Message-Id: <12972651@vixen.Dartmouth.EDU>
Date: 18 Jan 96 15:42:14 EST
Precedence: bulk
From: Peter.A.Rogers@Dartmouth.EDU (Peter A Rogers)
To: NUAFRICA: Program of African Studies Mailing List <>
Subject: Nigerian embassy rally

Nigerian embassy rally

By Gus Constantine, The Washington Times, Page C3, Tuesday 16 January 1996

A contingent of Washington’s homeless was hired yesterday, at something approximating the minimum wage for duty in the controversy over military rule in Nigeria.

Some 100 homeless men were recruited in the morning at the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter on Second Street NW and turned out around noon in front of the Nigerian Embassy near Thomas Circle with placards that read, Hands off Nigeria and Nigeria for the Nigerians.

The captain of this homeless army in this crusade was the Rev. Cleveland B. Sparrow, pastor of Sparroworld Baptist Temple, Church of Jesus Christ in Takoma Park.

We are deeply committed to employing homeless people, said Mr. Sparrow who was interviewed in a car outside the embassy while his legions of the poor paraded by. One source said the men were each offered 46 an hour for three hours work.

It was not immediately clear how the independent evangelist came to assume the burden of defending Nigeria’s soldier-state or where the funds came from. But there was no obscuring the demonstration’s purpose—to counter a protest just across the street by critics of military rule in Nigeria.

The critics, members of the Coalition of Nigerians in the United States, discovered what was going on when one of the homeless, mistaking his adversaries for allies, approached an anti-government marcher and asked him whether he had signed up for the meal yet.

The whole thing shows the desperation and disingeniousness of the government of Gen. Sani Abacha to the problems that it faces, said a spokesman for the anti-government committee.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and a regional superpower since independence in 1960, has been under military rule for much of that time.

But the world little noticed and acted as if it did not much care until Gen. Abacha’s predecessor scrubbed a democratic election that did not go the way he expected in 1993.

Since then, international demands have mounted steadily for a return to civilian rule, crescendoing to outrage in November when the government executed Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental activist, on charges of incitement to murder.

The activist had challenged the government’s cozy relations with Shell Oil on grounds that the oil company was making southeast Nigeria unlivable through pollution.

It was to demonstrate against this execution that Nigeria’s critics called their demonstration yesterday.

Mr. Sparrow said his demonstration on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birth, was to designed to display the unity of black Americans with black people the world over.

Asked why then he was backing only one side in the Nigerian dispute, the minister noted there were blacks in front of the embassy on both sides of the issue. We are all one people, he said.