The Abacha loot readily reminds increasingly poor Nigerians of their past, but especially of the relentless avarice of those who have led them at different times.
In many respects, Nigeria appears to be a plundered country. Whether it is money, historical artifacts or the intangibles that ground proper and dignified human existence, many things have been taken away from Nigerians.
If foreigners are go blame for the priceless cultural artifacts taken to Europe during the colonial era, Nigerians themselves are to blame for the dizzying amount of public funds stolen from the country and stashed away in other countries. In deed, in that case, the enemy has been very much within.
After more than two decades, France has returned about 150 million dollars stolen by late dictator Sani Abacha to Nigeria. Catherine Colonna, France Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, disclosed this in Abuja when she visited President Bola Tinubu.
It is not astounding that some of the loot was in France too? Previous ones were discovered in Switzerland, the UK, Jersey, Liechtenstein, and a handful of other countries. Where else did the late dictator from Kano State stash away money he stole from Nigeria?
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly at what point Nigeria started to drift south. But there is something resembling a consensus that a country that showed prodigious promise at independence in 1960 started to retrogress when the military began to intervene in government.
The coup of 1966 was particularly jarring because it opened the floodgates of military intervention in Nigeria, casting the country backwards, and driving its institutions to distraction.
Between 1966 and 1999, when Nigeria returned to democracy, the military about twenty-eight years in office.
The recent military coups in neighbouring countries of Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Gabon sought to present the military as saviours of their country. While history holds that military interventions have proven salubrious for some countries, this has been exceptionally rare.
Nigeria, the fallen giant of Africa, has had nothing good to recount or recall about the khakhi-clad men who have held the reins of power in the country. Many of them have been little more than thieves and plunderers whose avaricious interests lay in the Nigerian treasury and the weakening of Nigerian institutions.
But, somehow, in a country that saw iron-fisted despots like Ibrahim Bababangida and Muhammadu Buhari enjoy unconstitutional incursions into government, Abacha takes the cake.
The outrageous amounts of money that he stole and stashed away in Nigerian banks continue to be recovered and will continue to be recovered because the truth is that no one is really sure how much he put away and where he put them away.
That the brutal dictator whose regime was steeped in blood continues to enjoy cult followership across sections of Nigerians speaks to the deadened consciences many carry about.
Some of those who helped Abacha steal and stash away money have gone on to occupy high-profile offices in the country since his providential demise in 1998.
Corruption in Nigeria has a long and painful history. If Nigerians are ever to point to one source of their multifaceted problems, it will be at what has proven a hydra headed monster.
One thing that makes stealing public funds in Nigeria so relentless is that it is so rewarding. Those who do it only ever get a slap on the wrist if they do. They use stolen public funds to buy elections, buy court judgments, evade law enforcement and have at their leash irredeemable criminals who will do their bidding in a country where the law packs a lot of puff but little punch.
The Abacha loot saga has continued to shame generations of Nigerians. The earlier Nigeria recovers all of it and plugs all the holes that enables the wanton stealing of public funds, the earlier the country will begin to recover from years of theft and plunder.
Until then, the fact that many Nigerians believe that the Abacha loot returned to the country is destined only for another round of stealing speaks to a country where corruption is a virtue.