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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Nigeria: Recent Documents, Part 2
Any links to other sites in this file from 1995 are not clickable,
given the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date links in old files.
However, we hope they may still provide leads for your research.
Nigeria: Recent Documents, Part 2
Date Distributed (ymd): 950611

"Nigeria at the CrossRoads"
Contribution to a Panel Discussion by
Dr. Mobolaji E. Aluko, President, Nigerian Democratic
Movement, Professor & Chair of Chemical Engineering,
Howard University

At a symposium organized by the TransAfrica Forum,
co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, Rayburn
Building, US Congress

June 2, 1995

First, I would like to thank TransAfrica for inviting me to
speak at this symposium. More importantly, a special
"Thanks" is due particularly to Mr. Randall Robinson for
investing his immense moral credibility in re-invigorating
the struggle for a lasting democracy in Africa's most
populous country, my country Nigeria, based on justice and
respect of the will of the people.

Today, June 2, 1995, thirty-five years after its flag
independence, Nigeria is truly at the cross-roads, a
structural bifurcation either to chaos and disintegration
or to great nationhood and Black pride. In fact, some will
argue that the imagery of cross-roads is not appropriate,
rather that Nigeria is at a PRECIPICE. It is difficult for
me, however, to imagine that we would have to retreat from
such a precipice only to continue to have a status-quo.

We have been asked on this panel to discuss three issues:
first, the seeds of derailment of the democratic process in
Nigeria, secondly, who the stakeholders are and thirdly,
alternative scenarios to the resolution of the crises
acceptable to the majority of Nigerians. I will attempt to
confine myself as instructed.

The seeds for the derailment, whose most egregious and
recent outgrowth was the annulment of the June 12, 1993,
presidential elections, followed by the continuing
annulment of civil society in Nigeria, are very
deep-seated. For the sake of time, I will identify only
three of these seeds.

The first one has to do with the birth of the nation itself.
It now appears that Nigeria was delivered by Caesarean
operation long before full-term, and that the hands and
gloves used were septic, and did some psychic damage,
wittingly and unwittingly. The deleterious effects have been
gradually manifesting themselves ever since. In particular,
the Northern part of our country, initially reluctant to be
part of the Nigerian union, was coaxed by an anxious South
through compromises involving legislative ascendancy. That
ascendancy, followed by the will of the North to maintain
it, sometimes demonstrably by force, and the efforts to
annul it by the South, sometimes by subterfuge, resulted in
ethnic, regional and religious war-lordism by civilian
rulers rather than statesmen. The effects continue to
haunt the nation up until today.

The second seed involves the entrance of the Military into
the political equation in 1966, ostensibly to halt a
looming national strife. One should actually say that this
first coup was the first crack in the soil from the growing
seed of national discord. The proverbial genie, now out of
the bottle, was welcome when it appeared, but has been
disastrous in retrospect, and has become the bane of
Nigeria, the albatross around our neck. Due to internal
contradictions within the Military establishment itself,
many of which were projections from civilian society, due to
its natural institutional authoritarianism and lack of
accountability, due to its inability to forge a national
ethos and its love of power for power's sake, and finally
due to its contempt for our quasi-professional political
elite, the advent of the Military in governance in Nigeria
led, in quick order to:

- the pogroms against the Igbos in the North;
- the avoidable Biafra War of 1967-70 in which millions of
Nigerians died needlessly and whose aftermath still colors
much of Nigeria's politics 25 years later;
- the countless numbers of Military coups, both real and
imagined, against itself and against civilian governments,
most of which have led to the wasting of lives of
countless young men and disruption of civil life. One
military government has tripped over another with claims
and counter-claims of legitimacy, leaving a rather cynical
and dispirited civil society.

