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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 Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.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: United Democratic Front
Any links to other sites in this file from 1996 are not clickable,
given the difficulty in maintaining up-to-date links in old files.
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Nigeria: United Democratic Front
Date Distributed (ymd): 960418

The United Democratic Front of Nigeria (UDFN) is a common
platform of pro-democracy organizations which, following
simultaneous meetings (Nigerian Pro-Democracy Summit) in South
Africa (Johannesburg) and in Europe (Oslo, Norway) on March
29-31, 1996, resolved to work together to effectively harness
and facilitate activities toward the restoration of democracy
in Nigeria on the basis of the popular mandate of June 12th,

The Communique from the Summit, as well as short excerpts from
a speech by Nobel Prize Winner Wole Soyinka, are reproduced
below.  Additional information on the summit can be found on
the Web site of the Nigerian Democratic Movement at:

Communique from the Nigerian Pro-Democracy Summit
March 29th - 31st, 1996


Nigeria has been in political turmoil since June 12th 1993
when the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida
annulled a democratically conducted presidential election

The transition program was designed and executed by the
military regime under General Ibrahim Babangida whose defense
minister and de facto second-in-command was General Sani

The presidential election of June 12th 1993 was adjudged by
Nigerian and international observers as the freest and fairest
in Nigeria's history.

The Babangida regime illegally imposed on Nigerians an
<> headed by Chief Ernest
Shonekan with General Sani Abacha as Vice Chairman rather than
accept the will of the people as expressed in the election.

Subsequently, General Abacha illegally seized power on
November 17th 1993 and dissolved all legislatures that had
been duly elected at the local, state and federal levels under
the military's transition program, and reinstated full
military rule.

General Abacha has since June 1994, placed in detention Chief
M.K.O. Abiola, the president-elect, on charges of treason, for
claiming his mandate.

The Abacha regime has prevented president-elect Abiola from
communicating with the outside world, including his immediate
family, as a means of forcing Abiola to renounce the mandate
given to him by the Nigerian people.

In spite of many well-meaning initiatives, the Abacha regime
has scorned all appeals by the international community for
respect for human rights and a speedy return of Nigeria to
democratic civil rule.

General Abacha is intimidating Nigerians and deceiving the
international community into accepting ANOTHER transition
program similar to the one he and Babangida reneged on.

Therefore, Abacha's three year transition program is an excuse
to prolong his stay in power. It is fraught with dangers and
threatens further chaos and violence. It is a deliberate waste
of time and resources.

Similarly, Abacha's plan to create more states in Nigeria
under this bogus transition program is a desperate attempt to
divert people's attention from the real social, economic and
political problems facing the country.

The real and primary incentive for the Abacha regime's
insistence on power is oil revenue which the regime is looting
to the detriment of the majority of Nigerians.

The Abacha regime has orchestrated a reign of barbaric terror
on the people of Nigeria, tragically illustrated by the state
murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni human rights and
environmental activists. Further more, every institution of
civilized society in Nigeria has been systematically

Abacha's rule has been characterized by institutionalized
anarchy, corruption, economic decline and gross human rights

Therefore, the limited sanctions imposed on Nigeria by the
U.S. and the European Union have not been effective in forcing
Abacha and his regime either to bow to the wishes of the
people as expressed in the presidential election of June 12th
1993, or to respect the basic standards of international


We, the pro-democracy organizations listed below, having
deliberated in our simultaneous meetings in South Africa and
in Europe, hereby resolve to work together under a common
platform (United Democratic Front of Nigeria, UDFN) to
effectively harness and facilitate our activities toward the
restoration of democracy in Nigeria on the basis of the
popular mandate of June 12th, 1993.

The immediate task of the Government of National Unity to be
so formed is to call a Sovereign National Conference whose
main task is to preside over the restoration of full
democratization in the country.

Further, we resolve that:

1. we reject in its entirety the 3-year transition program of
the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria;

2. any actions including the creation of states and the
conduction of elections under the illegal Abacha regime shall
be null and void;

3. the only moral, just and lasting solution to the Nigerian
crisis is respect for the mandate of the Nigerian people as
expressed in elections prior to and including the June 12th
1993, presidential elections;

4. We appeal to all people of conscience all over the world to
insist on respect for the will of the people of Nigeria as
expressed in elections prior to and including the presidential
elections of June 12th, 1993.

