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Date: Fri, 17 Jul 98 11:56:22 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: POLITICS-NIGERIA: Abubakar Faces Major Political Test
Article: 39271
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.18860.19980718181626@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 461.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-NIGERIA: Abubakar Faces Major Political Test **
** Written 4:09 PM Jul 16, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

Abubakar Faces Major Political Test

By Remi Oyo, IPS, 13 July 1998

LAGOS, Jul 13 (IPS) - Nigerians are clamouring for a quick exit of the military as everyone awaits the new leader's address on the way forward for the nation following the death and burial of Chief Moshood Abiola.

General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who had made positive overtures towards change following the sudden death of Sani Abacha in June, has now been thrown into a political crisis, and his broadcast this week will be a major test of whether he can steer the country from sinking into chaos.

Abubakar had released nine political prisoners and commuted the death sentence of six others who were found guilty of plotting to overthrow the late Abacha. The new Head of State also was on the verge of releasing Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 1993 annulled presidential elections. Abiola died last Tuesday, the day before his expected release from detention.

Abiola's death from a sudden heart attack has set back Abubakar's political process and he is now caught between listening to popular demand and keeping the military happy.

Soon after the news of the death of Nigeria's most prominent political prisoner hit the streets, riots broke out in Lagos, the commercial capital, in which up to 60 people were killed.

People are now quite worried about a quick exit of the military, said Clement Nwankwo, Executive Secretary of the Constitutional Rights Project, a pro-democracy and human rights group.

The pro-democracy movement, Nwankwo added, is keen on a sovereign national conference and the staging of independent, free and fair elections.

Abubakar is expected in his broadcast to announce a new cabinet following the sacking last week of the 34-member one he had inherited from Abacha.

Also, according to unconfirmed reports from sources close to Aso Rock, the seat of the military government in the capital city of Abuja, there has been a quiet reshuffle of the top brass in the military.

The death of Abiola is certainly going to act as a catalyst in propelling Nigerians to re-dedicate themselves to the task of retrieving the country from a tiny clique of adventurers in uniform and their civilian collaborators, said the Joint Action Committee on Nigeria (JACON), which groups pro-democracy organisations in the country.

Chima Ubani, Secretary of the National Democratic Alliance, also said that the group would press for a speedy departure of the military.

For us in the Democratic Alliance, the struggle for democracy is Nigeria is a struggle by the oppressed social classes to wrest power from the ruling class of soldiers of fortune and lecherous civilian politicians, Ubani said in an interview Sunday in 'ThisDay' newspaper.

The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), prior to Abiola's death, had called for a government of national unity with the 60- year-old Abiola as the head.

On Sunday, lawyer Abraham Adesanya of NADECO, said in a newspaper interview that a civilian government made up of representatives of all six Nigerian regions should be set up.

This transitional government, Adesanya added, should rule for no more than five years, and it should set up a new electoral commission that would call for the formation of new political parties.