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Date: Sun, 26 Jul 98 13:21:24 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: POLITICS-NIGERIA: New Political Parties Formed In Nigeria
Article: 39921
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.22256.19980728181541@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 455.0 **/
** Topic: POLITICS-NIGERIA: New Political Parties Formed In Nigeria **
** Written 4:09 PM Jul 25, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

New Political Parties Formed In Nigeria

By Remi Oyo and Toye Olori, IPS, 22 July 1998

LAGOS, Jul 22 (IPS) - Just hours after Nigeria's military leader, Gen. Abdelsalam Abubakar, presented the timetable for a return to civilian rule, a number of politicians announced the formation of a new political party.

The first to seize the opportunity is Tunji Braithwaite, a former presidential candidate, who has announced the formation of a new political party, the Democratic Advancement Party (DAP).

He said the party would advocate regional devolution. Other politicians are expected to announce the formation of their party soon.

The race to the prestigious presidential palace in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, began after Abubakar announced, in a broadcast speech Monday, that elections would be held during the first quarter of 1999 with the aim of inaugurating a new, democratically elected president on May 29, 1999.

In his speech, Abubakar called for the creation of an unfettered democracy to include the free formation of political parties, independence for the judiciary, international monitoring of elections, and freedom for political prisoners and those detained without charge.

He also announced the dissolution of Nigeria's five political parties, which were created by his predecessor Gen. Sanni Abacha, who died of a heart attack in Abuja early this month.

In a major about-turn, Bode Olajumoke, who was deputy chairman of one of the dissolved parties, the United Nigeria Congress Party, described the scrapping as a new beginning.

I welcome it. I see it as a new beginning which every patriotic Nigerian must embrace, he said.

His rival, Kola Balogun, who was a top official of one of the parties, agreed. The way the (dissolved) parties were operating, the whole thing lacked credibility. Now people are free to form parties.

Nigerians clamouring for change, however, say they don't expect new faces in next year's elections. The elections will bring the same old politicians who have ruined this nation, said Lagos businessman Sunday Akindele.

We must not allow old politicians to have free rides because of their wealth. We must shun vote selling and vote for credible Nigerians, he told IPS.

Other groups disappointed with Abubakar's statement are Nigeria's pro-democracy and human rights groups who had demanded the dissolution of all existing political parties, the exit of the military from the political scene by October 1, 1998 and the formation of a Government of National Unity (GNU).

It is a disappointment. The speech has failed to meet the aspiration of Nigerians as far as Government of National Unity is concerned. It is impossible for the military to organise transition to genuine democratic rule. It has not worked. It will never work, said Olisa Agbakoba of the United Action for Democracy.

Others have, however, adopted a wait-and-see attitude. The speech contains good intentions. We will watch out for their implementation, said Clement Nwankwo, who is executive secretary of the Lagos-based Constitutional Rights Project.

Nwankwo is known for his sober views here. When demands for a Government of National Unity came up he described it as undemocratic. We will not substitute one undemocratic institution for another, echoed Abubakar in his speech.

Abubakar's plan to turn over power to an elected civilian president within the next year has been welcomed by the U.S. government.

White House spokesman Mike McCurry termed the televised speech made by Abubakar Monday significant and said Washington was committed to working with the people of Nigeria to ensure that a rapid, transparent, and inclusive transition to democratic rule takes place.

At the State Department, spokesman James Rubin released a formal statement this week welcoming Abubakar's address - particularly his stated intent to release all political prisoners.