5. We call on Nigerians at home to boycott any new elections
and to take measures to establish parallel zones of authority
at local levels to deny any legitimacy to Abacha's transition.

6. We demand that all political prisoners in Nigeria be
released immediately and without conditions, and also that
president-elect M.K.O. Abiola be released to form a
broad-based Government of National Unity.

7. We call on the international community to impose oil
embargo and full economic, cultural and sporting isolation on
Nigeria until democracy is restored.

8. We call on all governments, the UN, OAU, EU and
non-governmental organizations to desist from giving the
Abacha dictatorship any semblance of legitimacy by

a) Not providing any financial, logistic or other support for
Abacha's illegal elections;

b) Not sending any observers to his shambolic elections.

9. We strongly advise all governments, the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and other international financial
institutions not to negotiate any further debt rescheduling or
grant any new loans to the Abacha regime, as the future
legitimate government of Nigeria will not be compelled to
honor such agreements.

10. We request all governments to freeze all the assets of
members of the miitary junta and their civilian collaborators.

Adopted by:

Action Group for Democracy (AGD), African Democratic League
(ADL), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Coalition for Democratic
Awareness (CDA), Democratic Alternative (DA), National
Alliance for Democracy (NAD), National Democratic Alliance
Committee (NDAC), National Democratic Coalition (NADECO),
National Freedom Foundation (NFF), National Liberation Council
of Nigeria (NALICON), New Nigerian Forum (NNF), Nigerian
Democratic Movement (NDM), Nigerian Liberation Group (NLG)

31st March, 1996

For further information:

Tel: + 44 956 949 055 Fax: + 44 181-244 8682

Summit speech by Wole Soyinka, "Towards a Sustainable Vision
of Nigeria" (Excerpts)

The army is a creation, and a property of the people. It is
established to serve and to defend the people and safeguard
their nation space. Even where nations have come into being as
a fruit of conquest, such histories have proved to be
ephemeral, incomplete. A cycle of restitution has merely been
initiated, one that will become complete only when the people,
the authentic constituents of the nation entity, recover their
own being, melt down the power-spawned aliens in their midst
into the common purpose of existence and redraw the lines of
relationship along egalitarian precepts. This process of
reckoning is not peculiar to any one part of the globe - we
read the authentic history of the world today in many of the
infernoes that have engulfed once placid states, exploded even
centuries-old mythifications that have sustained alienated
power. The only question that remains is: are we prepared to
take our instruction from these incontestable patterns of
socio-political being of nations? Or do we wait until a
Rwanda, a Yugoslavia or a Chechnya blows up in our complacent

Nigeria appears, alas, to be poised on the brink of the latter
option. If we have a purpose here today, it is to address our
collective minds to methods for the avoidance of that option.
... Obviously, there will be differences in our concepts of
approaches to solutions but, it is our expectation that those
who are assembled here are agreed on a number of minimal
principles, the very core of which is the rapid termination,
not merely of the existence of the present bunch of military
predators, but of military interventionism in Nigeria for all

I believe that we have agreed to assemble here because we can
neither understand nor accept the contradictory motions of the
political class, its collaborationist approach with those who
have placed our people under the most brutal subjugation in
our history as Nigerians, as earlier defined. We are appalled
by the failure of understanding of the enemy that leads to a
gathering of the political class actually appointing a 2l-man
delegation to request audience with a military junta in order
to discuss how such a junta - which has shown such stark,
contemptuous resolve to remain in power-  can be persuaded to
leave. Needless to say, this approach was publicly derided by
the junta's yes-men, and the emissaries thoroughly humiliated.

I believe that we have agreed to meet here because, between
the five-year transition plan of Sani Abacha, dishonestly
described as a three-year plan, and the one-year transition
plan outlined by Chief Tony Enahoro, the Vice-President of the
National Democratic Coalition of Nigeria, we believe that the
latter respresents the absolute, outside temporal concession
that we are prepared to make towards the military, and that we
would indeed prefer that the military depart today, hand over
power to the President-elect who would run a transition
goveratment of National Unity, leading to the next elections.

