Kole Oluwatoyin Ade-Odutola on Tue, 14 Jul 1998 05:40:31 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> UDFN Release: Abiola's Death and its Aftermath (fwd)

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Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 00:21:12 PDT
To: ad-hoc+@andrew.cmu.edu
Subject: UDFN Release: Abiola's Death and its Aftermath

July 13, 1998


                         INFORMATION RELEASE

                Chief Abiola's Death and Its Aftermath 

            Text of a Broadcast on Radio Kudirat of Nigeria

                           July 9, 1998   

                       Professor Wole Soyinka

                           Nobel Laureate
                      Chairman, UDFN Steering Council


A heinous crime has been committed against the Nigerian nation and its

It is too early to say that a fatal blow has been dealt to the corporate 
existence of the nation, but such blows as these bring the moment of 
truth ever closer. 

And, it may be that forces have been unleashed that make the end of 
nation near inevitable despite the uttermost resources of will and 
persuasion that most of us can muster. 

The regime of Abdulsalam Abubakar bears immediate responsibility for the 
death of Moshood Abiola even as that of General Sani Abacha was justly 
held responsible for the murder of the late Yar'adua, a
soldier-turned-politician-and-democrat, whose life was also extinguished 
in prison captivity. It is not a question of whose hand actually 
administered as was then strongly suspected the gradual dosage that 
weakened the vital organs of Yar'adua and led inexorably to his death. 

It is not even a question of whether or not sufficient care is taken of 
a prisoner to forestall such dire eventualities. What matters, what 
indicts and convicts the men in control of Nigerian affairs was that the 
two victims were guilty of no crime whatever, that they should never 
have been in the places where they met their deaths. 

The case of Moshood Abiola is, however, in a special category of its 
own. Here was a man who won an election fairly and unambiguously and 
who courageously demanded the mandate that the people had thrust upon 

The price of his victory, however, was to be thrown in prison and
subjected to such an inhuman, inhumane regimen that he did not even know 
that there was a new Secretary General of United Nations, in the person 
of Kofi Annan. 

This was the testimony of the Secretary General himself, when he visited 
Moshood Abiola in detention last week:  "Who are you?" Abiola asked him. 
And, when informed, Abiola next queried: What happened to the Egyptian? 
The damning question, however, is: Why was the Secretary General obliged 
to visit Moshood Abiola in prison detention and not in his own home?

Abdulsalam Abubakar has been in power for nearly a month. During that
period, he had the option to release not only Moshood Abiola, but all
these unjustly detained prisoners unconditionally, indeed, directly upon 
taking office. Instead, he chose to release them piecemeal, tantalizing 
the nation with unfulfilled expectations. 

And, of course, the central prize of all, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, he
kept in continued captivity, hoping to wring from him confessions that
reached down to the very roots of the Nigerian crisis, and that he
relinquish the electoral mandate freely bestowed upon by the Nigerian

In this process, he was aided by representatives of the international
community - the United States Government, the United Nations, the
Commonwealth, the European Union, et cetera - all of whose emissaries 
saw nothing wrong, nothing politically immoral in presenting the agenda 
of the military to Moshood Abiola, and pressuring him for its acceptance 
while he remained a prisoner.

His release is imminent, was the smug, self-satisfied, indeed,
sanctimonious refrain; never the question: Why is this man still being

Why has he not been released to consult with his colleagues and with the 
people whose mandate he bore? Why is he not in the best clinic 
undergoing a long withheld medical examination and receiving treatment 
for his complaints?

Four years in Abacha's hellhole, but they all felt that it was the
appropriate time and place to pester him on a crucial national issue 
from which he had been isolated deliberately all of those years.  We 
need only compare this with the treatment that Nelson Mandela received 
in the crucial stages of negotiations that brought down the equally 
detested and inhuman regime of Apartheid.  Nelson Mandela did not 
negotiate from a condition of ignorance or of neglected health.

If, therefore, we place part of the responsibility of Moshood Abiola's
death on that community - from the Commonwealth to the United Nations - 
it is not out of a desire to expend our rage and frustration in needless 
direction. We have a duty to ensure that there is no blotting of the 

The agenda of the military which requires that Abiola remain in prison
until those political concessions were obtained was the immediate cause 
of his death. Those who favoured that agenda, who pursued and provided 
its legitimation by operating under conditions laid down by the 
military, for respecting them must be held equally guilty, albeit to a 
lesser degree of what we must now brand as the political crime of the 
20th century.

Additionally, the eagerness of the State Department of the United States 
to assure the world that Moshood Abiola died from natural causes, a 
premature inappropriate acceptance that was baseless and indecent to the 
point of obscenity, clearly indicates that the US government had become 
so committed to the military agenda that it simply could not wait to 
exonerate its primary partner in crime.

