To Multiple Recipients
I am appealing to you to talk with your editorial and foreign staff colleagues to draw their attention to the arrest in Nigeria on Monday of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo. Editorials and news reports now can assist to bring pressure to bear on the Government of Nigeria and thereby help secure his release.
This extraordinary man of courage and integrity was arrested in Nigeria on his return from the social summit in Denmark where he had been pursuing his democratic and anti-corruption campaigns. As you may know, Obasanjo (who was President from 1976-79) is the only Nigerian military ruler to have handed over power voluntarily to elected civilian officials (indeed, he insisted on so doing).
He has been a champion of democracy and an implacable critic of military governments wherever they may be, including in his own country. He has been active across Africa in mobilising civil society through the Africa Leadership Forum and is held in high regard across the continent. He played a key role in the ending of apartheid in South Africa, and in ensuring that the threatened boycott of the Mozambique elections did not eventuate. He was also instrumental in finding a formula for Castro to withdraw in dignity from Angola, and so paved the way for Namibian independence. Even in these dangerous times he has consistently declined offers of safe sanctuary abroad, insisting that the place of every Nigerian is in his own country, no matter at what personal cost.
Please find attached a press release which we have issued. If you need to know anything further about the General, please call either ourselves (+49-30-787 5908) or his son, Dr Minga Obasanjo (on +234-90-400208, but bearing in mind the fact that his telephone is being tapped). We are also available on e-mail at <email@example.com>
"The detention of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, is a challenge to the whole movement towards democracy and accountability in Africa", said Dr Peter Eigen today (Wednesday, 15 March). Dr Eigen is the Chairman of the Berlin-based anti- corruption group, Transparency International (TI).
General Obasanjo, a leading member of TI, was arrested on Monday (13 March), shortly after his return from the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, where he presided over Transparency International's presentation on corruption and its impact on social development. He is currently scheduled to attend the organisation's conference on practical measures to counter corruption, to be held in Milan, Italy, at the end of this month.
"General Obasanjo is one of Africa's greatest champions of democracy, accountability and transparency," Dr Eigen continued. "His contributions to peace and progress in countries such as South Africa, Mozambique and Angola, no less than his democratisation of his own country in 1979, demonstrates the pivotal role he can play again in helping to resolve Nigeria s present crisis."
"On behalf of our membership throughout the world, we call on the Nigerian authorities to release General Obasanjo immediately and unconditionally, and thereafter to commence a constructive dialogue with him and other members of Nigeria's civil society," Dr Eigen concluded.