I believe that we have agreed to assemble here because we
recognise that there cannot be peace in that nation, Nigeria,
while a former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, his
former deputy Shehu Yar'Adua, Beko Ransome-Kuti, chairman of
the Campaign for Democracy, Chris Anyawu, Colonel Gwadabe and
scores of others are held under sentences of long years in
prison, after universally denounced secret trials for a coup
attempt that was manufactured by the present junta in order to
rid itself of perceived opponents and champions of the
democratic movement.

We have consented to be present here because Frank Kokori
secretary-general of the Petroleum workers union, and hundreds
of trade unionists from all the nation's productive sectors
are incarcerated in different corners of the nation, without
trial, without contact with their families, accused of no
crime but agitating for social, political and economic
justice. We are here because we will not accept a dispensation
that permits the torture of our kind, the hostage taking of
relations of wanted opponents of govemment, state inspired
murders and attempted murders of Chief Alfred Rewane, Alex
Ibru, Gani Fawehinmi etc. We have set ourselves our present
task because we cannot accept that the President-elect of the
Nigerian nation, Moshood M.K.O. Abiola, should be kept from
executing the freely given mandate of the Nigerian people. We
are assembled because we are resolved to unearth the bones of
seventy-three non-commissioned officers who were secretly
executed near Abuja, at the Lower Usman dam on March 18, 1994,
soldiers whose names were added to the list of fatalities and
"Missing in Action" in Liberia and other areas where our
peace-keeping forces are in action. We propose to demonstrate
that our soldiers do not deserve such cynical treachery nor
their profession be reduced to such a costly and cynical
travesty of command.

We are here because we seek to build a nation where such dark
deeds are no longer permitted, are no longer conceivable.

In the process, we believe that we have a responsibility to
inform the outside world that those who wish to impose a
double standard in their consideration of our plight, those
who take sadistic pleasure in reducing us to second class
citizens of the world, are enemies of all humanity, yellow,
black and white.   Along the way, we must remind the
apologists of the Abacha regime, especially our own black
brothers from the United States of America, that they are
traitors to their own history, and captives of a chronic slave
mentality.   That any self-declared leader of the black
peoples of the United States of America should declare, in the
dying years of the twentieth century that the most populous
black nation in the world requires the plague of dictatorship
for its progress, even for its very existence, simply warns us
that emancipation is a mere word, a mere rhetorical condition
to a handful of demagogic representatives of our race on that
continent. It warns us that emancipation as the profound state
of being, as the true, mental and spiritual condition of free
being, is alien to their conceptual powers. Given the chance,
such spokesmen and women would collaborate in the second
enslavement of our continent, in order to experience the
vicarious thrill of power. Let all those who wine and dine
with our oppressors, who trumpet virtues of dictatorship that
exist only in their own sated bellies remember that some day,
this struggle will be over, and that history will assign them
their richly deserved spaces in the records of our liberated

Our task here is not to produce an agreement in all details of
strategy, but we shall not leave without a definite plan of
action, one that is time-specific.  We do not intend, in a
mere two days, to weld together differing philosophies and
visions of the participating groups, yet we are duty bound to
create a unified body for the democratic forces of the nation.
We are obliged to search out what each group does best, so
that we can launch the new organisation on its task of
assigning responsibilities that correspond to their past
records and future potential. ...

Let me thank our hosts for this meeting, made possible by the
non-governmental South Africa-Nigeria Democracy Support Group.
History often commences not with a flourish, not with bravura,
but with the small gesture, often indeed, a mere statement of
intent.  If this meeting does no more than galvanise and unity
ihe progressive forces of our nation, reduce their sense of
aloneness, of abandonment, it would still be a psychological
shot in the arm, whose concrete results will become apparent
only after the event. To be a visionary is unfashionable we
know, in the sphere of realpolitick, and the task is made even
more utopian when any grouping seeks to identity and
structure, among others, a practical, sustainable vision. For
a nation that has sunk so low however, one that has squandered
its potential in a way that criminalises almost every citizen
by the mere act of belonging, we have nothing left to lose but
the loftiness of our vision. That vision, a sustainable one,
must inform the laying of the foundations of a new Nigeria. It
is a project that will commence at this and at its twin
meeting, and the people of South Africa will have cause to be
proud, at the end, to have midwifed such a beginning.

Wole Soyinka

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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