The third and final seed has been the unavoidable
participation of the Military in two "Return-to-Democracy"
Presidential elections, with the active aiding and abetting
by many over-ambitious and unprincipled politicians. First,
the untidy departure of the Obasanjo military regime
following the "13 is two-thirds of 19" Shagari election of
1979 did not augur well for our democratic future, and the
massive rigging of the elections four years later merely
confirmed the earlier charade. The "relief" that people
felt following the coup that toppled Shagari served to
extend the myth of public invitation which the Military
constantly invokes. Secondly, the Babangida prolonged years
of preparation for return to democracy, a testament to his
"Maradonicity", were unprecedented in its mendacity, its
bold trampling on the rights of people to freely associate,
and the peoples' willingness to go along if only to see the
end of Military rule in their life time. They featured,
among other shenanigans, the formation of two parties by
government, the writing of their manifestos ("a little to
the left, a little to the right"), the building of party
headquarters, the selection of party liaisons, all coupled
with the countless disqualifications and re-qualifications
of presidential candidates. The personal ill-feelings
generated by all the twists and turns of the process among
the participating politicians, many well known for their
large-size egos, have now left their murky marks on our
present and future political terrains.

But when, in a most egregious, capricious and
un-explainable manner, the June 12, 1993 presidential
elections, contested by Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Alhaji
Bashir Tofa, were annulled, it represented and continues to
represent a blight and almost fatal blow to the national
psyche. By all official accounts, 14 million Nigerians
voted; by all official accounts Abiola, a wealthy,
establishment and philantropic Muslim businessman of the
Yoruba ethnic group, head of an unprecedented
Muslim-Muslim ticket, won a truly pan-ethnic, pan-religious
mandate. The annulment is pregnant with all kinds of
implications which I now invite you all to seriously
consider: if the will of 14 million Nigerians can be swept
aside by Military fiat following a world-certified free and
fair election, why would Nigerians believe that any future
electoral exercise, organized under the aegis of the same
Military, whose outcome is unpalatable to it, will not
suffer a similar fate ? Why is it that of four national
elections, three leading to the installation of Northern
individuals at the apex of constitutional power (Tafewa
Balewa, Shagari (twice)) were upheld, while the only one
that would have ended up otherwise is annulled ? If a
Muslim-Muslim ticket will not be allowed to take its place,
what hope for a future Christian-Muslim ticket, and Christ
forbid, a Christian-Christian ticket ? If a Yoruba at the
head of a ticket is not allowed to take his rightful place,
what hope for an Ogoni, an Igbo, a Tiv, an Ijaw, all of who
are Nigerians ? If, in the immediate shadow of an annulled
election, any other candidate, particularly Hausa-Fulani,
were to win in a new and upheld election, would it not
rightly raise howls of ethnic or personal favoritism ?

Let me now briefly turn to the second issue of who the
stakeholders are in the outcome of the crisis. There is no
gainsaying that Nigeria is at war with itself. In a war,
there are several casualties, including the truth, but not
surprisingly a few individuals or groups always benefit
from the adversity. Each day the Military continues to
govern Nigeria, then each day is a step on the road towards
anarchy and chaos in Nigeria. While oil monies continue to
flow, the beneficiaries will be the tiny cabal of the
Military and their civilian cohorts, all living well
beyond their means, productive and mental. However a
positive outcome of this crisis, in which Nigeria achieves
peace, stability and democracy, and tackles its economic
and social problems in a rational manner, will benefit the
greatest number of stakeholders, which are all Nigerians,
including the military; West Africa; all of Africa; all
people of color in the Diaspora and indeed all of humanity.

With respect to the third and final issue of alternative
scenarios to the resolution of the crisis acceptable to the
majority of Nigerians, it is unfortunate to say first that
the time is short, and secondly that there are very few
alternative scenarios to achieving lasting peace in Nigeria.
First, the Abacha government line that the June 12, 1993
election, which was acceptable to the majority of Nigerian
voters, is simply part of our sordid history and should be
forgotten is dangerous wishful thinking, and hearkens to
the developing situation in Algeria. The Abacha government
line that the Abuja Constitutional Conference, in which the
majority of the Nigerian voters did not participate, is
laying the solid foundation for a democratic Nigeria is
dangerous diversionary thinking - the alarming decision of
North/South rotational presidency, and the recent decision
to reverse its earlier Military termination date are clear
testaments to that. It is dangerous thinking that only
serves to further inflame ethnic, religious and regional
sentiments, leading to talk such as declarations of
self-determination by the Yoruba, whipping up of
unforgotten Biafran sentiments, and reports just today of
ethnic and religious riots in Kano and bombings in Ilorin.
It is dangerous thinking that has resulted in the ironical
imprisonment and inhuman treatment of Chief M.K.O. Abiola,
Labor Leader Frank Kokori and MOSOP leadr Ken Saro-Wiwa of
the Ogonis, among countless others. Only yesterday, it has
led to the re-detention of Dr. Beko Kuti, Chairman of the
Campaign for Democracy, 86-year old Chief Ajasin, Chairman
of the National Democratic Coalition, and thirty to fifty
others. My statement that this thinking is dangerous is
not one of political extremism but one of common sense.

