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Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 23:12:17 -0600 (CST)
From: Agent Smiley <smiley_777@hotmail.com>
Subject: Nigeria: Yoruba Militants Turn To Violence
Article: 59390
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.19351.19990401181657@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

From: REality <ausetkmt@geocities.com>
Sender: <shell-nigeria-action@essential.org>
Subject: Yoruba Militants Turn To Violence
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 20:26:00 -0500

Yoruba Militants Turn To Violence

By Glenn McKenzie, AP, 30 March 1999, 01:39 AM ET

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP)—Militant youths armed with gasoline bombs and sulfuric acid burned police stations and beat officers to death. Riot police sought revenge in the streets, brutally beating passersby at random.

Just blocks from the eruption in Lagos' crowded working-class neighborhood of Mushin, the physician accused by police of inciting the violence made his rounds in the dingy corridors of Best Hope Hospital.

With his white surgical coat and stethoscope, Dr. Frederick Fasehun is the unlikely leader of the Odudua Peoples' Congress, a collection of human rights activists, Yoruba tribal leaders and radicals who want a separate Yoruba state in southwestern Nigeria.

The movement is the latest focus for violence in Nigeria, a turbulent West African land where staggering oil riches and miserable poverty are distributed unequally among more than 110 million people and 250 ethnic groups.

Although the rioting that claimed at least 11 lives in early March has died down, tensions remain high and Fasehun says he is struggling to maintain control over the movement he founded and restrain the militants. Odudua _ whose name comes from the creator of humanity in Yoruba folklore _ has been a rallying cry at violent clashes and other protests in the capital's neighborhoods where Yorubas predominate.

The protests are mainly over the Feb. 27 victory of Nigeria's new president-elect, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military leader who returned to civilian politics. Although a Yoruba himself, Obasanjo is despised by many Yorubas for his past role in the military, which is dominated by northern ethnic groups and which many Yorubas accuse of oppressing them.

Fasehun insists that neither he nor most members of his movement, which he claims includes more than 1 million of Nigeria's 30 million Yorubas, want anything to do with bloodshed. He says many are willing to give Obasanjo a chance even though they did not vote for him.

I am a believer in the use of peaceful means if at all possible, Fasehun said. I could never associate myself or my organization with the terrorism (by militant youths) that we are seeing today.

A mild-mannered man in his 50s, Fasehun would have reason enough to be bitter. He spent several years in prison under the late dictator Gen. Sani Abacha and was freed only after Abacha's death last year began Nigeria's democratic transition.

Since his release, Fasehun says he has tried to concentrate on operating his private hospital and businesses, including a prominent Lagos hotel, the Century.

But the Odudua movement, which he founded to promote Yoruba ethnic unity, became a catalyst for anti-military rage after Obasanjo's election. His opponent, Olu Falae, charged the victory came through fraud, and foreign election observers reported serious voting irregularities.

Protesters chanting Odudua slogans and waving white handkerchiefs they believe give them magical protection from bullets burned down two police stations with homemade bombs. Witnesses said at least one policeman was killed and four others seriously injured, including a woman whose hand was cut off by the attackers.

Mobs attacked two more police stations and one police barracks in the following days. After Fasehun denounced the violence, the protesters responded by accusing him of selling out to the government and threatening to firebomb his hospital. Police, meanwhile, attacked the Century Hotel, roughing up the manager and several guests. The police were trying to get at me, Fasehun said. Fasehun blamed the violent outburst on Gani Adams, a 28-year-old who told journalists during the rioting that he had deposed Fasehun as leader of Odudua.

In a country where belief in sorcery is strong, Adams struck fear and respect into bystanders and rioters alike during the fighting by throwing eggs that seemingly magically exploded into flame. Fasehun says there was no magic to it _ the egg shells had been filled with sulfuric acid and, with tiny fuses attached, they served as homemade bombs.

Adams has since gone into hiding to escape a police manhunt. Some observers believe Fasehun's influence may be waning because of his opposition to the violence, and many of his own followers warn that police brutality is threatening to reignite fighting.

I do not agree with Gani Adams, but you can be sure that I will also fight unless the police go back to their barracks, said Jubril Olatunbosun, an unemployed Odudua activist standing guard outside Fasehun's hospital. The police had better stop molesting us, he said. We have suffered long enough and we are ready to fight.