The US delegation had discussions with the leader and representative of 
opposition groups including Nadeco before its departure, where their 
commitment to the Nigerian military agenda was fully articulated and 
every effort made to persuade the opposition to abandon the 12th June 
1993 electoral mandate, the very heart of a five-year struggle that has 
witnessed assassinations, arson attacks on media houses, imprisonment 
and disappearances.

In short, a catalogue of human rights abuses unprecedented in the 
history of Nigeria. 

The man on whom millions of Nigerians put their hope for an end to these 
nightmare years through the restoration of democratic rule was Moshood 

The international community beat a path to his prison door demanding 
that he relinquish that mandate, even after the death of Sani Abacha who 
had imprisoned him in the first instance.

In the presence of one such delegation, that of the United States, the 
man collapsed and died.  What a relief they must all have felt, never 
mind the crocodile tears. There was a signal victory for Abiola's 
murderers, for such a prestigious delegation conveniently placed as 
witnesses in a diabolical opportunism of timing.  If the American 
Government does not yet know it, it has been used, and the delegation 
should have been far more circumspect in attributing the causes of death 
to natural causes without the benefit of an autopsy. 

However, for the benefit of all those who are nervously crossing their
fingers awaiting the results of the autopsy, whose conduct by an
international team of pathologists has been reluctantly conceded by the 
military, please even if no clear evidence emerges of foul play, the 
sadistic background of Abiola's confinement, the constant denial of 
medical treatment for evident illness, and the failure of Abdulsalam 
Abubakar to release him a month ago, even on health grounds, convicts 
the Nigerian military of murder, and history will forever vilify them as 

Has Abubakar's regime learned any lessons from this needless tragedy? 
No.  Even as I speak hundreds of thousands of Nigerians remain behind 
bars either charged with no crime whatever or convicted by kangaroo 
courts that have been roundly denounced as such, both internally and by 
the world community.  Like Frank Kokori, the recently released Secretary 
General of the Petroleum Workers Union, Nupeng , they are all in various 
stages of physical decay.

But Abubakar's Provisional Ruling Council continues to meet to debate
their fate, as if there is anything to debate about justice and liberty.  
In reality, what they are debating is the desperate strait into which 
their military agenda has run, how to let go without really letting go, 
how to continue to ensure the spoils of office while ostensibly 
transferring control to the civic polity.

The more tragic mistake, however, would be for the US Government and the 
international community to believe for a moment that with the death of 
Abiola the military agenda has triumphed.  The contrary is closer to the 
truth, the military has failed.  Instead of being a bulwark for the 
protection of the people, it has done nothing but eat up the best and 
the finest, destroy a national trust, all national sense of belonging 
and participation, and turned itself into a mammoth incubus that 
suffocates the aspirations and potential of a vastly talented people.

The present rage will not burn itself out. On the contrary, when it
appears to have subsided, it would be found only to have coiled us into 
a force for change that would either sweep out the military with 
ignominy or exploit its innate contribution, its competitive lust for 
power and its sectional injustices - in short, irrigate the very seed of 
destruction that it carries within its own fragmented body. Let the 
military leave now with its tattered and battered image so that the 
people can mourn Abiola befittingly and with dignity.

We have outlined ad nauseam a programme for the restoration of the 
nation to democratic rule: Instant disengagement of the military 
together with the setting up of a government of national unity and 
reconciliation. This, to be accompanied by the convening of a Sovereign 
National Conference that will address the numerous ills of the nation, 
adopt a constitution, and oversee the next political elections. 

The military must stay out of such a programme.  It is the Government of 
National Unity that will oversee the authentic programme of a transition 
to democracy.

Now, with the death of Moshood Abiola, the military are regrouping, 
pumped up with vain aspirations. They believe they are now free to 
pursue their agenda. That, we guarantee, will prove a costly 
miscalculation. The programme for Nigerian democracy retains its 
validity. If anything, urgency in the execution of that programme has 
become paramount. We can learn from the lessons of our smaller, less 
pretentious neighbour, the Republic of Benin, which chose a respected 
member of the religious order to preside over its assembly.

Nigeria is not short of fully credible individuals from all walks of 
life - from the business world to the judiciary, the academia, religious 
institutions, and trade unions. Agreement on a new leader of an interim 
civilian government is the most urgent task that faces the democratic 
opposition and the political class.  That the military will have an 
input into such a choice is to be expected, but the military had better 
understand that such an input carries no more weight than attaches to 
all other civic contributions to the search.  If the military attempts 
to dictate such a choice, however, then it lends even greater credence 
to the belief that the death of the President-elect at its hands, was 
indeed, no accident, but a ground-clearing operation for the 
installation of a surrogate and the commencing manipulation of yet 
another phoney and wasteful exercise in Nigeria's transition to 
democracy. In such a case, and in the event that the military rejects or 
tries to subvert or circumvent the two central pillars for a truthful 
and enduring democratic dispensation, then the opposition has no choice 
but hit back. 
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