Secondly, some Nigerians would again hope that another coup
by "progressives" in the Military, ostensibly from the
planet Mars, would come to "clean house" in Nigeria a la
Jerry Rawlings of Ghana and/or install the June 12 mandate.
This is also dangerous thinking because it ingratiates the
peoples' sovereignty to military caprice. The Nzeogwu coup
of 1966 and the Abacha take-over of 1994 show how military
coups can and do go awry and deviate, with devastating
effect, from the "original" intentions. The consensus among
the majority of Nigerians, even if we don't agree about
exactly the way forward now, must be to terminate the
military in any future political management of Nigeria.

Having outlined the dangerous government line above, and
squelched any hopes for military "white knights", I have
exhausted all my God-given wisdom in coming up with any
positive scenarios in resolving the present crisis other
than the following, which I must admit are no longer

- the national reconciliation must start by the
release of all political detainees unconditionally,
including MKO Abiola, and the timely and due-process
prosecution in the unmuzzled courts of those charged with
criminal responsibility. The lifting of bans against
newspapers, radio stations and labor unions is also

- a public release of all the results of June 12, 1993,
election (as filed in open court documents by Prof. Nwosu,
National Electoral Commissions Chairman) as a prelude to

- a convening of a Government of National Unity that must
invariably include the dclared winner of the election
results at its head and the true representatives of the
people from all walks of life;

- a stepping down of the Military, not in January 1996,
October 1996 or the year 2000, but without further delay
and simultaneously with the announcement of the steps
above. It is unreasonable to suggest specific dates of
departure to one who would ask that you forget June 12,
1993; obviously they are not respecters of dates !

Then and only then can our country Nigeria begin to resolve,
through a Sovereign National Conference, its raison d'etre,
its viable structural arrangements, and begin again on its
path to sustainable democracy unfettered and unmediated by
guns. The sovereignty of the people would then have been
firmly re-asserted.

In the absence of these positive steps, Nigerians, the US
government and the World Community, including TransAfrica,
really have no choice but to continue to mount pressure on
the Nigerian government to do the right thing. This must
be done through robust and authoritative preventive
diplomacy that must include unequivocal, unambiguous and
principled dialogue, involving discussions of the exit of
the military without further delay, an appeal to the
political class to get its act together, and an empowerment
of the popular sovereignty of the people. It must include
targeted and sensitive sanctions, including institutional
isolation. It must also continue to include in a visible
manner Black Americans from all walks of life whose unique
heritage demands that they must not tolerate anywhere in
Africa, and even in the world, the same kinds of injustice
and tyranny which brought them reluctantly to these
American shores, and against which people like WEB Dubois,
Paul Robeson, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X
fought, and for which some of them died.

In closing, once again, I thank TransAfrica for this
opportunity, and for its courage in joining the Nigerian
struggle. The Nigerian Democratic Movement and other
Nigerians urge you and the World to stay the course
despite what may be future turbulent goings. Finally,
Nigeria needs all of your fervent prayers at these
crossroads that our country now finds itself.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's
primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the
United States around African issues and the U.S. role
in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible
policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a
wide range of groups and individuals.  APIC is
affiliated with the Washington Office on Africa (WOA),
a not-for-profit church, trade union and civil rights
group supported organization that works with Congress
on Africa-related legislation.


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