After 40 minutes trying to resuscitate the stricken general, Professor Wali said General Abacha had died. “I said, sorry – there’s nothing we can do”.
There was no immediate public announcement, in a 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 his 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.”