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Date: Tue, 16 Jun 98 23:51:46 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: NIGERIA: Political Parties Out in the Cold
Article: 37047
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.23045.19980623181559@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 486.0 **/
** Topic: //REPEATING//POLITICS-NIGERIA: Political Parties Out in the Cold **
** Written 4:08 PM Jun 15, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Political Parties Out in the Cold

By Remi Oyo, IPS, 12 June 1998

LAGOS, Jun 12 (IPS) - Nigeria's five political parties have been left in the cold following the death of General Sani Abacha, and are now hustling to find new presidential candidates for the elections slated to be held later this year.

Abacha who died suddenly on Monday from cardiac arrest had been endorsed by all the parties as their candidate for president, a move which raised eyebrows among pro-democracy activists about the military's intentions to return the country to civilian rule.

The death of the Head of State has presented a new situation. We will just have to go back to the drawing board, said Kenny Martins, Secretary General of the National Centre Party of Nigeria (NCPN).

Martins told journalists that the decision of the new Nigerian leader General Abdulsalam Abubakar to continue with the transition programme and his invitation to exiles to return home, are the right steps, in the right direction.

But pro-democracy groups have called for an end to the transition programme and for the military to return immediately to the barracks.

In commemoration of the annulled June 12, 1993 elections, which are widely believed to have been won by detained politician Chief Moshood Abiola, the activists have called for demonstrations Friday against the military.

Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, Secretary-General of the Grassroots Democratic Movement(GDM) party said that many of the anomalies of the transition programme started by the late Abacha, must be corrected if a new government is to survive in Africa's most populous nation.

There is need for government to correct the injustices perpetrated in the (April) national and state House of Assembly elections in order to ensure that there is a balance and equilibrium, he said.

The GDM has been embroiled in two law suits filed by two Presidential aspirants, Mohammed Yusuf, a former Inspector General of Police, and Tunji Braithwaite, an influential lawyer. Both men had challenged their party's adoption of Abacha as the presidential candidate at a convention in April in the north-east city of Maiduguri.

Braithwaite has already headed for the Supreme Court after the Appeal Court in Lagos ruled that it had no jurisdiction to try the case.

Sources close to other political parties told IPS in telephone interviews from Abuja Thursday that high-level negotiations have begun to sort out the crisis associated with Abacha's death.

Ironically, the late Abacha had never responded to the political parties' nomination of him.

We expect that the National Electoral Commission of Nigeria(NECON) will give our leaders a full briefing on the next steps forward, said one source close to a political party, who declined to be named. So many things are fluid now, so let's wait and see.

The behind-the-door negotiations by the political parties come in the wake of increasing domestic calls for the establishment of a government of national unity and the dissolution of the parties.

Beside the GDM and the NCPN, the other parties are the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN), the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) and the Congress of National Consensus (CNC).

The leaders of these five political parties have killed themselves by the death of Gen. Abacha, because they were so stupid, Archbishop Olubunmi Okogie, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, said in an interview with an American radio station.

They were only thinking of their own selfish interests. They have destroyed themselves, so let them face the music, Okogie added.

Democracy activists say that a radical reform is needed in the steps moving the country towards civilian rule, and, indications are that they will use the opportunity presented by Abacha's death to push their demands forward.

All transition agencies including NECON should be dissolved immediately and reconstituted, said Ben Nwabueze, Secretary- General of 'Ohaneze Ndigbo', an Eastern forum of elders.

Nwabueze, also a professor of constitutional law and a former minister in the interim national government (July- November 1993) of Ernest Shonekan, added in a statement that Abubakar should start a new slate in the spirit of true national reconciliation by releasing all political detainees in Nigerian cells.

The Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON), comprising 52 pro-democracy groups, has issued a press statement warning that Abubakar's address to the country late Tuesday contains empty promises.

This means Nigerians should expect nothing but a continuation of economic persecution and political repression, JACON, coordinated by Gani Fawehinmi, Nigeria's well-known lawyer and human rights activist, said.

Calling on Nigerians to remember the democratic mandate given to Chief Abiola by Nigerians in June 1993, JACON said: By supporting Jun. 12, we are supporting the equal rights of all Nigerians to aspire to rule their country. A fight for Jun. 12 is a fight against military enslavement in our society.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the annulled June elections. Mass processions to mark the day are expected to be held nationwide, inspite of police warnings and the national 30- day mourning period for Abacha declared by the military government.