 6:15am.

15) He left fifteen grandchildren: eight girls and seven boys.

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